This time last week, Ted Ginn Jr. was drawing the ire of Dolphin fans everywhere. So it figures that it was Ginn who would be the most important player in the Dolphins' 30-25 win over the Jets on Sunday - without even catching a single pass. And thanks in large part to Teddy, the Dolphins have done something they haven't done wince 2003: sweep the season series against the hated division rival Jets. More importantly, perhaps, the Dolphins are now back within a game of .500 and are 3-0 within the AFC East.
Ginn puts the "special" in "special teams"
This past week, much of the talk was centered on what the Dolphins should do with their former number one pick. The Dolphins decided to bench Ginn, who started every game this year at wide receiver, in favor of rookie Brian Hartline. Ginn admits, too, that this past week was the toughest of his professional career.
But Ginn reminded us all of just how damn good he can be as a return man, taking two consecutive kickoffs all the way to the house. And his 100 yard and 101 yard kickoff returns for touchdowns made NFL history. Teddy became the first player in NFL history to score two touchdowns of at least 100 yards in the same game. He's also the first player to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same quarter since Travis Williams did it for the Packers in 1967. Not a bad way to gain some confidence.
If you're human, you can't help but be happy for the embattled Ginn. And perhaps what is most telling is how his teammates spoke of Ginn after the game, including Jason Taylor - whose fumble return for a touchdown was overshadowed by Ginn's big day.
"That's all right. That's all right. After everything Teddy has been through, he deserves all the glory," said Taylor. Here are some more quotes about Ginn:
"People should respect him more, and, now, maybe they will," Brian Hartline said. "It was good to see him play so well."
"He loves the game. This is what he does," Justin Smiley said. "He's a professional. It's his life. I see him every day and how hard he works. He takes a lot of flak, but he had a great day."
But I think Ginn himself said it best. He said after the game that he convinced himself following his demotion that "big things might happen." Ginn added, "It's probably one of the toughest weeks I've ever experienced playing football. Last week was one of my toughest games I've ever had, the worst game in my career."
"I feel at peace more than anything. I made plays for my team. I stayed confident. My team believed in me," said Ginn. "To make them see that smile and have that happiness, to go from 2-4 to 3-4, that's great."
Now let's see if this confidence can translate into more production as a wide receiver.
Defense makes just enough plays to survive
Midway through the 3rd quarter, the Dolphins had only surrendered 6 points to the Jets. But then Davone Bess muffed a punt, the Jets recovered and the wheels came off for the defense. The Dolphins would surrender three touchdowns over the final 20 minutes of the game and nearly surrender a fourth that would have given the Jets the lead with under two minutes to play. It was the kind of performance to make even the most optimistic Dolphin fan think, "here we go again."
Second half defensive collapses have become all too familiar this season. And the Dolphins did just enough to avert another disaster. But man, it was not easy to watch.
Let's start with the good. The Dolphins did an outstanding job of stopping the Jets rushing attack. Yes, the Dolphins allowed a 100 yard rusher and a total of 127 yards on the ground. But that was with the Jets running the ball 40 times. Miami held New York to just 3.2 yards per attempt - which is damn good.
From individual standpoints, Jason Ferguson, Paul Soliai, and Randy Starks were outstanding. Give credit to Soliai for not only playing stout at the point of attack but also for ripping the ball away from Shonn Greene, leading to a fumble recovery that Jason Taylor returned all the way.
Gibril Wilson also looked like a different guy out there. Tony Sparano needs some credit here for deciding not to start Wilson. Chris Clemons was on the field for the first play of the game. Sparano said after the game that they "shook some things up this week, purposefully so. There's no reason for anybody to feel comfortable when you're 2-4.''
That strategy worked well, as Wilson was far more productive today than in any of his previous games as a Dolphin. Now he still wasn't perfect in coverage, but he was active against the run, effective as a blitzer, and didn't miss any tackles (that I can recall off the top of my head).
But it's Starks who was the man on defense, picking up 7 tackles, a sack (which we'll highlight in a minute), and two quarterback hits. He, too, had his best game as a Dolphin on Sunday. All told, it looks like the Dolphins have a damn good defensive line rotation - and will continue to do so for years to come.
Besides the rushing defense, though, I think the other key stat for the defense was how good they were on 3rd downs - holding the Jets to just 21% efficiency (3/14). And on the biggest third down of the game, it was Randy Starks coming through with a huge sack to push the Jets back to Miami's 15 yard line with under two minutes to go. That play is my "turning point of the game" - which we'll get to momentarily.
But, obviously, there were some defensive issues. The tight end position continues to kill this defense. Yeremiah Bell just doesn't look quick enough or fluid enough to stay with these athletic pass-catching tight ends when he's asked to. And the linebackers aren't nearly athletic enough to keep up with a tight end like Dustin Keller, who went for 76 yards receiving and a touchdown.
I also think that there was far too little pressure on Mark Sanchez, especially in the second half. There were countless plays that saw Sanchez have seemingly all day to throw. And for the most part, if the Dolphins didn't blitz, they didn't get pressure on Mark.
The rookie corners played as well as you could expect. They had their ups and downs. Each had at least one glaring mistake. For Vontae Davis, it was trying to undercut a ball thrown to Jerricho Cotchery on a drag route. Davis couldn't break up the pass and Cotchery took it 53 yards before being shoved out of bounds. For Sean Smith, it was a play in which he let Braylon Edwards get inside too easily, resulting in a 20 yard gain on an eventual scoring drive.
With that said, both made enough positive plays to keep me excited for their futures. I think they're going to be very good for a long time.
TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
If the Dolphins ended up losing, the turning point would have definitely been the muffed punt by Davone Bess. But Davone is off the hook. And part of the reason why is because Randy Starks came through in a big way. It was 3rd & 6 from Miami's 8 yard line when Starks beat one of the best guard's in football, Alan Faneca, one on one and laid a big hit on Mark Sanchez, resulting in a 7 yard loss and making it 4th & 13 from the 15 with 1 minute and a half to go. Those were a big seven yards, people. Just think of the difference between a 4th down from Miami's 8 to a 4th from the 15. There are a million more options for the Jets if Sanchez is able to even throw the ball away. But Starks came flying through the line seemingly out of nowhere to make a game-saving play for this defense.
TOOL OF THE GAME
Bart Scott - you're an idiot.
Even after losing to the Dolphins for the second time this season, Scott still ran his mouth after the game, sarcastically mocking the Dolphins:
"They're a great team. They'll probably contend for the Super Bowl. They have a tremendous offense -- great running backs, a great quarterback, a great tight end. They are stacked across the board. I'm serious. They are great.
"They have a tremendous offense and they showed it today. They are Super Bowl contenders and they will probably take it all the way."
Leave it to a New Yorker, of all people, to say it best. On his Sunday night sports show on NBC in New York, Mike Francesa blasted Scott, calling him a "total fool" and "total jerk" - among other things. And he said he's the kind of player you don't want on your team. Can't disagree with any of that.
Some more quick thoughts on the game:
- I love love love the defensive back blitzes that Miami used on a lot of their 3rd downs today. I recall seeing, on any given 3rd down, Yeremiah Bell, Vontae Davis, Gibril Wilson, and Nathan Jones all have a chance to blitz. And it seemed to work. Don't know why they got away from it late in the game.
- The Jets call the 'Wildcat' a gimmick? The Jets ran a flea-flicker and an end-around, both more "gimmicky" than the Wildcat.
- Speaking of the Wildcat, the Jets did a good job of stuffing it all game.
- Which brings me to the offensive line. They played poorly today, no doubt about it. They gave Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams no running room and really struggled to protect Chad Henne. I hope this is just a bump in the road.
- As far as Henne goes, it was an "ok" performance. But I get the feeling he might be over-thinking some throws, especially when he's under pressure. He needs to get rid of the ball quicker. And he simply can't afford to go backwards when under pressure. That's always a "no-no." But at least there were no mistakes. All in all, not bad for his first career road start.
- Boy does this team need a go-to receiver. There were too many times where no receiver at all could get open.
- Is Reggie Torbor better than Channing Crowder? I would have laughed at that question a week ago. Now it's not a no-brainer anymore, folks. He isn't any worse, that's for sure. Just something to think about, I suppose.
- Davone Bess hasn't looked like himself these past two weeks. But even with that said, I'm not worried about him at all. That's the kind of trust I have in him after his impressive rookie season last year.
- Even with the poor defensive performance today (allowing 378 yards of offense), that unit did something it hadn't done all season - it finished. That's certainly a building block for the rest of the year.