The Miami Dolphins came to play this week. It may not have been obvious at first, as they began the game down 17-0, with the first ten points coming relatively quickly. However, the rose up (pun intended) to the occasion and made the necessary adjustments to get back in the game and ultimately win.
There are plenty of angles that can be taken and contribute to the story of the game. First and foremost, it all began up front. The Miami Dolphins were able to win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball. For now, let’s talk about the offense.
Miami’s offensive line had an impressive showing, as they created gaping holes and lanes for running back Jay Ajayi all day long. Ajayi gashed Atlanta’s defense for 130 yards on 26 attempts. That works out to be an average of five yards a carry, but don’t let that fool you. Ajayi’s runs were seemingly ten yards a pop. The times were he was stuffed (not often) is what brought the average down to five per carry.
With that said, Miami was finally able to establish the run and play by their philosophy. They ran more often than not, and tried to set up play action passes. Speaking of passing, quarterback Jay Cutler finally established some rhythm with the receivers this week. Sure, there were some dropped balls, but for every dropped pass there was a big catch that made up for it.
Wide receivers Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry both found the endzone and looked like they were their confident, usual selves again. Perhaps it just took awhile for the chemistry between them and Cutler to develop. Cutler went 19/33 for 151 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception. There were approximately 5 or 6 passes batted down at the line-of-scrimmage by the Falcons and there were some key drops by the Dolphins, both attributed to Cutler’s stats being skewed downward and not really giving the true picture of his performance today.
Besides the numerous batted down passes at the line-of-scrimmage, the offensive line held up very well against a fearsome Atlanta front seven. Cutler had plenty of time to throw and make his reads which led to an improved performance for the offense overall. The offensive line certainly won the battle in terms of run blocking, there is no question there.
All of this is interesting considering the fact that Miami has parted ways with former offensive line coach Chris Foerster and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo. All eyes were on this particular unit to see if they would play any better than before and they absolutely did.
Now, onto the defense. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke has done one hell of a job with this unit this year. Miami has shown tendencies to be a “bend-but-don’t-break” defense at times, but at other times they have been nasty. The defensive line has been disruptive. They get to the quarterback, make plays in the backfield and have not given up more than a couple explosive plays a game, at least not for touchdowns. This unit has not had more than 20 points allowed in any of their five games so far. The is incredible considering the fact that the Dolphins have faced offenses led by Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan thus far.
What is even more impressive is the fact that the Dolphins’ defense didn’t allow any points at all to Atlanta’s savvy offense in the second half of today’s game. Burke deserves a raise just for that statistic alone as that is no easy task.
A number of players made clutch plays on defense today. Jordan Phillips, William Hayes, Andre Branch and Cameron Wake all had their own moments to shine. However, the player who stepped up when the Dolphins needed it the most was safety Reshad Jones.
Jones had an even more impressive play than last week, even though he returned a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown. This week, Jones ripped the ball right from tight end Austin Hooper’s hands for a game-winning interception. Jones made all the difference two weeks in a row as the Dolphins defeated the Tennessee Titans last week by six and this week he put the dagger right into the Falcons’ plans for a game-winning drive. It could not have come at a better time either since Atlanta was driving down the field without much time left for Miami to answer.
Miami gave up some big plays, but at the end of the day only 17 points were allowed. That is something that the Dolphins can be proud of as they had their second-largest road comeback since defeated the Jets in the “Fake-Spike” game back in 1994.
It is also important to note that Miami is 12-4 in their last 16 regular season games. This is a gritty, tough team. Especially when games are close. The Dolphins have a knack for being clutch and not giving up. This was a huge win for the organization and a step in the right direction. Next week Miami will face the New York Jets at home for a chance at a little payback. If Miami emerges victorious that would mean three wins in a row. I smell a streak coming. Do you?