The Miami Dolphins pulled out their fourth victory of the season Sunday with a 27-13 routing of the Jacksonville Jaguars. This game was one of the most confusing of the season. Although the Dolphins never trailed in this game, it took a look to the scoreboard at times to ensure that the Dolphins weren't getting pummeled.
This game can be defined by big plays made by the Dolphins defense to take advantage of mistakes made by the Jaguars offense. Here are five thoughts and a handful of notes & quotes on what transpired Sunday.
1. Dolphins start slow for fifth time this season
The Dolphins have started slow in every game this season besides games against the Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears. The Dolphins went three-and-out on their first three possessions of the game. Miami didn't put a respectable drive together until the final minutes of the first half, the same drive where they picked up their first first down of the game.
The Jaguars dominated the first half of this game but the Dolphins were able to build a respectable lead because...
2. Dolphins make plays when it matters
A blocked field goal by Olivier Vernon, two interceptions returned for touchdowns from Louis Delmas and Brent Grimes and a forced fumble by Jelani Jenkins to end a promising Jaguars drive are the four defining plays of this game. As a result of these four plays, the score was 17-3 with 12 minutes left in the third quarter and the stat line was very misleading.
These plays allowed the Dolphins to not only overcome an abysmal first half offensively, but also have a lead after the offense failed to even get a first down until there was four minutes left in the first half.
The Dolphins defense was on the field for much of the first half and surrendered a ton of yardage to the Jaguars offense, but they still managed to make the plays that mattered. The defense propelled the Dolphins to victory on a day where the offense just wasn't in sync for much of the afternoon.
3. Dolphins offensive line got whooped
The Dolphins may have some upcoming shuffling to do as the offensive line was taken to school for much of the day against the Jaguars. Left guard Daryn Colledge was tossed aside multiple times before he eventually left the game with an apparent injury. The line seemed to play better after Colledge was sidelined. With guard Shelley Smith returning from injury soon, will Colledge get replaced after his bad game or will the coaching staff decide to stick with Colledge in the name of continuity? Will 2014 third round pick Billy Turner get a shot at the position? That will be an interesting development to watch this week.
Early in the game, the Jaguars were putting all sorts of pressure on Ryan Tannehill and controlling the line of scrimmage.
Despite the early struggles, the line eventually paved the way for 148 rushing yards on a 6.2 yards per carry average. Still, the trench-domination that the Dolphins endured was reminiscent of a game against the Buffalo Bills (which, by the way, is coming in three weeks). The Dolphins must be tougher in the offensive trenches for the up-coming stretch of tough schedule.
4. Dolphins must tighten up with tough stretch of schedule coming up
San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos. Those are the Dolphins next four opponents. Because of this grueling stretch of schedule, the performance we saw Sunday needs to be improved upon.
If the Dolphins defense allows opposing offense to move down the field as easily as they allowed the Jaguars to move down the field in the next four weeks, then these up-coming games will get really ugly.
If the Dolphins offense goes three-and-out three straight times to start a game against one of the next four opponents or if the line continues to get dominated, then these up-coming games will get really ugly.
5. Very sloppy game, but Dolphins still above .500 on a two-game winning streak
On one hand you can argue that the Dolphins' struggles offensively against the Jaguars is a sign of their inconsistency and that they aren't a playoff team. But you can also argue that the defense picking up the slack on a day where the offense just isn't clicking is a metric that championship teams have.
That being said, consistency is needed from these Dolphins. Being able to start fast consistently, move the ball on offense efficiently and play with a greedy mindset on defense like they did Sunday is the next hurdle the team needs to leap in order to be taken seriously.
The performance that was shown Sunday won't get the job done against superior NFL teams. Both the offense and defense were subpar against a one-win Jacksonville team. The Dolphins played down to their opponents level, but made the plays that mattered to win the game.
That is a very discouraging and encouraging sentence at the same time, but there's no doubt the team's overall play needs to improve while keeping the greedy mindset intact. That being said, a win is a win and the team is now 4-3 on their first win streak of the season.
NOTES & QUOTES
- Denard Robinson became the first 100-yard rusher against the Dolphins with his 108 yards on 18 carries. Robinson and the Jaguars run game gashed the Dolphins for much of the first half with misdirection. Koa Misi's absence was clearly felt (again).
- Misleading stats: Jaguars outgained the Dolphins 377-326, Jaguars held the ball for 32:23 compared to Miami's 27:37, Jaguars outrushed the Dolphins 176-148, Jaguars two-for-two on fourth down efficiency.
- Non-misleading stats: Jaguars three turnovers to the Dolphins one (which came when the game had already been decided), Dolphins two defensive touchdowns to the Jaguars zero, Dolphins defense outscored the Jaguars offense.
- Players of the game: Olivier Vernon (blocked kick, put pressure on Blake Bortles all day), Louis Delmas (pick six, swatted a Bortles fumble away from a Jaguars receiver after the ball bounced straight to that receiver).
- With his 30-yard scamper late in the fourth, Ryan Tannehill became the first quarterback to have a run of at least 30 yards in three straight games.
- Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace hooked up on a deep pass down the sideline for 50 yards in the third quarter. It was the first deep connection between the two this year, and ironically enough the throw came while Tannehill was on the move. The connection inspired another deep try the very next play, which resulted in a familiar misfire between the too.
- Tannehill's interception was a bonehead play all-around. Of course we'd like to see a run that close to the goal line, but the call was a play-action pass. The play was covered nicely, but Tannehill decided to throw it anyway (decision-making). The pass was tipped and intercepted. While you may disagree with the play call, the pass shouldn't have been thrown. Tannehill should have cut the losses of the play instead of costing the team points.
- Brian Hartline, uncharacteristically, had three drops Sunday.
- Dolphins redzone defense was excellent. The Jaguars had seven drives ending on Miami's side of the field, yet scored only 13 points.
- Special teams was much better Sunday. The Dolphins blocked a kick and covered kicks excellently for the most part. The only negative was an offsides penalty on a field goal attempt which gave the Jaguars a short fourth down, which they converted.
- The Dolphins offense gained 270 yards in the second half Sunday to rebound nicely from an abysmal first half.
- "Offensively we have to play a lot better. We didn’t put those points up; the defense put those points us. We have to be able to go out and execute no matter who we’re playing. We didn’t perform up to our standards today in any aspect." - Ryan Tannehill
- "We knew up front they were going to do a really good job collapsing the pocket. They did a really good job in the first half. We came out in the second half and played better. But the way we played in the (first) half isn’t going to win too many games for us, so we’ve got to do a better job going into this week, starting in practice." - Mike Pouncey
- "Sometimes you have these games in the NFL where you feel like nothing goes our way. But our defense played so incredible today that they bailed us out of this one. We owe them one." - Pouncey
- "We played them last year; it was a tight game. We know what they bring to the table. We’ve just got to keep it rolling. We can’t underestimate anybody. One week at a time. I can’t wait for (Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers to come into our town and we have a good game." - Olivier Vernon on next week's game.