For the first time in a while, Miami Dolphin fans got to savor the taste of a blowout win - as the Dolphins trampled the Bills 38-10. Even last year during their improbable run to a division title, the Dolphins only had one real blowout victory - a week three win up in New England. Most of their other games came down to the wire - making Dolphin fans everywhere sweat out close win after close win. But on Sunday, the Dolphins took an early lead and never looked back. And while this win doesn't completely cleanse our palettes of three consecutive losses to begin the year - it's a start.
Onto some of Sunday's highlights:
Running game dominates
While some fans declared during the game in our live thread that the Dolphins are the best running team in the NFL now, I'm not exactly ready to go that far. With that said, however, it's not easy to argue that idea.
The Dolphins were starting their young, inexperienced quarterback and it's no secret that the Bills main defensive goal was to stop Miami from running the football. Buffalo's defensive focal point was stopping Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Everybody was aware of that heading into the game. And all Brown and Williams did was combine for 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns, averaging 5.55 yards per carry. All told, the Dolphins ran for a whopping 250 yards. Not bad.
Ronnie again showed patience as a runner, good vision, and excellent burst on his way to a 115 yard, 2 touchdown day. That gives Brown 369 yards on the season, which is impressive considering he's only getting 18 carries per game thus far. The reason for that? Ricky Williams has been outstanding as Ronnie's compliment out of the backfield. His 85 yards rushing on Sunday gives him 248 yards rushing on the season, putting him on pace for 992 yards in 2009. I know I've been highly critical of how Brown and Williams are used, openly stating that I think Ronnie needs a bigger share of the work. But right now, they just need to keep doing what they are doing.
Could the Dolphins be on their way to a dual 1,000 yard backfield?
They could be - though it's still a long way off. But it's certainly possible thanks to how Miami's offensive line is performing. They seem to get better each week as they get more work together and continue to gel. Sunday's performance by those big guys up front was outstanding - they physically dominated Buffalo's defensive line.
Next week, though, will be a very good test for this offensive line. The Jets have a very good defense that will obviously focus on stopping Ronnie and Ricky. If the Dolphins can run the ball effectively next Monday night, then I'll buy into the idea that the Dolphins are the best running team in the league.
Defense makes plays
Where the hell has this defense been in 2009? Were those the same guys in Dolphin jerseys who got torched over and over during their two previous games?
Sure, it helps that Trent Edwards stinks. But even still, the Bills have play-making receivers. But the Dolphins just made play after play - whether it was a sack, a pass break-up, or an interception.
Let's start off talking about Will Allen. He took a beating this past week after being picked on by Phillip Rivers last week. But he stepped up today, making big play after big play and finishing the game with two interceptions and three pass deflections. I especially was impressed with Allen's first pick. He did a nice job of keeping Terrell Owens in front of him and then he simply beat Owens to that spot. It was an ill-advised pass by Edwards for sure - but still a great read by Allen.
Meanwhile, Vontae Davis made his first career game-changing play, jumping an out route and taking the interception 23 yards for the touchdown. Those are the kinds of plays you expect cornerbacks drafted in the first round to make. And you have to be impressed with his preparation for this game. Davis said after the win on Sunday that he knew the route was coming because "that particular route was one they used to start their rhythm." Davis said he saw the receiver plant his foot to cut and he simply reacted and made the pick. Davis also added a pass deflection on Sunday as well.
Who needs Joey Porter?
With the team's leading pass-rusher on the sidelines for Sunday's game, I don't think anybody saw this coming. But even without Joey Porter, the Dolphins were able to consistently get to Trent Edwards - sacking him six times.
The biggest story to come out of Miami's dominating pass rush was, without a doubt, the outstanding performance of Cameron Wake. Wake dominated a young Bills' offensive line en route to a three sack day. Wake also forced a fumble and registered two additional quarterback hits, proving to the coaching staff that the man needs to get more reps on gameday, even once Joey Porter returns. Wake was also impressive when he was asked to cover, which was the big question mark when the Dolphins signed the former CFL star.
Not to be outdone, Jason Taylor finally began to look like the JT of old on Sunday, registering two sacks and two additional quarterback hits of his own. And he did this despite playing the game with a sore shoulder that he injured early in the game. You might say Taylor benefited from going up against an inexperienced offensive line, but regardless he consistently manhandled whoever attempted to block him.
Hopefully Porter can get back on the field soon because it's going to be fun seeing how the coaching staff rotates these three pass-rushers from this point forward.
Chad Henne efficient in first career start
While I'm sure you'll all hear plenty about Chad Henne in the coming days from the media and fans alike, there's a reason I didn't really bring him up earlier - and that reason is simply because he didn't do anything exceptional. The Dolphins won this game because of their running game and their defense.
With that said, the important thing to highlight is that Chad Henne did an excellent job in managing the game and taking what was given to him. Yes, he made a couple inaccurate throws. But he also made some very accurate and smart throws. The touchdown pass to Brian Hartline, for example, was a beautiful throw that looked easier than it really is. Henne put the right amount of arc and touch on the ball to drop it over the defender.
What an impressive stat on Henne? He was 6/9 throwing the ball on third down on Sunday - with five of those completions resulting in a first down and the other resulting in a 4th & inches that Miami converted. That's how you keep drives alive and win football games.
His most impressive possession was the first possession of the second half. Henne went 4/4 for 38 yards and a touchdown. On that drive, Henne looked decisive, the ball came out quick and accurate, and he looked to be fully in control. Tony Sparano puts an emphasis on how the team performs during the first drive of the second half and you have to believe he was pleased with Henne on this day.
I was impressed with Henne's composure on the field all game. Despite getting sacked six times, he never looked flustered or in over his head at all. But at the same time, he did play it safe. If this was Chad Pennington, many would say that the quarterback was "scared" to throw the football down field. So let's not sit here and throw tons of praise on Henne. He played smart and efficient football - "Pennington ball," if you will. And it got the job done.
TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
I think there are two points you can highlight here for the turning point. But I'm going to go with Ronnie Brown's one-yard touchdown run on a 4th & goal from the one that put the Dolphins up 17-3 late in the second quarter. I loved the Dolphins play-calling. I think that calling a pass on 3rd & goal from the one was a great idea. The defense was likely looking run there and the Dolphins coaching staff knew they would go for it one 4th & goal - so why not try to surprise the defense and get Henne his first touchdown? It didn't work out - but Ronnie pounded it in on 4th down to give the Dolphins a two touchdown lead. They never looked back.
Some additional quick thoughts on the game:
- I continue to be amazed at how well Miami's defense is at stopping the run. The Bills totaled just 46 yards on 17 carries on Sunday. And their ability to stop the run will be critical next Monday night when the Jets come to town.
- I love Tony Sparano's decision to go for it on 4th down twice. We spoke about one of the times already. But how about their second 4th down conversion? It was already 24-3 Dolphins and Sparano could have easily taken the chip-shot field goal. But no - they give it to Ronnie and he gets the first. Three plays later, Ricky Williams gets into the endzone to essentially seal the deal.
- As great as the run-blocking was, the pass protection was not very good. There were clearly a couple of blitz pick-up issues. And Vernon Carey got beat very bad on one play early in the game. Things better improve in a hurry with the "all blitz, all day" mentality of Rex Ryan and the Jets coming to town.
- The "Henne to Ginn" connection netted four yards. Anyone get the feeling Ginn might be slowly fazed out of the offense?
- The 'Wildcat' is not a gimmick. Enough with that crap.
- Lost in the shuffle was that Phillip Merling might have suffered a serious foot injury. That would be a tough loss, so let's hope for the best.