Back again, man I love writing this column after a win! (That will be the last exclamation point in honor of our Denver friend.) First of all, a tremendous WOOHOO for our victory, and another one for our second winning streak of the season. Coach Sparano and staff had this team,specifically the defense, fired up from the get-go, and they kept the crowd out of the game for a good majority of the afternoon. Very impressive. As always, a few quick notes and/or shout-outs before we get to the meat of the column. And it's tender, juicy, rib-meat courtesy of our friend HuskerDolphin.
- First of all, what more can you say about Chad Pennington? Had one of his worst games as a Dolphin early, didn't let it phase him, and led a game-clinching 8+minute Touchdown drive to seal it in the 4th quarter. That cool, veteran leadership was on display on the most important drive of the game for the Dolphins.
- Ricky Williams was barely there today, except for a HUGE 3rd and long conversion on the final drive. Pennington made a back-shoulder throw into tight coverage that ended up on Ricky's back hip, and he made the catch like he was playing around in his front yard with the neighborhood kids. Ice water, meet Ricky's veins.
- Jason Allen and Will Allen each get an interception early in the game, setting the tone for the rest of the contest. Will ran his back 32 yards for a touchdown, marking the 5th time in the last 6 games vs Denver that Miami's defense has scored. Tyrone Culver also added an interception. We had Cutler's number all day long.
- Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, and Ted Ginn all put up similar stats, and all ended up picking up key first downs on scoring drives. Bess had 2 catches for 28, including a sliding grab to convert a third down. Ginn followed up a career game with a solid performance, grabbing 3 balls for 38 yards. Fasano was open down the seam alot, and contributed in the single coverage that allowed Camarillo to have a good day. He added 2 catches for 37 yards.
- Dan Carpenter, or DC$ as I've been calling him, is just that: Money. 4/4 on FG's, and they were all right down the middle. His kickoffs were in the endzone all game, including a couple that went out the back.
- Special shout-out to all the Live Thread participants. 2177 Comments at the time of writing this. That's counting all 3 (yes, THREE) live game threads, a pregame thread, and the victory thread. Ridiculous. Way to go guys, Phins fans truly are the best in the league.
This section was longer than usual, but oh well, we won, and I'm writing a book because I'm happy. Now to the meat...
5. Ronnie Brown - Ronnie didn't have a lot room to run today, and the stats show that. But it's more about his overall contribution to the team. His final numbers were 20 carries for 59 yards including a 30 yard burst early in the game, and 3 catches for 30 yards. One of those catches was a screen pass that went for 17 on 3rd and 18 and allowed us to pound out a 4th and 1 conversion. That's 89 total yards, and the clinching TD following the looong clock-killing drive. He didn't get a lot of help from the OL today, but he kept running hard and closed the game out from the goal line.
4. Joey Porter - Yet another sack for J-Peezy, bringing his season total to 11.5, tops in the league and a career best total for Joey. Porter also played a huge part in Cutler's many mistakes, pressuring him and forcing him to step up and leave his comfort zone in the pocket. Cutler's quick release was the only thing keeping Porter from getting 2 or 3 more sacks. He was also a big factor in our defensive performance against the run, which I'll get into later. Joey Porter, what a bargain.
3. Andre Goodman - Strange to see him this high in the post, but he played phenomenally today. Coach Sparano and Coach Paul P put their faith in him to cover Brandon Marshall for the majority of the game, and he was up to the task. Goodman was the main guy in limiting one of the best WR's in the game to only 2 catches for a measly 27 yards. Every time Cutler threw in his direction, Goodman was attached to the receiver and getting a hand in on the ball. He looks like Sam Madison's long lost twin, and he's played like it the past two games.
2. Greg Camarillo - Found myself yelling CAMARILLOOOOOOO a lot today. Career-high 11 catches, for a career high 111 yards. The Broncos CB, Paymah, led his team in tackles because he kept having to drag Camarillo down after another reception. He was Pennington's favorite target today, and everybody can see why. Sure hands, great route-running, and he picks up extra yardage after the catch. He abused the poor sap assigned to cover him, everything he caught seemed to a quick hitter or a 10 yard out, and it couldn't be stopped. Great performance, but not as good as...
And the Number 1 Gameball goes to... The Run Defense - When you hold a team to 14 yards rushing in a game, you deserve praise. When you hold a Mike Shanahan team to 14 yards rushing, you deserve steak and women, and praise. And since I can't give out steak and women, I'll give out the praise. Incredible performance by the defense. On almost every single running play the back was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage. There were no holes to hit, no cutback lanes, no place to bounce, and no creases to plow through. It was locked up completely. And when you can make a team totally one-dimensional, chances are you'll win that game. At the end of the day, Denver couldn't move the ball consistently, couldn't score enough, and couldn't get their crowd involved with a long, sustained drive. And that's a formula for a victory.
This week's Turd Sandwich goes to... The Wildcat Formation - Sad to say, it was not effective at all today. And on a day where it's hard to find a bad thing to say, I think teams have figured out the Wildcat. I think it can still be effective, but not for 3rd down conversions, like we used it today. Use it on the goalline, use it to try and catch the D off guard on a first down, but don't count on it to pick up key 3rd downs like it did earlier this season.
So that's it. If you read the whole thing, congrats. It's like winning the NYC Marathon this week. But what can I say, I'm excited as hell about the win, and I think it's time we start talking about playoffs. .500 at the halfway point, the toughest games behind us, and a favorable schedule the rest of the way if we can put together good offense and defense in the same game. Not making a prediction, but we have a chance, and that's much more than I expected at the beginning of the season. Have at it.