The Miami Dolphins stunned one of the NFC’s powerhouses yesterday beating the Atlanta Falcons 27-23. Miami is now 3-0 for the first time dating all the way back to the good old Run, Ricky, RUN days of the 2002 season.
No, Miami did not “destroy” the Falcons. Nor did Miami rack up insane statistics. Miami simply was out-played by Atlanta in all phases of the game. Except for one key component of being a good football team. Miami was able to cash in when they needed to.
Note, I realize most fans are excited by this win and the start Miami is out to. I for one, am not. But, without further ado, let’s take a look at some observations I gathered during Miami’s 27-23 victory:
- Let’s start off with QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill finished the day completing 24 of 35 passes for 236 yards along with a pair of touchdown passes and one interception. Normally, I am very harsh on Tannehill. Not today. I was very pleased with the play of the young signal caller. Tannehill looked calm for the majority of the game and looked like a clutch, elite quarterback while driving the Dolphins 75 yards for the game winning strike. Tannehill still has much to improve. His accuracy is still an issue occasionally and he still has troubles with pocket awareness. I’m not a Tim Ryan fan, but he makes a great note when he brings up the fact that when Tannehill is hit by a rusher, his only job is to hold onto the football. Tannehill fumbled the ball in such occasions twice, losing one of those.
- The running backs actually had a pretty decent day. RB Lamar Miller ran for 62 yards on just 8 carries including a nice 49-yard scamper that took me back to his days at THE U. RB Daniel Thomas scored on a 5-yard touchdown which showed his agility and power. Thomas finished the day with 5 carries for 21 yards and that 5 yard score. The offensive line sucks at run blocking, but I would like to see Miami run the ball a bit more. Running the football 13 times while throwing it 35 times is not the way to win a game in a dog-fight.
- The receivers also played well against Atlanta’s young and beat up secondary. Brian Hartline led the team with 56 yards on 4 receptions including a nice 18-yard touchdown. Brandon Gibson also had himself an impressive day snagging a team high 6 receptions for 49 yards. And perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, Rishard Matthews grabbed 4 balls for 42 yards.
- WR Mike Wallace only mustered 2 receptions for 22 yards. While that may be disappointing it’s quite evident, in my mind at least, that this offense runs through Wallace. He’s the reason guys like Hartline, Gibson and even Matthews can get open. Wallace is being used as a decoy in a way, but the team is not afraid to take a shot if the safety rolls off of his side of the field.
- The tight ends were not as involved as they had been during the first two games. Charles Clay snagged 4 receptions for 40 yards. But it was the tight ends who helped QB Ryan Tannehill the most on the team’s game winning drive. Clay grabbed a 21 yard pass after dropping one on his second-year QB. Michael Egnew caught his first career pass for a whopping 8 yards. And Dion Sims grabbed his first career pass, which evidently was a sick one-handed game winner (1 yard).
- The offensive line is spotty as far as run blocking is concerned. On one hand we see a beautiful 49-yard run by RB Lamar Miller in which the entire line is engaged and RG John Jerry blasts the linebacker right out of the hole. On the other hand, we have our running backs being tackled in the back-field for a two-yard loss.
- Pass Protection is awful on the right side. Jon Martin, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey all played well. It was the play of the right side that was alarming, yet again. John Jerry is an awful pass blocking guard and Tyson Clabo sucks. I wonder what Vernon Carey is up to…The running backs do not get a pass either. Daniel Thomas is awful in pass pro, which is quite alarming seeing how he is Miami’s best pass pro running back.
- On the defensive side of the ball, I have seen it all. Miami’s defensive line faced a beat up offensive line and yet the team with the incredibly athletic defensive ends and tackles did not register a SINGLE sack. That’s down-right awful. Yes, DE Cameron Wake left the game early – it’s being reported that he has a sprained MCL so thank you to those that prayed to the injury Gods – but just because Wake is out does not give this team a pass. Miami’s strongest unit is supposed to be the defensive line, and you can’t register a single sack against Jeremy Trueblood or Lamar Holmes? C’mon now. Has got to be one of the worst games in terms of pressure I have seen Miami play.
- Sorry if you are new here but aren’t the Dolphins supposed to be good at stopping the run? Well they sure as heck weren’t able to stop it yesterday. Atlanta was missing RB Steven Jackson – God only knows what this game could have looked like if he was healthy – therefore the team came at Miami with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. And guess what, they were able to rack up 146 yards on the ground. Pitiful.
- On the bright side, we now see just how important DT Paul Soliai is to this defensive front. It is no longer a question which defensive tackle, Soliai or Starks, the team will re-sign once the season concludes.
- Onto the linebackers (really just one specifically), I’ve said it many times to close friends and I will say it publicly now…I miss Karlos Dansby. Dannell Ellerbe looks like sh*t out there. Point to the stat-sheet. “Dude he had 10 tackles yesterday and has 30 on the season.” I’ll smack you. Ellerbe sucks. The former Baltimore Raven was supposed to come into his own this season and take over Miami’s defense for the departed Karlos Dansby. This is not the case. Ellerbe’s free agent partner, Philip Wheeler, looks to be the better of the two. Ellerbe is getting completely washed out at the line of scrimmage and has made absolutely no impact in the run defense. This kid needs to put it together.
- The defensive backs played well considering they had no pass rush to help them out at all. CB Brent Grimes continues to be one of Miami’s best acquisitions in years. CB Nolan Carroll continues to prove me wrong by always being in great position in coverage. Carroll may surrender a boat-load of receptions, but when you think about how teams stay away from Grimes and the fact that Carroll is always in position to make the tackle, he is a decent corner for this team. My only issues with the defensive backs are Chris Clemons and Jimmy Wilson. Reshad Jones really did not make an impact, nor did he allow any big plays throughout the game. Jimmy Wilson, however, continues to be this secondaries Achillies heel. Wilson is a walking bulls-eye. While the kid did grab the game winning interception, CB Dimitri Patterson cannot get healthy soon enough. Chris Clemons looked awful after a great start to the season. He was absolutely owned by RB Jacquizz Rodgers on one occasion and was very soft in coverage. Clemons needs to bounce back and get himself healthy.
- Kicker Caleb Sturgis is the man. Sturgis nailed two field goals including a beautiful 50-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
- And last but not least, my man Don Jones with a beautiful tackle on PR Harry Douglas to jar the ball loose and give Miami a second opportunity. I’ll gloat a bit and say that I called the Jones pick at the exact pick in the seventh round for Miami in my final mock draft of the year. Jones is someone who I just loved because of his physical play. Need I say more?
Miami slipped through the cracks against Atlanta. Miami should have gotten their butts kicked to be quite honest. Atlanta should have won the game by 40. But the team could not capitalize when they needed to. And Miami could.
Miami will be facing the 3-0 New Orleans Saints next Monday night in PRIME TIME TEVELISION. Miami fans you want your team to be on the map, this is the way that they will get on the map. A win over New Orleans would prove that Miami belongs in the play-off picture. Even so, Miami is looking like a very good youthful team. But like I’ve been saying all along, this team will only go as far as it’s offensive line allows it to go.