Just when it seemed like the 2011 Dolphins couldn't toy any more with their fans' emotions, the aqua-and-orange-clad punching bags traveled to Kansas City yesterday and put down a thorough 31-3 beat-down on a very game Chiefs squad in a place (Arrowhead Stadium) that is extremely unfriendly to road teams. Where has this Dolphins team been all along? Miami hadn't scored more than 17 points in a game since getting whipped, 38-24, by the Patriots in Week 1, and have boasted a red-zone offense about as refined and attractive as the scummy lyrics in a Rick James song. However, the Dolphins looked anything but winless against the Chiefs, demonstrating an actual game plan (what a concept), drastically improved offensive line play and even a bit of change in offensive philosophy.
Maybe the gag job against the Giants knocked something loose in this hapless football team. Maybe this current sense of desperation suits the Dolphins well. Maybe the Chiefs are just as bad as they initially looked this season, starting 0-3 and coming within striking distance of losing to Indianapolis in Week 5 and San Diego on Halloween night.
Who cares? The only thing for certain is that the Dolphins are now 1-7 and officially out of the winless doghouse.Matt Moore wheels and deals while the offensive line actually protects him. Amazing!
Well, we now know what Matt Moore can do when he isn't getting constantly piledriven by opposing pass rushers. Moore was smart and efficient against the Chiefs yesterday, connecting on 17 of 23 throws for 244 yards. Not great, but those aren't numbers that will typically lose games for you. And It's good to know the Dolphins finally understand the red-zone theorem play action + throws to tight end = mega touchdowns. Almost every Dolphins opponent this season has used their tight ends like the position is going out of style, so it was only a matter of time before Miami wised up and followed suit. Anthony Fasano was lights out yesterday (not surprising, since he was pretty much due for a big game), and Charles Clay was very much a seam threat all afternoon. But it wasn't just tight ends doing work for the Dolphins. Brandon Marshall fell right back into his old habit of beating the crap out of Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers (I am sure Flowers was super disappointed last year when he learned that the Broncos traded Marshall), and Reggie Bush made it look easy while bouncing runs to the outside. Also, Moore's pinpoint toss to Bush on a wheel route during the third quarter was the best pass thrown by a Dolphins quarterback this season. More of that, please.
Of course, none of the above would've been possible without strong offensive line play, which has been nonexistent for the Dolphins in 2011. However, Miami's offensive line pounded lumps on Chiefs defenders all day, and turned the pocket into a virtual sanctuary for Moore. Whether it was Jake Long snuffing out Tamba Hali (who entered yesterday's game with six sacks) all afternoon or Mike Pouncey and Richie Incognito getting a good, consistent push up the middle, the offensive line reinforced the pocket and kept Moore clean the entire game. How good of a performance did they have against the Chiefs? Even Marc Colombo played well.
Quick note: Mike Pouncey, in my mind, is officially as good a center as his brother Maurkice. Very few centers in the league can rip into the second level of defense and stay with the play the way Mike Pouncey can, and he helped make Bush's 28-yard touchdown scamper possible with a cut block on Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. He's also becoming a strong pass protector and a real leader at the line of scrimmage.
I've also mentioned Long's injuries being a major factor this season, but No.77 looked as good as ever against the Chiefs, mirroring and sliding with Hali at will, and countering Glenn Dorsey's bull rushes with a strong punch of his own. A key indicator of Long's bothersome knee injury has been his increased tendency to lunge this season, but Long had no problem keeping the speedy Hali in front of him throughout the game. This is a great sign, though I honestly can't wait for the season to end just so Long can get the rest and rehabilitation necessary to get rid of this knee ailment for good.
I wasn't surprised to see the Dolphins' defense rack up five sacks on the Chiefs, since the offensive line is hardly a strength for Kansas City. What did surprise me, though, was how our defense looked even better in the second half. This was also the best Miami's linebackers have played all season, flowing to the ball, tackling with an authority they've so sorely lacked as of late, and making play after play during the Dolphins' goal-line stand late in the game. The Dolphins' secondary, while still a hot mess (and missing Vontae Davis, who might as well be hanging out in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse these days), refused to let Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston beat them yesterday. Yeremiah Bell even went into enforcer mode against the Chiefs, and almost eviscerated Bowe and Dexter McCluster with sideline hits during the second half (I still think the hit on Bowe was clean, by the way).
Creating turnovers continues to be a problem for the Dolphins' secondary, but it's hard to argue with how they played yesterday. Of course, it helps when Matt Cassel is getting brained early and often by Miami pass rushers.
Random whatevers ...
-Brandon Marshall looked like a kid on Xmas morning after he hauled in that third-quarter touchdown, which totally justified the fact he had almost as many targets (11) as the rest of the Dolphins receivers combined (12) against the Chiefs.
-You can pretty much stick a fork in the Suck for Luck campaign, since Indianapolis continues to look godawful. Honestly, I kind of feel relieved to get the Luck monkey off of our back, and now the Dolphins can just focus on playing out the rest of the season, resetting the regime, and then setting their sights on either Landry Jones or Matt Barkley. Get familiar with those two quarterbacks, because we will draft one of them next April, even if we have to trade up to do so.
Also, here's my Andrew Luck prediction: the Seattle Seahawks will trade up and get him. Why? Because Pete Carroll has a tendency to become enamored with quarterbacks who previously humiliated him during his tenure as USC's head coach.
-Reggie Bush looks comfortable right now, and is just murdering defenses. Daniel Thomas now needs to step up and add some thunder to the equation in Miami's backfield.
-It'll be interesting to see how Vontae Davis is received once/if he returns to the lineup. I like Davis, but showing up hungover to practice is so 1970s (or '00s if you are Jeremy Shockey), and likely a reason why the Dolphins' secondary has looked unprepared and uninterested throughout this season. Not cool.