Normally, a commanding Dolphins victory at home--a place where they hadn't won since November 2010--would elicit responses of sheer joy throughout Miami's fan base (kind of like when Greg "Rich" Camarillo grabbed a slant pass against the Ravens in 2007 and raced up the field to notch Miami's only victory that season). However, these aren't normal times, and in a season that is essentially meaningless at this point, Dolphins victories aren't exactly a well-received notion.
And that brings us to the Dolphins' 20-9 win over the Redskins yesterday--a game where Miami took the formula established in its victory over Kansas City the previous week and really went to town. Despite collecting two interceptions on defense, taking away the Redskins' rushing attack (not that it was formidable in the first place) and absolutely deleting outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (Washington's best pass rusher), this Dolphins victory will be perceived by many as a bad thing--counterproductive to Miami's offseason plans ... and perhaps rightfully so. When your current regime is essentially full of dead men walking, there's no real point in boosting morale, and there's certainly no reward for picking up victories late in the season and earning a mid-round pick. That said, there was just something special about seeing the Dolphins' stud players finally get on track and crack skulls. Karlos Dansby played about twice as fast as he did throughout the first half of the season. Matt Moore converted third downs as if the Dolphins promised to reward him with an opportunity to hang out with the girl in the Gronkowski jersey. Jake Long looked healthy. And Marc Colombo ... well, he's still garbage. But aside from our right tackle, the Dolphins looked all right yesterday. Not great, but not bad, either.
Despite Washington's attempt to throw a gameday curveball and start Rex Grossman over John Beck, the Redskins' passing game just couldn't get into a consistent rhythm yesterday. Grossman (21/32 for 215 yards and two picks) looked adequate and made throws downfield, but Washington's offensive line was victimized repeatedly by the Dolphins' front seven, leaving Grossman with almost no time to stand up in the pocket and throw. And when the Redskins were poised to strike in the red zone (a place where they've struggled all season) early in the fourth quarter, Dansby snuffed the drive by picking off Grossman inside the 10-yard line. Grossman and Washington's offense were unable to convert on any of its three trips to the red zone against the Dolphins, though that stat probably says more about the Redskins' offense than it says about the Dolphins' suddenly stout front seven on defense.
The Dolphins' also did an excellent job of limiting Redskins running backs Ryan Torain and Roy Helu to the tune of just 61 yards on the ground. Of course, Miami's ground game wasn't much better, totaling just 103 yards against Washington's 19th-ranked run defense. Yecch!
Oh look ... Jake Long is finally healthy
I am not sure how much of Long's 2010 knee sprain is still lingering, but if his performance yesterday was any indication, he's close to being 100 percent. A week after he beat down Chiefs' pass-rushing extraordinaire Tamba Hali, Long came out yesterday and took it to the powerful, menacing Brian Orakpo, who didn't even get a hand on Matt Moore during the game. Orakpo has collected 25 sacks since entering the league in 2009, so the fact that Long kept him out of the pocket all day is great news for Dolphins fans who thought their left tackle had actually regressed this season (that's a ridiculous thought, by the way). Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit I enjoyed listening to Tim Ryan during the game just because he repeatedly spoke about how good Long was playing Orakpo (this is also how Dan Dierdorf managed to worm his way into my heart).
But while Orakpo had a rough go of it against Long, Ryan Kerrigan (Washington's other talented outside linebacker) feasted on Marc Colombo several times during the game, dicing up Miami's resident Gulliver with ease and pushing him back as if he was wearing skates. Kerrigan notched two sacks yesterday afternoon--the first of which was the result of him running around Colombo (an aqua-and-orange-clad fire hydrant) and then stripping the ball from Matt Moore. Kerrigan's second sack occurred on a play where he was unblocked off the line.
The Redskins' ILBs are aging, and they could use an upgrade or two at corner, but I was impressed by the speed and size of Washington's defense. They also do good work in the trenches, but could probably use a bit more size at the 0-technique position. Overall, though, they are absolutely set at the outside linebacker spot. I wish I could say the same about the Dolphins.
Reggie Bush. That is all
So ... this is what happens when you use Reggie Bush correctly? Reggie rushed the ball for only 47 yards yesterday, but also reeled off two scores--the second of which was an explosive, 18-yard scamper up the right sideline. No one seems to have an answer for this guy right now, and it's getting to the point where we'll have to come up with a nickname for the murdering spree Bush's been on since the Giants game. Autumn of Bush? Reggie's Rapture? Whatever.
We've reached the 'Lightning Round' ...
-Despite winning, the Dolphins (2-7) are still in position to potentially get the No.2 or No.3 pick in 2012, thanks to the Rams and Seahawks both winning yesterday. I'd also keep an eye on Cleveland and these Redskins, since both teams could potentially take a quarterback next April. The Colts, however, are almost guaranteed the No.1 selection, which is what happens when you roll out garbage on the field and make the Jaguars look like the '76 Oakland Raiders.
-Like I mentioned earlier, the Dolphins were 8-14 on third down. For those of you unaware, it's considerably easier to win games when you can move the sticks on third down.
-Is it time for Vontae Davis the follow the path of fellow 2009 first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins and switch to safety? I've always thought Vontae could be a very good cornerback, but it might be best if the Dolphins kick him over to safety and then find someone who is more of a shutdown-type corner. Davis has all the athleticism and physical presence you could ever ask for in a defensive back, but he struggles to stay in the receiver's pocket and hasn't fully developed the ability to turn and locate the ball while in coverage (a skill he has flashed but never truly harnessed). Jenkins has been a stud at safety for the Saints, and Davis is definitely the superior athlete of the two. So ...
-Dansby and Kevin Burnett are finally playing the way we all envisioned when Burnett was brought on in late July. Thanks for showing up early, guys.
-Glad to see that Anthony Fasano is in the midst of one of those mini-greatness spurts he seems to go through every season. Fasano averaged 20 yards per catch yesterday, and has been a valid seam threat the last three weeks.
-On a non-Dolphins-related note, the Brady-to-Gronkowski connection is almost sickening at this point.
-We have an angry Buffalo Bills squad coming in here next Sunday. The Bills struggle to get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but their secondary is chock-full of ball hawks, and rookie defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is no joke. Should be an interesting game.
-On a final note, I am finishing up my running diary for the Oregon/Stanford game. Lots of people here have one foot off the Luck bandwagon (you know who you are) after his so-so performance against the Ducks on Saturday night, so I thought I'd do him justice and point out what I saw during the game.