Let’s be reasonable for a moment and admit very few of us were actually expecting the Dolphins to head into Houston and knock off the Texans.
I mean the simple fact the Texans were 5-0 all time heading into Sunday and this hardly felt like any sort of historic, or even trend-breaking team was probably enough of a karmic check for most people.
But if you’re actually into X’s and O’s, personnel and you know, football things, it also didn’t look good.
So if you didn’t watch the game because you were at work or it wasn’t on, or if you’re like many in the national media who will only check the box score, no 30-10 didn’t look good. And there’s a lot of things that need work on this team, but the Miami Dolphins played a lot better yesterday afternoon than will come through in print or on any 30-second highlight reel.
For effectively six minutes at the end of the second quarter the Miami Dolphins looked like the worst team in football. That is not debatable. Somebody must have noticed something with Tannehill’s mechanics, because about midway through the second quarter the pass rush switched up and the Texans’ linemen, particularly JJ Watt, started focusing on getting their hands up into the passing lanes to try and get at Tannehill’s low release.
The result was a couple of batted interceptions that gave the Texans fantastic field position and turned into points. Then to top it all off, Daniel Thomas got stripped at the very end of the half and the Texans punched it in for good measure to go into the half 24-3. It was effectively a comedy of errors, it probably made many in Miami lose their lunch and frankly, I can’t remember a worse six minutes in as long as I’ve been watching football.
At 6:16 in the second quarter the Texans tied things up 3-3. By the half it was 24-3.
Now, Toss That Out
Yep, toss those six minutes out. They were awful and I’m certainly not insinuating the Dolphins couldn’t have that kind of stretch again. But it was more or less an anomaly of bad luck, bad execution and a few mistakes rolled into one perfect little gift-wrapped six minutes for the Houston Texans.
The thing is though, the other 54 minutes Miami outscored Houston 10-9. The defense gave up scores with its back against the wall at the end of the first half, but they also managed to bottle up the Texans run game and were able to get off the field on third down pretty well (Houston was 7-17 on 3rd down).
This defense is going to be fine, keep in mind it’s still more or less built to be a 3-4, most of the guys in the defense are still going to be making small adjustments to the new scheme over the first few games. The defense will improve and it’s got the kind of front four that will be able to keep Miami in most games this year.
Yes, there’s still concerns in the secondary. No, Miami still cannot cover a tight end all game and despite the progress supposedly made by Sean Smith, Andre Johnson certainly had no problem getting his numbers yesterday. But all things considered, the defense wasn’t giving up drives that spanned the length of the field yesterday. They weren’t letting the Texans dictate the tempo with their run game.
They were just vulnerable with a short field. Most defenses are.
The problem all year is going to be the offense, but frankly there’s some good things going on there too. It’s tough to come out down three scores and stick with the run game in the second half, but this Dolphins team can run the ball as they proved in the first half.
The offensive line is going to be the strength of the entire team by year’s end. That battery on the left side with Long, Incognito and Pouncey is as good as any in the NFL and I said all offseason, even before the Dolphins drafted him, that I think Jon Martin turns into an exceptional tackle. He will improve a lot this season.
If Miami can run a conservative offense, they can protect Tannehill with a strong run game. No, they aren’t going to win their division this year, nobody expected them to, but with a strong defensive front and a good run game this Dolphins team is going to be competitive a lot of this season.
This team is no where near as bad as a lot of people are going to tell you it is.
Frankly, this could be a team that by season’s end has a sense of direction. They’re not ready to compete yet, but after yesterday it’s clear there’s more going on this roster than people are giving the Dolphins credit for. They need receivers and corners, yes. But this Miami team isn’t going to lose much in the trenches this year, they have a good stable of backs and if management doesn’t mentally scar Tannehill he’s certainly got the tools to develop.
30-10 never looks good, but be honest, there was a point in the second quarter when Miami was running the ball well, driving into Texans territory with a 3-0 lead and you may have even let yourself think, “they could win this…”
I think that’s a feeling Dolphins fans will have more than they think this year.
This isn’t a playoff team, but they’re also not 30-10 bad. There are more than a few things working in Miami right now.
It came on a bad play, a ball that was deflected high into the air and landed in the arms of Brian Cushing, but what happened next had to put a smile on Dolphins fans faces. Richie Incognito, the team’s left guard and one the consensus nastiest players in the NFL, speared Cushing as he came down with the reception.
For the next ten minutes cameras focused on Cushing wincing, limping, and generally grimmacing in pain in the aftermath of the blow.
What stuck out to me was the irony of the moment, Cushing is a bruising linebacker famous for huge hits (and PED’s) and I promise a time or two he has celebrated blowing up a receiver as he went up for a catch. Nowadays the NFL tries to regulate against hitting “defenseless” receivers, which is what Cushing could have qualified as when he was drilled by Incognito on his interception.
For a guy who can dish it, Cushing clearly didn’t like taking it. In a vacuum, independently of team dynamics, karma played out perfectly in front of us. For once, the big linebacker who makes a name blowing up smaller, weaker receivers was himself blown up by a bigger, stronger player. It was Scott Fracas taking it on the chin. It was bizarre.
Of course, Cushing got the last laugh, the Texans won 30-10. But it did make for a memorable moment.