Monday's home opener against the Colts can't get here quick enough. We're all still pretty disappointed in how last week's season opener played out and the only remedy for all of us is a Dolphins win over the Colts. But that obviously won't be easy. Below are my three keys to victory for the Dolphins.
After reading them, be sure to tell us your thoughts below.
Pound the rock
There's been a lot of talk this week about whether or not the Dolphins might have abandoned the run too quickly last week against Atlanta. There might be some truth to that. While the Dolphins did run for just 38 yards on 10 carries in the first half, it was still only a 10-0 game to start the third quarter. But to open the second half, rather than feeding the ball to the two best offensive weapons on this team - Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams - Dan Henning decided to run it twice in a row with Lousaka Polite. The end result? A 3rd & 5 and a three and out. Following an Atlanta three and out, the Dolphins again had a chance to establish the run. But again, they decided not to. Chad Pennington dropped back to pass three consecutive times and the Dolphins again went three and out.
On Monday night, the Dolphins face one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time and they must do whatever they can to keep Peyton Manning off of the field. The easiest way to do that is to run the football effectively. It keeps the clock moving and keeps the team in manageable 3rd down situations.
Despite the fact that Indy's defense will be better against the run this year than in years past thanks to having bigger, more physical defensive tackles, the Jaguars still ran the ball for 114 yards on 26 carries last week. Last season, the Colts ranked just 24th in the NFL in rush defense, surrendering 122 yards per game on the ground. And in 2008, the Colts were 7-3 when they allowed over 100 yards rushing and 5-1 when they didn't. But 5 of Indy's 7 wins when allowing over 100 yards on the ground were by 4 points or less.
To keep the score close and have a chance to win, the Dolphins must run the ball on Monday night.
Don't let Reggie Wayne beat you
Marvin Harrison remains a free agent and Anthony Gonzalez will miss the game with an injury. So there are just two major offensive weapons the Dolphins must contest with when the Colts pass the ball - Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. We know how Miami has struggled in 2009 covering opposing tight ends. But I still think it's more important to take Reggie Wayne out of the game. Last week against Jacksonville, Wayne was targeted 14 times by Peyton Manning and caught 10 balls for 162 yards and a touchdown. If you let Wayne catch that many passes, the Colts will beat you.
So how do you do this? If I'm the defensive coordinator, I get physical with Wayne and beat him up at the line of scrimmage. Cornerbacks have five yards to bump receivers and I think the Dolphins must do just that. Wayne isn't a burner - he beats you with great route running and amazing timing with Manning. To disrupt that timing , you have got to get in his face and physically abuse him within those five yards.
If the Dolphins can keep Wayne relatively quiet and force Manning to go to guys like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie more frequently, then the Dolphins could really surprise the national audience that will be tuning into this game.
Be the aggressor
So often last week it seemed like the Dolphins were playing scared. It seemed like they were tentative on both sides of the ball. Well you don't beat good teams like that. And they won't be the Colts like that.
I want to see the Dolphins be aggressive on offense and on defense. I want to see Chad Pennington take some shots down the football field. I don't care if they fall incomplete. Just let Indy know you're willing to go long if it's there. Force Indy's defense to keep that in the back of their minds all game.
Defensively, I want to see this team get after Peyton Manning. Don't be afraid that Manning will beat you. You know what - if you give Manning enough time in the pocket, he'll be you regardless. So why not get after him aggressively? I don't want to see the Dolphins react on defense to what the Colts are doing. I want to see the Colts be forced to react to what Miami is doing. Bring some pressure. Use some exotic blitz packages. Make Peyton Manning as uncomfortable as you can. And most importantly, knock Manning around a little.
The Dolphins aren't expected by many to win this game. So what do they have to lose? Play physical and be aggressive. Don't play not to lose - play to win.