Continuing on with our look towards Sunday's game in Minnesota, it's time to discuss what some of the keys are for the Dolphins to leave the Metrodome (or whatever it's named now) with their second win of 2010. Needless to say, the three keys listed below are far from a comprehensive list. But I do believe that the three listed below are the major ingredients to a Dolphins' upset.
Keep in mind that a Dolphins win would indeed be an upset - which I'm getting the feeling some fans might be forgetting. This is a Vikings team that was just one sloppy game away from the Super Bowl a year ago. While I'm not going to sit here and say the Dolphins have no chance, I do think they will have to play a very efficient football game to steal this one. But I also believe that they very much have the ability to do just that.
So now, let's get to my recipe for victory.
1. Get out in front early. The Dolphins are heading into a hostile environment when they walk into the Metrodome. The Vikings were 9-0 there last year, winning by an average of nearly 19 points per game - including a 34-3 thrashing of the Cowboys in the playoffs. Now coming off of a disappointing performance to open the season over a week ago in New Orleans, the Vikings kick off their 2010 home schedule against our Dolphins.
The Metrodome is obviously one of the loudest places in the NFL to play. While the Dolphins have been practicing this week by pumping crowd noise through their speakers to prepare, nothing can really prepare you for 60,000+ screaming fans. The easiest way to quiet them, of course, is to take an early lead. Most players will admit that it's their job to quiet the opposing fans when they are on the road. And when the Vikings get out in front and that crowd gets even more juiced up, that building is really rocking. But would they still be rocking if the Dolphins were to take a two score lead? Probably not. Of course, that's easier said than done.
An early Miami lead would also force the Vikings to abandon the run and throw more passes than they'd really like to. Their passing game was clearly out of sync in the season opener. And we know that Brett Favre has a propensity to turn the football over when he's asked to do too much. If the Vikings fall behind, the Dolphins could really allow their pass rushers to pin their ears back and get after Brett - and potentially get the interception barrage to commence.
2. Protect Chad Henne. As many Dolphin fans pointed out, the offense last week against Buffalo was rather disappointing. Many wanted to see the Dolphins open up the offense a bit more - especially now that we have that "alpha receiver" - as the Dolphins like to say.
Clearly the wind up in Buffalo was a factor - and probably was part of the reason why the Dolphins didn't air it out like we all hoped for. But as Henne pointed out yesterday, quarterbacks love playing inside domes because "there's no wind. You're just throwing on the air out there and it feels good for a quarterback."
That's what we like to hear. But Henne will need time to air it out. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning pointed out on Thursday that at least two other deep balls were called. But on each of those plays, Miami's protection broke down and Henne was sacked. It's kind of difficult to go deep if the quarterback isn't given enough time to allow his receivers to get down the field.
The Vikings have a very good defensive line - headlined by Jared Allen, of course. But their secondary is banged up and there will be plays to be made down the field. Henne just needs to be given enough time to make those throws.
3. Attack Brett Favre. It's a well known fact that Favre is a turnover machine. At the same time, he's going to make some plays. That's how it works. We all know this. But Mike Nolan has got to be licking his chops just thinking about what his defense could do to Old Man Favre.
Last week, Cameron Wake and Koa Misi were very disruptive. They each had a sack - and each could have had more. But like most quarterbacks, Trent Edwards has two feet and can move - which allowed him to escape a couple of times from would-be sacks. Brett Favre, on the other hand, cannot. If you saw his performance against the Saints, then you saw exactly what I did - a gimpy quarterback relying on his offensive line and his arm. No doubt - he has a good offensive line. But the Dolphins also have a very athletic defense - and one that we saw will be able to get after the quarterback.
I'm looking for Nolan to move Karlos Dansby all around the field once again. I'm expecting to see Yeremiah Bell come on some safety blitzes. I'm even thinking we could see some cornerback blitzes off of the edge. If the Dolphins can consistently get pressure on Favre, then they just might leave the Metrodome with their second win of the season.