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On Sunday, both red zone offense and red zone defense were critical for the Dolphins. Offensively, the Dolphins were only in the red zone one time - a sad commentary on who ineffective they were on offense, of course. But nonetheless, the Dolphins converted on the one time they made it down there, and that was simply huge.
The Jets had just scored to cut Miami's lead to 24-19 late in the third quarter. But the Dolphins answered with a critical 13 play drive that ate up nearly eight minutes. On that drive, they converted three crucial third downs. Then once they got inside the 20, the Dolphins relied on a tough 7 yard run by Ricky Williams and a defensive holding penalty to get down to the 5 yard line. That's when Chad Henne faked the hand off to Ronnie Brown, rolled out right, and threw an accurate pass on the run with a defender closing in to Joey Haynos for the touchdown. And give credit to Haynos, who did an excellent job of selling his "block" just enough to keep the defender honest and a step behind when he broke right for his pattern. Maybe it's just me, but I want to see more of Haynos in the coming weeks.
With their one red zone conversions, the Dolphins are now scoring touchdowns on 63% of their red zone trips - a solid ratio for sure.
Defensively, the Dolphins stood their ground when they absolutely had to. There were two trips into the red zone in which Miami's defense held the Jets. The first time, which I don't think has gotten enough attention, was early in the second quarter with the score tied at zero. The Jets had made their way down to Miami's 9 yard line and had it first and and goal. On first down, using that "heavy formation" with 7 or 8 offensive linemen, Thomas Jones carried it for four yards, with Gibril Wilson - who actually looked decent on Sunday - making the stop. But the key play was made two plays later, on third down from the five, when Sean Smith did an excellent job of reading the route by Jerricho Cotechery and cutting in front of the receiver. He couldn't haul in the pass when he undercut the receiver, but he did still break up the pass and prevent the Jets from taking a 7-0 lead. The Jets settled for the field goal on the next play.
Then, of course, we had the "red zone stand of the season" - at least up to this point - late in the fourth quarter. We don't need to rehash everything because we all know what happened. But I just can't say enough about both the coverage in the secondary and the play of Randy Starks. The much maligned secondary stood up and made two key plays. On second down, they did a great job of blanketing the receivers, forcing Mark Sanchez to scramble for just a yard. Who made the stop? Randy Starks of course. The next play was Randy's big sack of Sanchez, forcing NY back to the 15 yard line on fourth down. Again, the secondary stepped up and gave Mark nowhere to go with the ball.
Sure, the defense struggled all second half. But they made the plays that they absolutely had to have - which is a great sign.