The Miami Dolphins saved their season yesterday with a convincing 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. There was plenty of good and plenty of perspective to be gained from this victory after a week of doom-and-gloom after the devastating loss to the Green Bay Packers eight days ago.
Here are some observations and a few notes on the game:
1. Dolphins started fast despite going three-and-out on the opening possession
The first offensive play of the game was a sack on Ryan Tannehill. The first possession was a three-and-out. But after that the Dolphins' defense forced a Bears' three-and-out to start the game, the offense was a thing of beauty and the defense was stingy.
The Dolphins outgained the Bears 393-294, forced three turnovers and held the ball for over 37 minutes in Sunday's contest. The Dolphins started fast and finished strong. It was a complete team win.
2. Tannehill used his legs
Tannehill used his legs to pick up a few key first downs Sunday, but better than that is the fact that the threat of him running is now present in the mind of opposing defensive coordinators. This should open things up for the rest of the offense. But, more importantly, the expanded use of his legs allows Tannehill use all of the tools in his arsenal to succeed instead of being forced to be strictly a pocket passer.
Tannehill seems to get into the game more, to perform at a higher level when he gets to running and gets outside of the pocket. So, he has been doing it more lately. That is good coaching. Which reminds me....
3. Bill Lazor was excellent
From the resurrection of the seemingly-forgotten tool of Tannehill's legs to keeping the offense in favorable down-and-distance situations, Lazor proved himself to be valuable yet again Sunday.
As some of you may know, I am a big believer in execution winning games. But there is no doubt that a coach calling the right plays at the right time and putting players in a position to succeed is an enormous factor each and every Sunday. Lazor did that Sunday.
4. Dolphins rebound excellently from Green Bay loss
The Dolphins could have came out on of two ways Sunday. They could have came out flat and defeated after a heartbreaking loss a little over a week ago. Or they could come out hungry, confident and determined to send a message to the league that this isn't a team to sleep on.
The Dolphins triumphantly did the latter. The Bears looked like the already-defeated team while Miami played with a contagious energy level and seemed to be enjoying every minute of the game.
The bottom line is, the Dolphins brought an intensity Sunday that the Bears failed to match.
5. Terrible special teams play again today
There isn't much downside from this game. Sure, you can point to the two sacks taken by Tannehill in deep field goal range (which become much more forgivable with the victory).
But the worst issue this game was the recurrence of special teams issues. Kicker Caleb Sturgis proved that he still cannot be trusted, missing two field goals (one was blocked), and Pro Bowl punter Brandon Fields shanked yet another punt, kicking it only 34 yards downfield and out of bounds. The Dolphins kick coverage team was questionable as well, allowing an average of 37.5 on two kick returns in the game.
6. Dolphins back to .500
The season is back on track after a great team win. The Dolphins are six seconds away from making a huge statement to the NFL over the past two weeks. Even despite the heartbreaking loss to Green Bay, the Dolphins were able to pull together and prove that this team can be very dangerous when all the talent on the roster works as a unit and executes each and every play with precision.
After all that has happened this season, the Dolphins currently have the same record as the defending Super Bowl champions (with a much more light-hearted week in store).
The feeling is good in Dolphinland after a Sunday's victory. Tannehill played well, the defense played well, and the mistakes that were made are curable.
Now, it's time to see consistency. A great performance against a very talented team is good progress. Now do it again.
- Did anyone see Chris McCain get in the face of Brandon Marshall after the latter pushed Cortland Finnegan late in the fourth quarter? That's having each other's back, that's a unified team, and that's a winning formula.
- Dolphins didn't have one third down play on their first two scoring drives. How do you cure third down woes? You stay out of them.
- Dolphins forced three turnovers to get their turnover ratio back to even on the season.
- "I think again our defensive staff had a good plan going into the game. I thought we mixed up our coverages well and I thought that we had adequate pressure on the quarterback. I don’t know how many sacks we ended up with but I thought we were forcing their quarterback out of the pocket and he didn’t have a lot of time. The rhythm of their passing game never got on track so that’s a testament to a lot of things: good coverage, good pass-rush – I think both of those worked together real well." - Joe Philbin.
- "I didn’t feel like we had to score. I had the mindset we were going to score. That was the name of the game today. When we put our mind to it, there’s nothing that is going to hold us back from a touchdown. If it’s a penalty, a sack, a bad play, we’re going to be able to overcome it." - Ryan Tannehill on Dolphins' first second half possession.