All hail the short-term Todd Bowles era in Miami!
As Dolphins fans, we have three things to be thankful for on this last Sunday before the Christmas holiday: a rare, late-season Dolphins victory in upstate New York; the New York Jets being beaten to an unrecognizable pulp (by the Jekyll and Hyde Philadelphia Eagles, no less); and the Kansas City Chiefs ending Green Bay's bid for an undefeated season. That's as sweet a football Sunday as you'll find in Miami, and it began with a 30-23 victory for the Dolphins in semi-snowy Buffalo--Miami's first sweep of the Bills since 2008.
No Jake Long? No problem
Assumptions that the Dolphins' run game would suffer in the wake of Jake Long's absence yesterday (his first time appearing on the inactive list) might've been a bit overblown, as evidenced by Reggie Bush's 203-yard rushing performance on the afternoon, which included a berserk 76-yard touchdown that ended with Bush and Brandon Marshall sliding soccer-style into the end zone (Pele would almost certainly approve of such a celebration). The Dolphins averaged 6.7 yards per rush against Buffalo for a total of 254 yards on 38 carries, but the real story here is that Reggie Bush is having his best season ever as a pro (973 yards, six TDs in 14 games this season). He's a legitimate threat between the tackles at this point, and he looks as fast as ever (he also hit the hole like a ton of bricks on that long touchdown run). The quarterback the Dolphins draft next April is going to love playing with Reggie Bush--the fastest, flashiest Swiss Army Knife evah!
And then there's the Miami passing game, which notched two scores but was far less impressive yesterday afternoon, resulting in a paltry 217 yards. Matt Moore is absolutely an above-average starter at quarterback right now, but I don't know if there's anything out there right now to suggest he's more than a first-class stopgap. Still, he can ball, and though he doesn't have any "elite" skills, he manages the game well and flashes the ability to occasionally stretch the field vertically. Yesterday obviously wasn't Moore's best outing as a Dolphin, but an average passing performance was the least of Miami's worries anyway ...
Turnovers and red-zone inability still a problem post-Sparano
The last few recaps have praised Matt Moore for his savvy and veteran leadership, but going three-for-13 on third down is just wrong, especially when you're against a Bills defense that Mark Sanchez turned into Swiss cheese a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, the Dolphins remain allergic to the red zone, as well, failing to convert on four separate opportunities inside the 20-yard line. Let's just chalk this up to something we can fix after the next coaching regime hits town.
Oh, and three fumbles (Moore, Bush and Marshall were all culprits) against any team other than Buffalo would likely result in a loss. Yecch.
Dolphins' defense creates some turnovers, as well
Vontae Davis has turned it up quite a bit over the last few weeks, and walked away from yesterday's contest with two picks, partially blemishing Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's 316 yards passing and two touchdown throws.
No one is about to deny that Davis is a physical, athletic corner with gobs of upside. But if he can start to get his instincts and overall awareness together, then we're talking about a very dangerous defensive back. I also love Davis' rabid willingness to play the run.
-Brandon Marshall's 28-yards-per-catch average yesterday shouldn't mask the fact that he finished the game with only three grabs. I still believe Marshall is one of the league's most expensive decoys at this point; he's had issues with drops, but Marshall's ridiculous yard-after-catch ability is only useful when he has the ball in his hands.
-Only two sacks were surrendered by an offensive line anchored by John Jerry at left tackle. Props to big No.74, but how bad is Buffalo's pass rush?
-Sad to see Jake Long sit out a game for the first time in his career, but I'd rather he get healthy and fully rehabilitate his back and knee. We're going to need him for, oh, the next decade or so, and there's no point in running him into the ground just four seasons into his career.
-Getting back to Bush and Marshall celebrating after Reggie's long touchdown run, it was fun to see those two act like they're genuinely having fun at this point in the season. I hope the Dolphins keep them together for the long haul.
-My hatred for the Buffalo Bills borders on insane, but their defense will be a force to reckon with once they find DEs who can muster a consistent pass rush. And Marcell Dareus is just a ridiculous physical specimen. Props to the Bills for drafting him third overall last April.