The Miami Dolphins looked good on Sunday and their grades will probably show it. Whether this can translate to another hard fought game against the Houston Texans won’t be known until next Sunday afternoon when the game comes to a close. “11 more” Stephen Ross said after the game in the locker room as he handed the game ball to interim head coach Dan Campbell. 11 more games like Sunday and Dan Campbell will get a lofty raise and longer contract.
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While the Dolphins played well there is a lot of room for improvement. The Dolphins secondary played better than at any point this season but still gave up big plays to receivers. The Dolphins running backs finally racked up more than 100 yards but the offensive line still gave up some pressure. Ryan Tannehill was much better this week than the last two weeks but missed open targets and threw two interceptions.
There is work to be done indeed.
It’s hard to imagine the Dolphins suddenly have become the team we have all thought they could be in just two weeks and a coaching change but for today, it’s something to take in and absorb. Something to smile about. At least for a week.
Tannehill threw for 266 yards and completed 22 of 29 passes adding two touchdown passes. He also threw two interceptions and that is why is mark is not an “A”. Both interceptions were poorly thrown balls and one other pass should have been picked off as well. Tannehill however had time in the pocket and was able to move around when he needed to. He added 14 yards on two runs as well. It was a good day for the quarterback who needed to shake off the inconsistency from the previous three weeks.
For the first time this year Lamar Miller ran with confidence and conviction…consistently. The Dolphins didn’t abandon the run and actually featured it this week running the ball more than they had passed it. It was the first time this season. Miller added a touchdown as well, the Dolphins first rushing touchdown of the season by a running back. Miami posted 180 yards total on the ground for the biggest rushing games since last year.
Jarvis Landry continues to prove why is not just a slot receiver. Landry ran twice for 14 yards including a touchdown on the opening drive. His blocking downfield was exceptional and he once again ran near perfect routes. Statistically Landry only caught three passes but it’s become obvious that Rishard Matthews has emerged as a legit threat in this offense. Matthews caught six passes for 85 yards. Overall the Dolphins loaded wide-receiver group played very well.
It was safe to assume that Miami would get the tight-ends more involved in the offense this week with former tight-end coach Dan Campbell now the head coach. Dion Sims returned to action for the first time since week one and made everyone forget that Jake Stoneburner is not a first or second team player. Sims caught four passes, one for a touchdown and Jordan Cameron added three receptions and a touchdown.
The unit as a whole played great on Sunday. Great for them. There is still room to improve but they kepth running lanes open and Tannehill off his back for most of the day. It was a solid performance from a group that has struggled in every game this season. The line played with a lot more tenacity on Sunday and there were hints at chemistry between the positions. Something else that has been lacking from this unit all season.
The much talked about, much maligned defensive line came to play on Sunday. The unit registered six sacks on Titans quarterbacks with three of them coming at the hands of Cameron Wake. Ndamukong Suh showed his presence opening gaps for the linebackers and shedding sometimes two blockers to assist the plays. Suh finished the day with only an assist credited to him but there was no missing the impact he had on the field. The unit as a whole kept the Titan rushing game to 60 yards total rushing yards after being gutted in the four previous weeks of play.
Sunday was by far the best performance by the linebackers. Koa Misi led the team with tackles but more importantly Misi was making smart decisions on the outside and drove through his tackles instead of trying to arm tackle. Jelani Jenkins also had a big day but the Dolphins still need to get better in the middle. Kelvin Sheppard only had one tackle on the day and that is not good enough.
The Dolphins gave up some big yardage plays but they didn’t break. Miami’s Reshad Jones had a pick-six and Brent Grimes added to his highlight reel with a great fully outstretched diving interception. The Dolphins secondary held the Titans to just over 280 yards in the air but it was the long passes that kept the grade from being a solid A. Miami still has a problem stopping tight ends. Delanie Walker caught eight passes for 95 yards.
The Dolphins special teams played well enough to not be noticed. No big returns but two costly penalties on punt returns wiped out one big gain by Landry and both put the team in bad field position. Matt Darr punted well and Andrew Franks one for one on field goals and perfect on PAT’s.
Bill Lazor looked like he had a burden lifted off his shoulders, or in this case someone in his ear. Lazor called a very good game and the team was well balanced offensively. Lou Anarumo had his defense ready to play and you could see the change in physicality across the defensive board. It was the best defensive effort of the season. Finally Dan Campbell was showered with Gatorade at the games conclusion. Campbell was animated and composed at the same time and unlike his predecessor seemed to be more involved with the game. He met the players coming off the field and was supportive and coached when he needed to. Both sides of the ball looked very prepared for the game and that is all on coaching.