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Defense leads the way as Dolphins defeat Jaguars

This is the time of the year where you take wins any way you can get them. While it wasn't pretty at all and sure was stressful at times, the Dolphins went up to Jacksonville and knocked off a Jaguars team that had just one home loss all season heading into Sunday, improving to 6-0 in December under head coach Tony Sparano.

In doing so, the Dolphins did what they were looking to do - make next week's game in Tennessee against the Titans yet another important must-win game as they look to work their way into the playoffs. As for the playoff picture itself, there's some info about that below. But enjoy the fact that as Dolphin fans, we have yet another meaningful December football game to look forward to. After starting 0-3, that's all us fans can ask for.

Just keep winning. Pretty or ugly. Big win or nail-biter. Doesn't matter to me. Just keep winning.

It's all about the defense
Earlier this week, we talked about how important it would be to contain Maurice Jones-Drew. He's the most explosive player on that Jacksonville offense and the Dolphins were struggling against the run over the past few weeks. Heading into the game, the Dolphins were allowing an average of 127 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry over their last five. But on Sunday, we saw this Miami defense make a stand. Actually, we saw them make multiple stands, holding Jones-Drew to just 59 yards rushing (3.3 ypc) in the process.

Perhaps the most impressive stat on Sunday, though, was how the Dolphins held the Jaguars to just 4/17 on third or fourth down. That's ridiculous, really. And it's just proof of how dominant this defense was and of why this game really shouldn't have been as close as it was.

Quite frankly, we saw this Dolphin defense dominate on Sunday. It's that simple. The Jaguars had just 217 yards of offense. Of that total, 63 yards came on one play. On that play, Sean Smith did a poor job of biting on the double move. But it's important to note that Gibril Wilson was really the guy who blew the coverage. He was supposed to have inside contain in that bracket coverage. But he also "took the cheese" of the Torry Holt double move, allowing Holt to make the big play. Of course, the defense rebounded by holding Jacksonville to a field goal on that drive.

The Jags gained 68 yards on that drive. They also gained 62 yards on their third possession of the game - which ended on a MJD touchdown run. But on Jacksonville's 10 other possessions, the Jaguars gained just 87 yards of offense and averaged just 2.4 yards per play. Those 10 possessions include the Jaguars going "3 and out" on 6 of their first 8 possessions. That, my friends, is domination.

The defense also put together their second consecutive scoreless fourth quarter. In doing so, the Dolphins limited Jacksonville's offense to just 57 yards of offense on four fourth quarter possessions. That's how you win football games even when your offense sputters in the second half. Kudos to every single player on that defense (except for maybe Gibril Wilson) for an outstanding performance.

The "Henne to Camarillo" connection
All season long, I've been waiting (and hoping) to see the Greg Camarillo we saw last season before he went down with his knee injury. On Sunday, I saw that Camarillo. It was a terrific sight to see.

Camarillo picked on this Jaguar secondary all game long, catching all seven passes that were thrown his way for 110 yards. This was Camarillo's best game since the game against Denver last season. And now after just catching three passes from week 10 against Tampa through week 12's loss to Buffalo, it seems as though Chad Henne is finally getting more comfortable with Camarillo - who has 11 catches for 171 yards over his last two.

Speaking of Henne, he's progressing pretty nicely, huh? No Dolphins quarterback has ever completed more consecutive passes in a game than Henne did on Sunday when he connected on 17 straight pass attempts - tying a team record set by Chad Pennington last season. But CP did it over the span of two games. And five of those 17 completions went to none other than the aforementioned Camarillo.

Yes, I know Henne also threw what could have been a costly fourth quarter interception. But again - I'm not too worried about it. I've seen enough from Henne to know that he'll learn from that mistake and he'll get better. The kid's gotten better every week. His accuracy is getting more consistent as the weeks go by. He looks more and more in command of this offense every time he steps on the field. And really, that interception was just a poor read - something he'll fix when he sees the film. But all in all, I continue to be impressed week in and week out with Henne - who is now 7-3 as a starting quarterback.

AFC Playoff Picture
For the Dolphins, it's pretty simple. First of all, they have to win their last three games. If they slip up, then it'll be very hard to squeak into the playoffs.

But the Dolphins can't get into the playoffs by just winning their last three. They need some help. In a nut shell, the Dolphins need either a Patriots loss OR a Ravens loss. If the Dolphins win out and NE was to lose once, the Fins would be division champs. If the Dolphins win out AND the Pats win out, then the Dolphins would need the Ravens to lose one game. If that was to happen, the Dolphins make it in as a wildcard.

So that's the situation. Three Dolphins wins AND either a Patriots loss OR a Ravens loss and the Fins are in the post-season.

More random quick thoughts on Sunday's win:

  • Interesting stat courtesy of Ethan Skolnick. The Dolphins faced 15 offensive 3rd downs. But their average distance "to go" on 3rd down was just 4.4 yards. And on 10 of those 3rd downs, the Dolphins needed just 3 yards or less. That's how you keep the chains moving. You put yourself in manageable 3rd downs by gaining positive yardage on first and second downs.
  • Ricky Williams went over 100 yards rushing for the fourth time in five games. But that doesn't overshadow his three fumbles. Luckily only one resulted in a turnover. But that one turnover cost the Dolphins at least a field goal attempt. This is nothing new with Ricky, though. Williams has fumbled 45 times on 2,422 career touches - or one fumble every 53.8 touches.
  • Speaking of mistakes, this game should not have been this close. But the Dolphins left so many points on the field. I think back to the terrible play call to hand the ball to Davone Bess on an end-around on first down from Jacksonville's 33 yard line. Terrible call there when Chad Henne was slicing up that Jaguar secondary and Bess isn't the guy who can turn the corner. Bess ends up fumbling and that stalls a drive that could have resulted in at least three points. On their next possession, a sack and a missed 38 yard field goal from Dan Carpenter (it was bound to happen eventually) squandered away another potential scoring drive. And then Ricky's fumble inside Jacksonville's 30 squandered another scoring opportunity. And that's why the Dolphins can out gain a team by 137 yards and win by just four.
  • Randy Starks is having just one hell of a season. On Sunday, Starks continued his Pro-Bowl caliber season by making a number of key plays - non bigger than his tackle for a loss on David Garrard on 4th down with under 90 seconds to play. It wasn't a sack (technically) because it was a called QB draw. Regardless, Starks just shoved his blocker back and gave Garrard nowhere to run. He's the defensive MVP of this team right now. Who would have thought back in camp that we'd be saying that?
  • Cameron Wake has got to play more. All he does is get to the quarterback. And now he has a bullrush to go along with his speed rush. For the second consecutive week, Wake made the game-clinching play - this time sacking Garrard on the game's final play. It's getting to the point where he needs as many snaps as possible on gameday. It's that simple.
  • Vontae Davis played very well today - after sitting out the opening drive, that is. It was called a "coach's decision" to start Jason Allen over Davis. But Davis was back out there following Jacksonville's first "3 and out" of the game. Vontae said after the game, "It was just one series. I'm not in the doghouse. It's all part of learning." Most likely, Vontae was late for something and this was his punishment. No big deal. What was a big deal was Vontae's play - doing an excellent job all game on Mike Sims-Walker, though Sims-Walker was slowed with a calf injury. Still, Vontae has the skills and swagger to be an elite corner eventually.
  • I've come to realize that Yeremiah Bell is every bit as good as he was last season. He could be a very, very good strong safety if only he had a capable free safety playing next to him. Gibril Wilson is obviously not that. Bell just seems to make big pass deflections in big spots and remains stout against the run.
  • Great job by the offensive line on Sunday. They protected Henne well all game long and gave Ricky room to run. Lousaka Polite was also excellent once again. He converted on 3rd and fourth downs when asked and continued his excellent lead blocking.