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Week 18 Film Review: Miami Dolphins’ Defensive Front Powers them into the Playoffs

The offense did just enough, but it was the defense that controlled the game.

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New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but the Miami Dolphins did just enough to beat the New York Jets and punch their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Before the game, we put out an article outlining how the offense could succeed by running the football and using their tight ends. Mike Gesicki was their leading receiver and they notched 162 yards on the ground-mission accomplished.

It was the defense though that really won the game for them. They’ve come under fire for much of the season-deservedly so-but this is one week where they deserve their props. Even with Joe Flacco at QB (and maybe even more so with Flacco at QB) the Jets receiving corps was going to be a problem for Miami’s battered secondary. That meant it was going to be imperative for the Dolphins’ pass rush to get home... and they did.

I can already hear a lot of you: “yeah, but they didn’t register a single sack in the game.” You’re right, but I’ll explain why that didn’t happen and show how the constant pressure that Joe Flacco was under made such a difference in the game.

An Active Pass Rush

Coming into this game, the Jets had a banged-up offensive line. They chose to start Joe Flacco and that was because they knew the ball would have to come out quickly against this Miami pass rush. Joe Flacco’s average time to throw in this game was 2.36 seconds-the third fastest in the entire NFL for week 18. Despite that, Flacco was pressured on 45.5% of his dropbacks. (Per PFF)

These weren’t cheap pressures where the QB holds the ball for over three seconds or the Dolphins send seven rushers. These were consistent 1 on 1 wins for the Miami pass rushers-especially Jaelan Phillips and Zach Sieler.

Speaking of Jaelan Phillips, it’s time to give the young man his due. While I know there are a lot of Miami Dolphins fans that realize how good he’s been, there are still quite a few that aren’t sold. His pass rush grade, total pressures, and QB Hits all rank inside the top 6 for edge defenders per PFF. He’s already one of the ten best edge defenders in the NFL and he’s just now wrapping up year two in the NFL.

Forcing the Jets to throw the ball

While the Jets did a good job game planning around Miami’s pass rush, I’m sure they desired to lean on their run game a lot more than they were able. That was because the Dolphins controlled the line of scrimmage in the run game as well.

In a game that was devoid of offense and won by a mere three points, the Jets managed a whopping 38 yards on the ground and 1.9 yards per carry. In the first meeting between these two teams, they had 135 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. The Jets were thin up front and at RB, but none of that matters if you don’t execute.

Thank your defensive linemen

They do the dirty work and don’t always get the credit they deserve, but they were the difference between winning and losing against the Jets. Another person that deserves some credit is Chris Grier who built this defensive line through several different avenues-the draft, free agency, and trades.

They’ll have a more difficult task ahead of them in Buffalo, but one of their best games of the season came against the Bills in week three. The big challenge against the Bills will be keeping Josh Allen in the pocket. Expect a very controlled pass rush and for Miami’s defensive line to try and collapse the pocket rather than be cut loose every rep like they were against the Jets.