There's nothing like defeating a divisional rival - especially a team that was 5-1 and had the media thinking they were legitimate Super Bowl contenders. And doing so in the way that they did - by coming from behind in the 2nd half - makes this win even sweeter.
Let's get to the headlines from today's game:
TED GINN: A GLIMPSE AT POTENTIAL
In the words of Tony Sparano at his post-game media availability, "What do you want to talk about? Ted Ginn? Yeah, let's talk about Ted Ginn."
So let us talk about Teddy. For really the first time in his year and a half career, we saw the kind of player that Ginn could potentially be. We saw a glimpse of a #1 receiver.
Ted was just spectacular today. He caught just about everything that came his way, showed his play-making ability, and played with a fire we haven't really seen from him. Yes, it was nice seeing a long ball to Ginn to open the game (which would have been a TD if a stronger-armed QB was throwing it). But I enjoyed even more the plays where he caught the ball, took a shot from a defender, then popped right up and either ran his mouth a little to the defender or struck the "1st down pose." He has a swagger about him that we haven't seen from a Dolphins' receiver in quite some time.
More interestingly, though, is how Teddy was used today. The Fins went over the top with him. They went over the middle with him. They used him to the outside running curls and ins. What's interesting, though, is that he was targeted just 9 times. Seemed like more, didn't it? While this was the most he's been targeted all season, Teddy was targeted 8 times against the Chargers and 7 times against both the Jets and Ravens. So it's not like the Fins game-planned around him. I think it was more that Chad Pennington just looked to him more often today and Teddy got more separation than he has been getting - helped by a slightly gimpy Terrence McGee covering him for many of the plays.
What's puzzling, though, is that Ginn is still not being used enough. Following his 64-yard reception, Ginn was on the sidelines for the next 3 plays - which resulted in a FG. On the next possession, Ginn caught a 19 yard pass but then sat out the next 5 plays - leading to a FG. He needs to be used even more. While the coaches will say that the reason is Ginn just isn't involved in those particular receiver packages, Teddy needs to be on the field as often as possible.
Regardless, a great day by Ginn and a brief look at how good he could eventually become. Now let's see if he can build on this performance; use it as a springboard for the rest of the season.
CHAD PENNINGTON: LEADER OF THIS OFFENSE
"It's just leadership. He gets fired up. And today was one of those days."
Those are the words of Ronnie Brown after the game. And Chad again proved he's the leader of this offense. He played spectacularly. He made all the right reads and was accurate on every single pass - except for when he threw behind Ginn on a drag route right after the 2 minute warning that would have put the Dolphins in better FG position. Oh - and it wouldn't have hurt to have led Teddy more on that first pass play. But we all know he can't do that very often.
What he can do? He can lead an offense and make the players around him better. That's exactly what he's done. He was insanely efficient again today, posting his 6th career 300-yard passing game and a passer rating of 117.9. He continues to move well in the pocket - which I've been very impressed with. And he makes some nice throws on the move - like the first down pass to David Martin on a bootleg right.
What else can you say about him other than this: 73% completion percantage, 10.46 yards-per-attempt, 0 turnovers, and a win. Meanwhile, Trent Edwards: 60% completion percentage, 6.49 ypa, 3 turnovers, and a loss.
THE SECONDARY: WHO ARE YOU?
Seriously. Who were those guys playing in Miami's secondary and what did they do to the "real defensive backs"? Talk about a turnaround in a matter of days.
This was a completely different kind of performance than we've seen all season from these guys. They deflected more passes today than they probably did all season. They were in position most of the time. And Will Allen even caught a ball for an interception, albeit off of a tip.
Come to think of it, there were some differences between the previous defensive back rotation and the one we saw against Buffalo. For starters, Michael Lehan was placed on IR. That meant more playing time for...Jason Allen. And while I'm not going to go overboard about his performance today (as some seem to be as I look around the internet), I'll say that I was impressed. Early on, it seemed like he was playing too far off of his man - like on a critical 3rd down conversion during the 1st half. But he did seem to get better as the game wore on. He got more confident. He played tighter coverage and was actually in good position most of the time. He closed well on the ball - though he could still improve in that area. And his most impressive play might have been breaking up a pass intended for the 6'6 James Hardy on the play leading up to the Joey Porter-forced safety. But all in all, encouraging signs from this former first rounder.
I also noticed more Tyrone Culver out there. And I was impressed with his play. He seemed to have good ball skills - breaking up at least one potentially long pass. It'll be interesting to see how Culver is used from here on out after an impressive day from the youngster.
-Joey Porter. Joey F'in' Porter. He's a beast. Two more sacks today give him 10.5 on the year (and 5 in his last 3 games). Could he be on his way to a 20+ sack season? You never know. But considering his all-around impact on the game - 2 forced fumbles (one resulting in a safety credited to Charlie Anderson), a fumble recovery, and numerous more QB pressures - Porter is definitely in contention for the Defensive Player of the Year award right now. Not bad for a guy who was rumored to have a career ending back injury during training camp, huh?
-3rd downs still a problem for this offense. They converted just 3 of 11. And they still only have 1 3rd down conversion of over 7 yards on the season.
-3rd down defense, however, was impressive on Sunday - holding the Bills to just 28% (4/14). Both the improved secondary play and some solid DL play in short-yardage situations are to credit for this performance. Nice job getting off the field by the "D."
-I love the creative play-calling. Going over the top on the first play to Ginn. Running a new variation of the 'Wildcat." Going 5 wide - with 4 to the left - at least twice in the game. Nice job by Dan Henning - except for the end around to Greg Camarillo on 3rd ans 14 from Buffalo's 23 - the play before the blocked FG.
-Speaking of the blocked FG, it's a moot point now, but still. That should have been a "leaping" penalty. You can't launch off of a teammate's back to block a kick. Damn refs called that on us a few years back.
-Does it bother anyone else that the defense seems to struggle against a no-huddle offense?
-Still too many mistakes and missed opportunities - leaving points on the field. Ricky's fumble on the first play of a drive beginning at Buffalo's 37. Two consecutive penalties on 3rd down to give the Bills a 1st down on a drive that resulted in a Buffalo FG. The blocked FG (should have been a penalty, but still - Justin Smiley got trucked). That's at least a net of 9 points right there. Can't let that happen.
-Offensive line keeping Pennington upright. That's HUGE! Jake Long is continuing to impress me.
-Dan Carpenter was clutch today. We might have something here. Same with Brandon Fields, As Nicky pointed out, his punts were on the mark today.
Don't go getting ahead of yourselves here. Yes, 3-4 is nice - but it's still under .500. So don't start up that playoff bandwagon yet - the same one that most jumped off of after those 2 losses to Houston and Baltimore. Instead, just enjoy what you're seeing - a rebuilding team coming together and flashing signs of a potentially ridiculously bright future.