The Miami Dolphins took on the San Diego Super Chargers in a battle of teams on two drastically different paths. The Dolphins headed into Sunday's matchup on a two-game winning streak while the Chargers entered on a two-game skid trying to get things back on track.
The Chargers were unable to do this, however, and were completely dominated by the Dolphins. In all phases of the game. It was a season-defining win, a win that can invigorate a team to do great things.
Here are six thoughts, plus notes and quotes, on the Dolphins' 37-0 trouncing of the San Diego Chargers:
1. Emotional, dominant victory
The Dolphins played this game knowing their head coach, Joe Philbin, had lost his father only two days prior. They knew how important this game was not only for their season, but for their grieving leader as well.
And they played like it.
The Dolphins played with energy and intensity the whole game, and the home crowd reciprocated the feeling. It was a great atmosphere inside Sun Life Stadium.
The Dolphins owned every stat in this game. Miami started fast and played every snap like they knew they were the better team. The Dolphins looked like a team that knew they were going to end the day victorious.
It was an extremely uplifting victory and an extremely important victory. Now, in the second half of the season, the Dolphins must continue to play to their potential.
2. Secondary was strong
Phillip Rivers was off, but the Dolphins were playing tight coverage all game. Rivers seemed confused for much of the game as Miami gave him many different coverage looks. One of the most effective looks was Reshad Jones as a nickel area defender with Michael Thomas and Louis Delmas at safety. This formation was used on the play that Brent Grimes' pulled down his first interception of the game.
The Dolphins, now owning the league's second ranked secondary, nabbed three interceptions and allowed only 128 passing yards to the once-MVP candidate. A lot of that was due to....
3. Great defensive line play
The Dolphins shut down the run completely, forcing the Chargers to be one-dimensional. The Chargers ran for only 50 yards, most of that coming in the fourth quarter when the game was already won. Rookie running back Branden Oliver, who has been the Chargers' main running back, ran for only 19 yards on 13 attempts. And one of those attempts went for 11 yards.
Choking out the run, and building a respectable lead allowed the Dolphins to focus primarily on the pass.
The Dolphins pass rush featured many exotic looks and different personnel groupings, but more importantly featured lots of effective pressure on Rivers. Rivers was sacked four times and fumbled once. The interior pressure caused by Jared Odrick forced Rivers first interception (to Reshad Jones), edge pressure by Olivier Vernon caused Rivers' second interception (to Brent Grimes) and pressure by Derrick Shelby forced a bad decision on Rivers third interception (to Grimes once again).
The Dolphins defense completely shut out San Diego and forced four turnovers. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle called a great game.
4. Extremely efficient offense
The Dolphins matriculated down the field for touchdowns on their first two possessions. The Dolphins first seven possessions of the game went for either a touchdown or field goal attempt (not to mention that Miami had 11 drives the entire game). Miami punted for first time with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.
The offensive line's pass protection was solid all game which allowed Tannehill to look like a star. But, Tannehill had his fair share of star-like plays. More than once, Tannehill escaped the pocket to extend a play and find an open receiver, such as the touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews. Tannehill also threaded the needle between defenders beautifully on a 3rd-and-12 pass to Mike Wallace.
At times in the past, Tannehill has look confused, timid and straight oblivious with the ball in his hands. Lately, though, Tannehill looks confident in everything he does. He uses his athleticism to leave the pocket when his protection breaks down (which is where the term "oblivious" used to be most fitting). Tannehill seems to understand and trust himself and the people around him more, leading to a more synchronized, efficient and fun to watch offense.
5. Play of the game
The Chargers first drive of the game was promising. San Diego was driving down the field on 12 plays and eventually reached the Dolphins' 22-yard line. The Chargers' 12th play of the drive was a 16-yard completion on 3rd-and-17, so the Chargers were faced with 4th-and-1. Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy elected not to attempt the field goal and instead kept his offense on the field. The decision turned out to be the turning point of the game.
The call was a run to right with rookie running back Branden Oliver. Oliver was met in the backfield by safety Reshad Jones for a one-yard loss. The Dolphins were left unscathed and the Chargers were left with nothing after the long drive.
That play was exact the point in the game when Miami took over. It stopped the Chargers only real scoring threat and put Miami in control of the game. Control they never relinquished.
6. Great statement win, but tough tasks loom
Sunday's victory was a great. It was an emotional win. It was a team win. It was a win that, especially in the wake of Joe Philbin's personal tragedy, brings a team together. It was a win that can make a team believe in themselves and in each other.
Now, the Dolphins, winners of four of the last five, must carry this momentum into their next few games. Road games against the Detroit Lions, who presently have the NFL's best defense on top of their dynamic offense, and Denver Broncos loom, as well as a game against the Buffalo Bills at home.
These are all tough games against above .500 teams, but if Miami plays like they did Sunday then all of them are winnable.
The Dolphins are 5-3 halfway through the season. Duplicating that record over the second half would put the Dolphins at 10-6 and in the hunt for a Wild Card playoff spot.
NOTES & QUOTES
- Players of game: Ryan Tannehill and Reshad Jones.
- Dolphins have now won their last three games by a combined margin of 64 points.
- Koa Misi's return from injury helped solidify a run defense that allowed 176 rushing yards on 30 carries to the Jaguars last Sunday.
- Caleb Sturgis continued his inconsistent ways when he pushed a 45-yard field goal wide right at the end of the first half.
- Simply put, rookie receiver Jarvis Landry is a baller.
- Time of possession was in the Dolphins' favor 36:07 to 23:53.
- The Dolphins had 28 first downs. The Chargers had 10.
- Miami outgained the Chargers 441-178.
- The Chargers were 3-11 on third downs. Two of those conversions came on their first possession of the game.
- The 37-0 victory was the Dolphins largest margin of victory since Dan Marino was still at the helm. It was their first shutout in eight years.
- Miami's coordinators (Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle) both called an excellent game.
- "Yeah, we’ve talked to them a lot about how we’re kind of scratching the surface. We still haven’t put it all together. There’s a lot of football left to be played. I think they have some confidence in themselves. We’ve got to go out there every single week and prove it. We certainly have a real challenging opponent next week." - Joe Philbin.
- "This is awesome. We all knew what was going on with Coach. We knew how close he was with his dad. We just wanted to put together a good game for our coach. We came out here and played for him and it showed on the field. We’re just thankful that we could do something like that for Coach." - Brent Grimes.
- "You look for a shutout every game and it’s kind of like the white rhino, or the white elephant. You’ve got to find it, and we found it today. It took a lot. It took a lot. A lot of focus, a lot of energy and a lot of emotion, and we’ve got to do that every game." - Jared Odrick.