Boy, what a game, huh!? The Miami Dolphins took down the AFC East leading New England Patriots yesterday afternoon 24-20, outscoring New England 17-10 in the second half.
There were a few performances worthy of noting, which we will get to, but this win goes a long way given the circumstances surrounding Miami as an organization and the importance of this game for both squads.
Miami, now 8-4, moves into prime position for the sixth and final wild-card spot. As long as they win out, they make the play-offs no matter what happens in tonight’s Detroit-Baltimore game. Why? Well, Pittsburgh pulled off the win over Cincinnati last night, meaning even if Baltimore also wins out, Miami makes it due to the possession of the tie-breaker over Cincinnati. Oh, and Cincinnati and Baltimore play each other during week 17, in Cincinnati.
New England, on the other hand, has fallen to 10-4 now, and could have moved from the #2 seed in the AFC to the #1 seed due to the big San Diego win on Thursday night over Denver. That being said, Kansas City can seize control of the #1 seed with Denver falling to the #5 seed if Kansas City can win-out – both teams are currently 11-3 -, while New England still sits pretty at #2. The Patriots need one more win to lock up the AFC East title for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons.
Enough of this play-off crap, though. Let’s get to the observations from yesterday’s huge win!:
—- As I stated last week, Ryan Tannehill and I have what I consider to be the biggest love-hate relationship in the world, but not this week. The second-year quarterback turned in a borderline phenomenal performance on the day, including his late game heroics to lead the team down the field to complete a beautiful 14-yard pass to RB Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 left in the game. Tannehill finished the game completing 25 of 37 passes for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns, while being sacked on four occasions. The best part of Tannehill’s performance was his ability to make good, clean, and precise reads, while also taking care of the football. Sure, he still had some shaky moments in which he over-threw a receiver or two, or made a questionable decision, but I thought he turned in his best performance of the season. A+ for Tannehill.
—- The running backs put forth a decent performance gaining 76 yards on 22 carries, along with a Mike Wallace reverse of 13-yards. RB Lamar Miller received the bulk of the work this week receiving 15 carries for 61 yards, while Daniel Thomas gained 16 yards on 5 carries. I was appalled by Miller’s pass protection on the day. He was manhandled on several occasions, which either led to a hurry or a sack. Miami is in desperate need of a “do-it-all” running back. Upgrade needed.
—- The wide receivers, wow, they turned in a great performance also. Brian Hartline was quiet during the first half, but was able to break out during the second half, making numerous big-time receptions en route to 5 receptions for 70 yards on the day. Rishard Matthews has perhaps the best hands on the team, and has a knack for making the toughest receptions look easy. Matthews grabbed 5 balls also for 64 yards, including a few big-time, game changing receptions. And, of course, we must speak of Mike Wallace, whom has played lights out for the past few weeks. Wallace continued that trend in this one with 6 receptions for 105 yards and 1 39-yard touchdown which was a perfect throw from Tannehill and a better run-after-the-catch by Wallace. Lastly, Marlon Moore, who made a crucial side-line grab of 11 yards on Miami’s final drive of the game.
—- New England did their job in this one to take “The Claymaker” Charles Clay out of the equation for Miami and Ryan Tannehill. Clay only received two targets, but his one reception was on a 4th down screen play which went for 6-yards to extend a Miami drive. Dion Sims also made a solid grab for 6 yards, while Michael Egnew was the leading receiver for the tight end trio with 2 receptions for 25 yards. Egnew continues to perform well while blocking as the lead blocker, while Sims and Clay continue to put forth inconsistent blocking performances every few plays or so. In-line blocking tight end needed.
—- The offensive line played okay in this one. Sam Brenner actually impressed me while run blocking in this one, but it seemed as though the entire offensive line struggled in pass pro early on. 4 sacks and 5 QB hits later, they played okay, but this was definitely not one of their best performances.
—- I was impressed with the play of the defensive line unit in this one. They did exactly what you have to do in order to beat Tom Brady….HIT HIM. The defense only came up with one sack on the day, but they tallied 7 QB hits, 5 of those coming from their prized pass rusher, Cameron Wake, who also collected the team’s only sack. Odrick, Starks, Soliai, Shelby, Vernon, Jordan all played well, but it was the relentless play of Wake which opened up holes for the rest of the unit to get some pressure on Brady. Kudos Mr. Wake.
—- The linebackers struggled in this one, which is really concerning to me. Dannell Ellerbe continues to suck in every phase of the game and only wrapped up the ball carrier 2 times on the say. Philip Wheeler also struggled in every phase finishing with 3 tackles and being benched in favor of rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins on passing downs, which doesn’t bother me because I actually like Jenkins. I was pleasantly surprised with Koa Misi, however; he put forth a solid effort in this one. I know he only finished with a measly one tackle and a QB hit, but at least he was consistent.
—- The corners struggled in this one, but I have reason to believe it was due to DC Kevin Coyle’s game plan in this one. Brent Grimes did not look like himself while he was in there, nor did Nolan Carroll, who has been playing at a high level in recent weeks. NB Jimmy Wilson played okay in this one being thrust into action with Grimes and Carroll both going down to injury. Rookie Will Davis (7 tackles all solo) actually played okay given the circumstances. It’s clear that he still is not ready to play at this level as a #2 or even #3 corner, but given the circumstances, he played pretty well.
—- The best part of this game, in my opinion, well, outside of winning, is the fact that Miami’s defense was able to keep Brady and co. out of the end zone without Grimes on the field, and a healthy Nolan Carroll. Miami’s secondary consisted of rookie Will Davis, Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, freshly signed Michael Thomas – we’ll get to him in one second, and NB Jimmy Wilson. Kevin Coyle turned the pass rush up, sent pressure, and put faith in this young and inexperienced corner trio.
—- Clemons and Jones both put forward decent performances. Not much to say about either player, to be quite honest. I’m missing the Reshad Jones we saw last season, and I am beginning to think Coyle’s scheme has something to do with Jones’ drop in play. Something is not right this season. Clemons, on the other hand, was Miami’s leading tackler yet again with 9 tackles and a pass defense which should have been an interception. Great break on the ball, however.
—- Kudos to Michael Thomas in this one for making not only the game sealing interception of Miami’s biggest divisional foe, but for also putting forth a solid performance fresh off the street. One week in Miami’s system and he comes down with the game winning pick from Tom Brady. That’s a story to tell young man.
—- PK Caleb Sturgis was perfect from the field on 1 of 1 for 32 yards, while also converting on all 3 of his PAT attempts.
—- P Brandon Fields had a solid performance, while also being hit in the face on a field goal attempt, which was clearly going to be a fake, which DE Derrick Shelby and LB Jason Trusnik running out to the flats. Oh well.
Miami did exactly what they had to do in this one to extend their season and keep their play-off dreams alive. This is a young and talented squad, and we saw a glimpse yesterday of what they are capable of when they gel together. Joe Philbin needs to take this as a huge stepping stone and build on it towards their next opponent, which will be the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills. Yes, this is a must win for Miami, and the team should be able to take care of business next Sunday.
Momentum and confidence can be a deadly combination.