The Miami Dolphins wrapped up their preseason tonight with a 14-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams. The game featured a very scarce amount of starters and a slew of players trying to convince the coaches that they are worth a spot on the final 53-man roster.
The first quarter of this game was played to a 0-0 draw with the only highlight being Jarvis Landry's three catches for over 30 yards. Landry gave Dolphin fans a slight taste of what he will provide to this offense -- broken tackles on quick hitting routes for big gains.
The Dolphins second-team defense had trouble stopping the run and as a result witnessed a few successful drives in the second quarter.
The Rams scored a field goal early in the second quarter to gain a slight edge. Then, after a high pass from Seth Lobato bounced off the hands of Marcus Thigpen into a the hands of a Rams' defender for an interception, the Rams scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 10-0.
A Rams' drive just before the half led to a 63-yard field goal attempt just before half, but the kick was missed wide-left.
The Dolphins offense, led by Lobato, opened the third quarter with a promising drive. However, the drive stalled and Miami was forced to settle for a 56-yard field goal attempt by Caleb Sturgis. The kick was missed short and the Dolphins remained scoreless.
The Dolphins run-blocking was an issue all night, which made it tough to sustain drives.
The Rams started matriculating down the field after the missed field goal and eventually drove into Miami territory.
The drive eventually stalled after a couple of penalties on third down put the Rams in an unfavorable down-and-distance situation, which led to a 53-yard field goal to put the Rams up 13-0.
The Dolphins once again drove into Rams territory in the waning minutes of the third quarter, and Daniel Thomas got the Dolphins onto the scoreboard when he punched it in from five yards out. Thomas had five carries for 21 yards on the drive, including a couple of key conversions.
The Dolphins were looking at a very-winnable one-possession game early in the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back big plays by linebacker Chris McCain (a sack then a near-sack) got the Dolphins the ball back with just under 13 minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, the Dolphins were unable to get anything going and were forced to punt after a three-and-out.
A fourth-and-four play on which Orleans Darkwa was interfered with kept a Miami drive alive and Matt Hazel eventually took a third-down screen pass to the house to give the Dolphins a 14-13 lead with six minutes left in the game.
Dion Jordan and McCain provided pressure on a long third down on the Rams next drive to stall the drive at midfield and end the Rams threat of a go-ahead score with three and a half minutes on the clock.
The Dolphins next possession was short and gave the ball back to the Rams with 2:17 on the clock. The Rams were nearing midfield by the time the two-minute warning rolled around.
The Dolphins defense then tightened up. McCain and Jordan were providing much-needed pressure on the Rams quarterback to force a long fourth down play, then rookie safety Walt Aikens came through on a blitz to force a throw away to give Miami the turnover on downs.
A few meaningless plays later and the Dolphins were 3-1 in the preseason. The win was a nice way to finish off the preseason, but the good feeling will end soon as many of the guys who contributed to this victory will not be with the team next week.
Nonetheless, it was a fun game to watch. The Dolphins came back in the fourth quarter for a second consecutive week.
Some quick thoughts from the game (a full, detailed article into my thoughts on this game will be posted tomorrow morning):
- Kamal Johnson really seemed to want a job tonight. Johnson had a sack and was tough to block all night. He may have just earned the position that was left unoccupied when AJ Francis was put on the Reserve/Injured list.
- Garrison Smith was energized by the performance of Kamal Johnson. In relief of Johnson, Smith provided a sack and a tackle for loss. Smith, a former Georgia Bulldog, was an animal on both of these plays and looked very impressive on the night.
- Isaako Aaitui and Anthony Johnson also played well. The Dolphins back-up defensive tackles are good. Tough decisions to come regarding who to keep there.
- Damien Williams is a tank with the ball in his hands. He doesn't want to go down. That determination has led to a likely roster spot. Now the question becomes -- how much will Williams be featured in the offense this season?
- Jordan Tripp was hurt when making a tackle on Rams RB Tre Mason. Tripp took a helmet to the chest from Mason (something I thought was illegal... ). This is a tackle that Tripp will be making regularly in the NFL, so he needs to get bigger to be able to withstand hits like the one he took from Mason.
- Just like in the first preseason game, Seth Lobato at QB makes it tough to gauge the rest of the offensive players. Though it must be mentioned that Lobato played better tonight and may be a practice squad option.
- Marcus Thigpen struggled early but had a nice return in the fourth quarter. Had a muffed punt and a poor effort on a throw which led to an interception. Thigpen also was absent from the field on a play where he was supposed to be receiving the punt. He did have a 15-yard catch to convert a third-and-8 though.
- Dallas Thomas had a rough night at both guard and tackle.
- Miami's run-blocking was shoddy for most of the night, but got better as the game went on. Evan Finkenberg looked good at right guard.
- Daniel Thomas has the second-best vision out of the Dolphins running backs, but still doesnt run physical enough. He didn't get much help from the offensive line. He also had a touchdown on the night (Thomas always seems to run tougher near the goal line).
- Caleb Sturgis left a 56-yard field goal short. Kind of confused on why he was kicking that with the lingering groin injury.
- Gator Hoskins has talent, but has to be more consistent. Hoskins didn't get his head around in time when running a shallow route on a third down near the goal line. Hoskins did throw a key block on Hazel's fourth quarter touchdown.
- The Dolphins have come back to take the lead in the fourth quarter in back-to-back games. What does this mean? Not much in the preseason, but it shows the team has fight.
- Matt Hazel had a good game. Left a few opportunities on the field, but made himself tougher to stash on the Dolphins practice squad (where I think he will eventually land).
- Jelani Jenkins made enough plays to keep himself on the 53, but you'd like to see him play a bit more consistently.
- Chris McCain flashed again. McCain had two sacks (one with under two minutes left in the game) and a near sack on a long third down. McCain rushed from both sides and played multiple linebacker positions on the night. McCain, who provided much-needed pressure in the fourth quarter, is a versatile player and for that reason will find himself on the Dolphins 53-man roster.
- Dion Jordan also provided important pressure in the game (his last bit action for the next month).
(If there is anything thought you want me to elaborate on, please say so in the comments.)