The Miami Dolphins (4-8) put on a show Sunday afternoon against the Oakland Raiders (7-5), who had come into the game winning three consecutive games to take control of the AFC West. On the field at Sun Life Stadium, it looked like the Dolphins were the team that was in control right from the start! Winning four of their last five games, Miami is playing and executing like a team challenging for playoff contention! Sunday was a day that the Dolphins taught us a lot about what kind of team they have, and here’s some of what I learned watching the victory.
1) It All Started With Defense – You could sense it right at the start of this football game that the Dolphins defense was going to dominate! This unit started the game with two three-and-outs, setting the table for the offense and getting better with every series. They changed the line of scrimmage and the constant pressure and harassment of Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (20 of 41 for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) made their offense inconsistent (2 of 11 on third downs) and inept most of the afternoon. The running game was non-existent, rushing for a total of 46 yards and running back Michael Bush was never a factor in the game (10 attempts for 18 yards). The defensive unit has been able to turn the football over, and against the Raiders, score defensive points when linebacker Kevin Burnett intercepted a Palmer pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown! Burnett also added a sack and led a defense that made the Raiders a one-dimensional offense. The game was over when the Dolphins defense dictated the flow up front, and won the battle at the line of scrimmage!
2) Running Game Was Dominate – Chants of “REG-GIE! REG-GIE” echoed inside the stadium on Sunday afternoon! It was a result of running back Reggie Bush taking a big hit on an incomplete pass late in the game. Bush dropped down and did 10 push-ups for the dropped pass, something he would do at practice. That’s the mentality of this football team right now, it’s about having fun and being productive, and that’s what the running game did against the Raiders. Bush ran for 100 yards on 22 carries and scored on a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Bush opened up the running game early gaining 79 yards in the first half, and Daniel Thomas came in later to punish the Raiders defense, running for 73 yards on 13 attempts!
3) Matt Moore Has It All Under Control – The one player that keeps getting better with every win is quarterback Matt Moore. The things he’s doing now aren’t measurable in numbers or ratings, but this teammates and coaches see it on film, and it gives this offense a better chance of winning football games! Moore was 13 of 25 for 162 yards and one touchdown to wide receiver Davone Bess. Nothing to really get excited about unless you remember how he started the game. His ability to extend plays and get production running the football (5 rushes for 22 yards) when the pocket breaks down gave the Dolphins easier opportunities to get points early. Bad things might have happened if Moore tried to make something out of nothing, but his early decisions showed the maturity of a confident quarterback.
4) Special Teams Are Special – All week we talked about the place kicking and punting dual between Dolphins Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields verses Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler of the Raiders. The Miami duo came out on top with Carpenter going two for two from 48 and 33 yards out to open the scoring, and Fields averaged 55.5 yards with a long of 66 yards! Clyde Gates, who has been close to breaking one open in recent weeks, opened up the second half with a 77-yard kickoff return that provided instant field position for a Reggie Bush one-yard touchdown run. That made the score 20-0, and really put the Raiders in a deeper hole!
5) The Dolphins Are Having Fun! – It must have been very difficult to keep believing that this team was better then there record early in the season. At the end of the day, the players and coaches were the only people that could turn this season around, and it’s starting to turn quickly! Tony Sparano and his staff found ways to get this team to play at a higher level, and credit the men in the locker room for trusting each other at practice that the work they’re putting in is now showing up on Sunday afternoons! The Dolphins are flying around on defense and are becoming efficient on offense. This is a team that nobody really wants to play right now, and the wounded Philadelphia Eagles are up next. Remember, the Eagles were picked by most around the country to play in the Super Bowl this season! Well, there 4-8 just like the Dolphins, but that’s where the similarities end!
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.