Is there anything better than the Dolphins clobbering the silver and black? How about when it's the AFC-west-leading Raiders arriving in Miami for a game that the "experts" thought would be a victory lap for Carson Palmer and company? Regardless of scenario, it's always sweet to see the Dolphins stomp out the "commitment to excellence," and considering that the Dolphins of September/October 2011 would've been reeling for weeks after a tough loss like the one they suffered in Dallas 10 days ago, it's hard not to be impressed by Miami's thorough pasting of a very game Raiders squad yesterday.
And so much for the Dolphins just beating up on weak teams, eh? This was actually Miami's most impressive victory of the season--a showcase for their burgeoning defense and take-what-you'll-give-us offense. Dare I say it, but it's almost as if this team has decided on an identity for the time being--fast, smart, resilient and equipped with a sense of relentlessness matched only by Nicolas Cage's character in Valley Girl. And you know what? I can live with this culture for another month.It starts in the middle
Raise your hand if you thought two months ago that inside linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos "Kanye" Dansby would be taking over games and leading Miami's defense to a strong December finish. Yeah, I didn't think so, either, but it's early December, and those two players have been the cornerstones of Miami's young, tenacious defense. Burnett and Dansby played like terror twins against a good Raiders offense yesterday, combining for 11 tackles (two for losses), a sack and a ridiculous pick six that featured Burnett weaving quickly and seamlessly on a 34-yard scamper to the end zone.
The turnaround Burnett and Dansby have experienced in 2011 has been amazing thus far, and is probably due to them focusing more on busting up Dolphins opponents and less on tackling Omar Kelly (in full pads, of course) and cursing out the "Suck for Luck" campaign. They've also done a strong job of erasing opposing tight ends not named "Jason Witten." Going forward, Dolphins should feel pretty confident about the team's linebacker corps, which now has certified playmakers along the interior. Now if we could just upgrade Koa Misi's spot.
Matt Moore does that savvy veteran thing ... or something like that
Look, Matt Moore is not the guy who will lead back to the Super Bowl ... and maybe not even the playoffs if he starts for Miami next season. But there's no denying that he brings a safe, effective style of quarterback play to the table, and it's absolutely working right now. His numbers against the Raiders (13/25, 162 yards and one score) won't shred record books or elicit joy-fueled incontinence amongst Dolphins fans, but Moore knows how to manage the game and distribute the ball evenly to Miami's big pass catchers (Anthony Fasano, Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess all finished with four receptions yesterday afternoon). Moore doesn't turn the ball over often, either, and he commands enough respect from defenses to open up the Dolphins' running game. And speaking of Miami running backs ...
Birth of the two-headed rushing monster in Miami?
It looks like Reggie Bush's presence is starting to rub off on rookie Daniel Thomas, judging by how both players ran all over the Raiders yesterday. Bush hit 100 yards rushing for the second time this season (and third time in his career) and reeled off a couple of runs that all but turned Oakland defenders inside out, including a 29-yard gem. Serving as yin to Bush's yang, Thomas played the role of aqua-and-orange-clad bulldozer, collecting 73 yards on 13 carries and churning out a strong 5.6 yards per touch. Whether you love or hate the Dolphins' turnaround this season, you have to admit it's exciting to consider the one-two punch Miami now has in its backfield. Thomas gets waaaaay too much flak on this blog, too, as he's a tall, built back with decent giddy up and the ability to throw down a decent cut or two on the field. Believe me, Miami's next quarterback will love D-Train.
Let's do the two-minute drill
-Loved it when Vontae Davis dropped Carson Palmer yesterday. I've often wondered why we don't blitz No.21 more often (issues in the secondary, I am sure), since he shoots in on the quarterback like a guided missile.
-I wonder if Dan Carpenter's sabbatical got him back on track. He was 2/2 yesterday, including a 48-yard field goal.
-The Dolphins absolutely ate Oakland's run game whole, limiting Michael Bush to just 18 yards on 10 carries.
-It can be easy to forget that 2011 rookies didn't get the full NFL camp experience last summer, and maybe we were too quick to judge wide receiver Clyde Gates. His 77-yard kick return yesterday was pretty impressive. More of that, please.
-Dolphins punter Brandon Fields averaged 55.5 yards per boot yesterday, and had a long of 66. Personal bias aside, I believe the Dolphins have the best punter in the game right now.
-After a year-long win drought at home, the Dolphins have turned Sun Life Stadium into a virtual hell hole for visiting teams during the last month, outscoring their opponents 89-31. Suddenly, I feel pretty good about playing the Eagles next Sunday.
-Quick aside: I still believe significant changes need to be made to this team (hint: I am talking about Tony Sparano), but it's clear at this point that the Miami Dolphins have plenty of talent on the roster. What they now need is some long-term direction and a new quarterback to build around. No, duh ... right?