The Miami Dolphins broke their four-game losing streak vs. a red-hot Cincinnati Bengals team, and they should be walking tall for at least another week. No NFL team needed to win more than Miami this week, as their playoff ambitions were seemingly fading before Thursday night. Now, the 4-4 Dolphins have a lot to be proud of, but have very much to work on before their next game vs. a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has yet to record a victory this season. Let’s assess.
First – the bad:
Earlier this week, Miami listed RT Jonathan Martin on the injury report with an “illness”. That injury report didn’t even begin to tell the whole story. Per Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez, Martin went AWOL due to excessive bullying from his teammates, which prompted the Dolphins to reinsert previously-benched RT Tyson Clabo into the starting lineup on Thursday night. Martin’s teammates have publically showed support for Martin, which bodes well for a reconciliation. However, it should be noted that ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Martin isn’t expected to be back for several weeks.
Miami’s third-down defense was a huge issue on Thursday night. Cincinnati went 10 for 20 on third down, and had a tremendous amount of success on third-and-long. Despite Andy Dalton’s bad night, he did a great job attacking the middle of the field on Miami’s defense. It should be noted that Miami’s offense went 3 for 14 on third down.
Miami’s offensive short-yardage production was putrid, to say the least. There were a number of occasions where Miami failed to convert on 3rd-and-short, and it happened for a variety of reasons. One that comes to mind happened in the first quarter. Miami was having success running the ball with criminally-underused starting running back Lamar Miller, picking up chunks of yardage every time he touched the ball. Miami then proceeded to put Daniel Thomas in on 3rd-and-1, and ran a stretch play with the plodding third-year back, even though Miller had been playing lights out. It was simply an inexcusable play, and one that will surely make offensive coordinator Mike Sherman want to kick himself after he watches the game tape.
Now – the good:
Takeaways, takeaways, takeaways:
In the offseason, Head Coach Joe Philbin stressed takeaways for his rebuilt defense, and they certainly didn’t disappoint on Halloween. Brent Grimes’ pick-six was a thing of beauty because he was actually initially beat by Marvin Jones, but he showed off his amazing recovery speed and athleticism by taking Dalton’s poorly-thrown pass to the house. Dimitri Patterson seems to be drinking the takeaways Kool-Aid as well, as he’s already matched his career-high in INTs with four this season, which he set in 2010 during his tenure in Philadelphia. Barring an injury, with the way he’s playing, he should shatter that number by season’s end.
Run, run, run:
Earlier this week, several in the media had reported that there was discontentment in the locker room regarding offensive coordinator Mike Sherman’s play calling in games. The criticism was merited, considering Miami all but abandoned the running game in the second half last week vs. New England, even though Miami was winning at the start of the half. No one really knows why Sherman went in that direction, but one had to assume it was because he lacked faith in running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. It was a different tale this week however, as the Miami rushed for 142 yards in the first half vs. the Bengals’ eighth-best rushing defense in the NFL. It remained to be seen what Sherman would have dialed up in the second half, as the Dolphins didn’t touch the ball on offense until the end of the third quarter. It was encouraging nonetheless to see Sherman’s commitment to the running game, and Miami’s offensive line opening holes for their running backs.
Tannehill, Tannehill, Tannehill:
Ryan Tannehill didn’t put up huge numbers, but he had a solid game, and orchestrated a game-tying drive in the 4th quarter. He went 20-28 for 208 yards, had one rushing TD, and finished with a 92.6 passer rating. With the defense playing exceptionally well, Ryan Tannehill simply had to manage the game without any turnovers. He did just that, and made some beautiful throws on the last drive in regulation to bring Miami back into the game. Also, kudos to Miami’s offensive line for keeping him upright for the majority of the night.
And then of course, there’s Cameron Wake:
Cameron Wake finally gets the national recognition he deserves by sealing this game for Miami in overtime. His walk-off safety was the first one in nearly a decade, as the last one happened in 2004 when Chicago’s Adewale Ogunleye tackled a Tennesee Titans offensive lineman in the end zone after a fumble by quarterback Billy Volek. Wake’s safety is the first time a game has ended on a quarterback sack. He’s a nightmare to play against, and the media simply doesn’t talk about it enough. Congratulations to you from all of us here at PhinsPhocus.com, Cam!