It's great to hear the phrase "control your own destiny" for a Dolphin team that many wrote off as dead when we were 3-4 or 4-5 or 5-6. Now we seem to be heading in a very good direction and have a winnable game coming up Sunday that would guarantee us a winning record for the first time in a long time. I really enjoyed watching 59 minutes of the game Sunday...and the last 7 seconds. Michael Thomas you will now be in the group of Dolphin's that come out of nowhere and made a big play: Greg Camarillo came to mind for me.
Now we have to move forward for a chance to get some revenge against a Buffalo team that beat us at home in a game we blew our shot with an untimely fumble and a Dan Carpenter FG at the end. Very bitter game for those of us that remember it and I hope it sticks in the minds of guys like our offensive line and entire defense as a chance to come out and out-physical the Bills. Here are my keys to the game Sunday:
1) Understand that nothing comes easy in the NFL. Every game is usually close and I expect this one to be also. Remember we have flaws and are one play away from being 7-7 going into this game. We will need to be ready to fight a tough crowd and weather in Buffalo and make big time plays late in the game to win it. Buffalo still has guys that can play big time football (CJ Spiller is a Dolphin killer: Fast RB's out in the passing game hurt us). Be ready to go and don't think we will win big.
2) Have our "depth" players ready to go again. It looks like Grimes may be able to go, but Carroll may not be able to go this week and no word on Solai. We must have guys step in and make plays against a very young QB. In my opinion it will be on our rookie class to step in and make some plays. Davis played a bunch against New England and struggled, but he needs to keep working hard, we saw in the pre-season and training camp the potential he has. Michael Thomas can you do 2 weeks in a row?
3) Pass Rush. This is key on both sides of the ball. Last time we played a sack-fumble from Mario Williams was the difference in the game. I think we are better on the offensive line and in scheme now, but we have to protect Tannehill this week to have a good shot at him exploiting the Buffalo defense. On defense we need to get after the young QB in Manuel. He has some great potential, but he also has Geno Smith type qualities when pressure comes and his first read is not available. Not only do our front four need to get after him, but when we have chances I'd blitz guys to get at him.
4) Scheme the Bills. On offense we have started really using our whole playbook and we have looked much better the past few weeks. I'd still say we are missing a few elements that can do some great damage. Zone-Read play action plays would gash teams in the middle of the field with Clay. I'd also love to see any type of double move we want to run from Matthews or Hartline (I say them because usually Wallace has a safety sitting over the top and these guys get press coverage all the time) on a 3rd and 4. My only other complaint of offense is even I know our blitz adjustments and New England about made us pay last week. If the other team shows "sell out" blitz our WR's either run hitches at the sticks or double slants every time. We must adjust that if we want to create big plays against the blitz (the screen to Clay was a great Blitz beater).
5) Get Dion Jordan on the field more. The guy is a matchup nightmare. I like that we put Jelani Jenkins on the field for Wheeler in the nickel since he is a better cover guy, but why not put Jordan on the field in that spot. He can cover as well as either guy and he can blitz better than either guy.
6) Special Teams needs to get it together. Loved that we tried a fake FG (hate that it was snapped off our guys head :). Thigpen is a solid player (shown by his TD catch last week), but seems to have no room to run on any return or we get a block in the back each time. Last year against Buffalo he took one to the house on a punt return and I think he is just about due another one. I also think Sturgis is a solid kicker who is catching some flack from everyone, but needs to prove us he is up to the task as we may be calling on him from 50ish yards in bad weather.
7) Start off the game better. We have shown an uncanny ability to suck early in games. Then after we warm up some we look much better. Although I expect a close game, if we could start off hot it may make this game one where my son doesn't learn "new" words during the first half and we could build a lead against a young, turnover prone QB.
Big time game for us here. We win and we are within ONE GAME of being in the playoffs. I can also see us as the team NOBODY wants to play in the playoffs.