Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tannehill Matures Before Our Eyes

On Sunday afternoon, Dolphins fans everywhere were perhaps shown another reason to be optimistic about the future. I am not talking about the immediate future of a December game this coming Sunday that means something, although no one saw that coming in August. Not the fact that the Dolphins are only one game out of a playoff spot either. Yes both of those are pleasant surprises, but this season has always been about development, growth and preparing for the future.

Ryan Tannehill continued to grow up before our very eyes in his biggest clutch performance of the season and pro career. The first of his three impressive drives tied the game at 14. On this drive he caught a break because a roughing the passer penalty negated what looked to be a crippling interception. It was an ill-advised pass attempt. However, he shook it off and Daniel Thomas finished the drive with a 3 yard TD run. Within a few real life minutes, Tannehill watched on the sidelines as the Seahawks returned the ensuing kickoff to paydirt to recapture the lead 21-14 immediately. At this point, you thought this would be another punch in the gut and another loss that could have been a win, like the Jets and Cardinals games earlier in the year. However, this time, Tannehill got back to work, leading another game tying drive that culminated with a beautiful throw to Charles Clay for a 29 yard TD. Later on in the game, after a defensive stand by the Dolphins that can't be overlooked, Tannehill took the ball with 1:32 left and one timeout. With the poise of a veteran, he drove the Dolphins 65 yards culminating with a Dan Carpenter 43 yard field goal as the clock hit 0:00. Big time!! Clutch!! As Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly would say, a KILL.

This type of performance was something we were waiting to see from Tannehill. We saw a few big number performances sure, but we hadn't seen THIS yet. We didn't see Tannehill take a team down the field to win a game that looked lost. He did it Sunday. He did it against a good defense and he did it in a big way in a must win game. This does not mean more growth isn't needed, because there is room for improvement. There is not one person who disputes that. However, this past Sunday afternoon in Miami, Dolphins fans were shown another example of the potential of this young quarterback. Potential that one day may have us expecting these performances instead of hoping for them.

The Seattle Game was Important.

I tend to write mostly during the off season when there is time to reflect and refrain from getting caught up in the weekly roller coaster of games.  One game can only mean so much but every now and then one game means a little more than just that game.  Overall, this season has been pretty much as expected for me.  I only anticipated four wins this season and while we have already beaten that figure, it is still on par for my impression of where we would be. 

The fashion in which we made our comeback against Seattle has lead me to break from my off season mold a bit.  In my mind, the most important quality in a quarterback and offense is the ability to lead a game winning drive at the end of a game.  In regards to quarterbacks, it shows that they are capable of a high level of leadership, preparedness, coolness under pressure and killer instinct.  These qualities bleed over into every aspect of the team because psychologically there is never a point where the rest of the team thinks they are out of a game.  A team can say to the media that they believe they can win any game, but that is before the game starts when the score is 0-0.  It is a much different animal than when the chips are down and the clock is ticking.  But the quarterback also has to have a competent team around him and it was nice to see the O-line and receivers step up for a change. 

In this particular comeback victory we managed to do some things that haven't exactly been "classic" Dolphins' football as of late.  We answered an easy score by the opposing return team with a nice touchdown drive of our own.  We then played nice defense to get the ball back and although we didn't necessarily have great starting position we confidently moved down the field in a two minute offense in a way that could have just as easily produced a touchdown as a field goal.  How many times have we seen this team play not to lose and just run out the clock in that situation?  I really enjoyed seeing our team use the clock correctly for a change and rush to the line.  We had a moment with that illegal shift that made me recall the days of old, and I would really like to see that kind of stuff go away, but we did manage to overcome that.  And finally of course, Carpenter nailed his field goal instead of choking us right into over time.

The come back wasn't the only feature of the game that struck me.  I don't think it is a secret that running the ball wears down a defense and softens them up for the end of the game.  I was very happy to see that we pushed our run game hard early on and didn't let up from it like we have done too many times this year.  I am not proposing that we "ground and pound" the ball all game hoping that our defense will manage to get a few turnovers for us to win the game, but I do believe that keeping the run game going allows teams a better chance at either widening a lead or making a comeback in the fourth quarter.

But none of this would even matter to me if we hadn't played such a good defense.  I have watched several Seahawks games this year and their defense has been quite impressive.  We shouldn't forget that the trip from Seattle to Miami could have been an influencing factor, but even so it looked like we were capable of having our way out there.  We had a nice one two punch with speedy Bush and bruiser Thomas.  In the pass game we had good reliability from our receivers and it was nice to see some big plays from Clay.  The icing on the cake was seeing Tannehill use his legs for a change.  For a guy who played receiver in college for a year, I had expected to see more running from him at this point.  We really had their defense off balance at times.  If Seattle was able to make Jake Long look a little like a chump, the travel couldn't have been too big of a deal. 

I truly hate overstating games, but this one deserves some praise.  I am sure the Patriots will bring us down to earth, but at least the team knows we are capable of getting the job done while time is running out.  You can't teach confidence, you can only provide an environment for it to manifest.  We all saw what happened out there and next time many of us will sit in our seats just a little longer to see if another comeback is in the cards.  If we can string together a few nice finishes to games, it would go a long way toward changing the culture that has plagued this club for all to long.

Monday, November 19, 2012

We Expected Too Much Too Soon

My first reaction after the Thursday night loss to the Bills was, "I fell for it again." I really wanted to believe that maybe this Dolphins team could make a run to the playoffs. The two games against the Titans and Bills would be the test. I had written prior to the Titans game that this two game in five day stretch could put them in good position, but also could send the season in the other direction. The Dolphins stand at 4-6 and the playoffs look like an awfully tall order at this point. At the beginning of the season, all we wanted to see was the start of something we could be proud of again. Do not let the losses discourage that. There is a lot left for us to see this season.

The most important thing to see is how this rookie QB responds to these recent struggles. There is tape on Tannehill now. Teams do not appear to be blitzing him anymore, instead choosing to drop back into coverage and rushing only three. It is Tannehill's turn now to "adjust to the adjustment". His play over these last weeks will go a long way on how we feel about the Dolphins going into the off-season and training camp.

Another important thing to look at is how this coaching staff, most notably Philbin , has this team as a whole come out of this. The Dolphins need to run the ball better, the secondary needs to play better, and they need more big plays on both sides of the ball. The offense seems like they are playing in a condensed field (Mike Mayock said it looks like they play the whole game in a red zone) and the defense can't seem to generate any turnovers (we can all count how many dropped interceptions we have seen). There is talent here and the coaching staff needs to bring it out. This time is crucial to evaluating what is needed going forward.

The off-season will be the time to talk about what else is needed, a big play receiver, much needed help in the secondary, etc. The next few weeks is about getting the most of what we have, and maybe, just maybe, getting back into the playoff picture.

Monday, November 12, 2012

LaCanfora: Bush NOT expected back in Miami in 2013

Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports is reporting that Reggie Bush is not expected to return to the Miami Dolphins in 2013.

Bush, who has shined in Miami since being acquired from New Orleans before the 2011 season, is among those who have made no progress on a deal. Given Miami's recent drafting of running backs Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller and the expected free-agent interest in Bush, he is unlikely to be back with the Dolphins in 2013. Bush will turn 28 in the offseason.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Win Over the Titans is a Must

The Dolphins sit at 4-4, and listed under the “In the hunt” category on every broadcast that lists the very fluid playoff situation. The Dolphins are playing meaningful games a lot deeper into the season than many “experts” predicted. Now that this team has put itself in position to contend for a playoff spot, it is o.k. to raise your expectations a little as a Dolphins fan in my opinion. If you are of the same mind set, a win this Sunday is a must.

 The Titans come in at 3-6  and have lost 2 games in a row. The Dolphins are coming home for a game for the first time in about a month looking to feed off the energy of their home crowd. All the signs would indicate that the Dolphins should win this game. As any Dolphins fan can tell you, those sometimes are the most dangerous.

 Let’s be honest, the Titans do have weapons that ordinarily cause problems for the Dolphins, one of which is a speedy receiver in Nate Washington. Jake Locker can also make plays with his feet and is mobile which also creates problems for the Dolphins defense. All that being said, the Dolphins need to and should win this game. When you look at the Dolphins schedule, and as I have written about previously, this is one they have to have in order to contend for the playoffs. This is not a mystery. There are some tough games on the horizon, and next week at Buffalo on a short week is going to present an issue as well. The season can get away from the Dolphins in a hurry if they are not careful. Reggie Bush and others have talked about this being the time of year where playoff teams rise up and they are right. The opportunity for a playoff spot is right in front of the Dolphins.

 Time to rise

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Richard Marshall OUT for the year

The Miami Dolphins placed CB Richard Marshall on IR and he is now out for the season.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dolphins at Colts

   Who, looking at the schedule at the start of the season, would have thought that the week 9 match up between (one-time rivals) Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts would be such a big game? The Fins and Colts have a number of things in common. First, both teams have a surprising 4-3 record. Second, they are both starting first-round-draft-pick rookie quarterbacks. And third they are both in contention for playoff spots.

   The Colts, led by #1 draft pick quarterback Andrew Luck, are coming off of a thrilling overtime win. That win was capped off by an amazing, some would say play of the year-worthy touchdown scored by wide receiver Vick Ballard.That win puts The Colts on a two game win streak and in the 6th and final playoff spot.

   The Dolphins, who were led last Sunday by back up quarterback and 2011 team M.V.P. Matt Moore, are coming off of a much needed divisional road win against the rival New York Jets. They dominated that game so completely that not even the injury of soon-to-be-star quarterback Ryan Tannehill could stop them from playing like kids who are sick of being bullied. They basically went into New York like a hurricane and punched the Jets in the mouth. Spectacular special teams play ignited The Dolphins and led to a win and the 5th playoff spot.

   In order for The Dolphins to win this Sunday they must continue to play virtually mistake free football. They need to win the turnover battle, contain Andrew Luck and shut down the his passing game.

   Defensively, The Dolphins must continue to get turnovers and disrupt the quarterback. Andrew Luck has thrown 8 interceptions has lost 5 fumbles. Hopefully the Fins can take advantage of Luck's mistakes and capitalize on them. Colts' wide receiver Reggie Wayne is having a another great year and has become Luck's favorite target. The secondary is improving every week and can really use some big plays from Sean Smith, Nolen Carroll and company.

   The Special Teams unit was stellar last week. But we still don't know if we can count on Dan Carpenter since some early season missed kicks cost The Dolphins a couple games. This week's game is being played in a dome and that is a perfect place for Carpenter to get out of the doghouse and drill some big field goals. It would definitely boost his confidence and get him back to being that clutch player that Dolphin fans knew and loved so much.

   Offensively, Miami needs to keep protecting the ball. As of today we still don't know who is gonna start at quarterback, an injured Ryan Tannehill, or back up Matt Moore. If Tannehill can't go, I think we can all agree Moore will be able to get the job done. The offensive line is playing great football and doing a hell of a job protecting the quarterback but lately the running game has slowed down, getting less yards per carry and rushing for less yards per game. Reggie Bush needs to step up and get to the form he had when they played The Raiders. If Bush can get off to a good start it should open up the passing game. Devon Bess has been open lately, so I look for him to have a big game. Jabar Gafney is a week wiser and after a big dropped pass last week that should have been a 60+ yard touchdown, I would still like to see him emerge as a solid third wide receiver.

   All in all I like The Dolphins chances on Sunday. Coach Philbin has the team playing well. They're favored on the road and match up well with The Colts. A win will give them a four game winning streak and a tie for first place in the AFC East with The New England Patriots. It will also make the Fins 5-3, off to the best start since 2008, and should put coach Philbin in contention for Coach of the year!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let's be honest....Indy has no shot in hell this week!

That's right folks, Miami is gonna roll this team. Every matchup favors the Dolphins. The Colts defense is horrible and I don't care if Tannehill, Moore, Devlin, or Don Strock is playing QB for the Fins this week the Dolphins will run the ball with success and also move the bal via the air well on this team.

On defense the Dolphins should have their way with the Colts lackluster o-line. Luck will be on his back more than a teenage runaway at a porn shoot in California. Yes, Luck will make his fair share of plays. He is a quality player who is on the brink of being the next superstar in this league. But he has little help. I don't see Reggie Wayne being a problem for the Dolphins secondary. Colby Fleener isn't playing. I don't see how Indy will score much this week. Lord knows Brown and Ballard aren't gonna run on Miami's defense.

They can play this game in Indy, Miami, or on the moon! It won't matter! The Dolphins are gonna win going away. The Miami Dolphins are red hot right now, they have a ton of momentum and confidence! Whether its Tannehill or Moore it doesn't matter because the team believes in BOTH players! There is no QB drama or issue.

Dolphins Win Big!

Miami 37   Indy 13