The Miami Dolphins are coming off a 2 game winning streak and have more confidence than in the last 5 years. With a new, re-energized attitude, the team is finding what it takes to win. This week, the team will travel to Houston to face the 0-4 Texans, the only NFL team that the Dolphins have never beaten. While another win will surely continue the momentum for the Dolphins, a loss by the Texans could put the so far out of the playoff picture that their season may just be over.
Here are my 5 keys to victory:
Key 5: Smart football: For the last two games the Dolphins have made very few mental mistakes and that will need to be the case against a team that can move the ball. Both offensively and defensively field position will be a key and not allowing mental mistakes to take over the game will go a long way to finishing all 60 minutes strong. Chad Pennington must be able to continue to make smart throws as he will likely be pressured often. If the Dolphins plan on winning this game, turnovers and penalties can not affect the outcome.
Key 4: The Miami offense: The Houston Texans are ranked 12th against the pass and 26th against the run. This will be the first time this season that the Phins have faced a true 4-3 defense. Ronnie Brown has been explosive out of the base offense as well as the “Wild Cat” formation and against the Texans, the Dolphins should try and pound out the game to maintain the advantage of time of possession. With the Texans ranked 12th in passing, the Phins should be able to find success with simple play action passing which will be a must against the big bodied front line of the Texans.
Key 3: Stopping the Texans: The Texans are ranked 11th overall in total offense and 11th in passing offense, but they slide to 16th rushing, something the Dolphins have been very good at stopping lately. Rookie Steve Slaton is now the featured back in Houston and he has been doing very well. The Dolphins will want to force the Texans to pass the ball even though it is stronger than their running game. The reason is that it will enable the Phins to apply pressure and force the team into 3rd and long situations, something that the Phins have not been very good at stopping. If the Phins find themselves stopping the running game late, then they are likely behind in the game.
Key 2: Jake Long: Long has played well at times and at times he has not. In this weeks game, he will face his first true DE in former number 1 overall pick Mario Williams. While Jake says that this weeks match-up will be “fun” the truth is that Williams has 4 sacks in the last two games and Jake Long has a tendency to release his pass blocking too early. Long must keep Williams from disrupting the passing game with pressure on Pennington. If Jake Long allows Williams to bull rush by him, it will be a very long day for not only Jake Long, but the entire Dolphins offense.
Key 1: The Cheese: Tony Sparano has said it all week long to his players, “don’t eat the cheese”. It’s a Bill Parcells’ favorite when facing a winless or down team. The Dolphins are not facing a typical 0-4 team in the Houston Texans. They are facing an 0-4 team who has lost to 4-1 Pittsburgh, 5-0 Tennessee, 2-3 Jacksonville, and 2-2 Indianapolis. In fact, aside from the first two games, the Texans have lost by a combined 7 points in the last two and had it not been for the bad judgement of fill in QB and former Miami Dolphins Sage Rosenfelds, the Texans would have gained their first victory last week vs. the Colts. The Dolphins can not allow themselves to get wrapped up in a two game win streak or the record of a winless team. The Dolphins are not the favorites in this game, opening at 3 point underdogs. They will need to keep that in mind and use it to their advantage.