Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) makes the catch over New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) in the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated New England 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Observations From The Miami Dolphins 24-20 Win Over New England

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.

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) reacts after making a catch during the second half against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


—- 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.

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive back Michael Thomas (31) runs off the field after the defeating the New England Patriots 24-20 at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


—- 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.

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Tags: Cameron Wake Miami Dolphins Michael Thomas New England Patriots Ryan Tannehill

  • gofins60

    “In-line blocking tight end needed.”

    I would have kept Fasano; he was a good blocker and had decent hands… just doesn’t get too many yards after the catch. Average Red Zone threat.

    ” I am beginning to think Coyle’s scheme has something to do with Jones’ drop in play. Something is not right this season.”

    The only major improvement on the defense this year has been the play of the CBs, and that’s mostly due to Grimes and Patterson (when he’s on the field). Carroll has even been playing better. The run defense is no longer a strength but a liability at times, but this may be because of the LBs. Coyle’s schemes have been hit or miss; at times they look good and hold on to a win, but too often they let teams come back at the end of close games. To be fair, part of the blame must be placed on the offense’s inability to average more than 22 points per game with just one game at 30. Even “inferior” teams are putting up 30-40 points.

    • TylerMcMullen

      YES, YES, YES! I miss Fasano. Sneaky fast. Good route runner. Great blocker. I miss him.
      And I agree, the corners along with the aggressive nature of this defense. They have put an emphasis on taking the ball over this season, and they have done a phenomenal job in doing so.
      Great break-down! Thanks for the read and the comment!

  • Chris

    I was half-expecting you to talk about how disappointed you were with Tannehill in the first half, and how he put together a “decent” second half, haha. My boy finally stepped up and outdueled Brady. I was very impressed. Everyone agrees he’s been growing a lot the last few weeks and taking hold of their playoff destiny in December against the Pats was a big time statement. Also, I disagree strongly with your opinion of Matthews having the best hands on the team. I vote Hartline all day. I won’t bother justifying this either. I don’t think Koyle was the reason our DB’s were struggling this game. I mostly blame Tom Brady. Miami looked like they wanted to keep everything in front of them and so Brady was taking the quick throws to the outside, just taking what we gave him. I liked the game plan defensively since it limited Brady & Co to 20 points. Good read.

    • TylerMcMullen

      Lol, I knew someone would comment on that! No, I was quite surprised with his performance yesterday. I always knew he had it in him to play at an excellent level, he has just been widely inconsistent this season.
      Lol I won’t ask you to justify it. I think it’s close. Hartline clearly has phenomenal hands and absolutely astounding body control, but Matthews, in my opinion, clearly has the best hands on the team.
      It’s not just that they wanted to keep everything in front of them….these receivers had no speed. They played with a cushion for some reason, which is why I question Coyle’s game plan. That being said, they did step up and perform well when they needed to.
      Thanks, Chris!

  • Jcartwright67

    A good and consistent QB can overcome a multitude of gaps in blocking and running. We go as Tanny goes, and yesterday, he was elite. So he’s aces in my book this week! Brady was elite too and he had my heart stopped. I’m happy for that young man, Thomas, what a story. Honestly though; was that a broken coverage on the last play? I see it all the time when a corner breaks from his assignment to make an easy INT. I’d like to think Thomas read Brady’s eyes and broke off his assignment to make a big play, but I don’t know enough about coverage schemes to know any better. Great result regardless….on to Buffalo..

    • TylerMcMullen

      I don’t think it was a broken coverage, sir. I think Thomas simply read Brady and broke off from his man to make the easy game winning pick. But, I could be wrong!

  • 5280HGH

    All respect I believe this statement is wrong as Denver owns the tie breaker —-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 -,

    • TylerMcMullen

      That is correct. Maybe I should have been more specific….Kansas City wins out, while Denver drops at least one more game. Unthinkable given Denver has Houston and Oakland on the plate over the next two weeks, but crazy things have happened this season.

  • Carlos

    I think my Patriots are going to get beat again Sunday, they just don’t have a defense, it’s obvious. not to take away from the teams that they lose to but it would help if they had some of their regular guys back, just have to wait another
    year.And the time is coming when Tom will be gone. Well, for ten years the Pats were the ones to beat but everything
    come’s to an end. We still have two or three years and if our top guys can be back next year the Pats will b the teram
    to beat once again.