Just One

Jim Rassol/Sun-Sentinel

Jim Rassol/Sun-Sentinel

Just one.

Just one play changes a win to a loss. One throw, one catch. One stop.

Single plays throughout the course of a sixty-minute, sometimes longer, game mean all the difference. These plays separate pretender from contender. These plays build a champion.

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins just needed one play from their defense. They needed one stop that is all. One field goal instead of a touchdown. Just one more tackle, one pass batted down, one sack. Any of these would have gotten the job done.

That did not happen. If it had this would be a much different column.

Going into the Denver game defense was not the concern. No one worried if the defense would do their job. This was a top-5 defense, they had gotten it done all season long.

The question was if the offense and more importantly quarterback Ryan Tannehill would do their part. They did and then some. Tannehill went shot for shot with Peyton Manning going 26 of 36 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. The offense scored 36 points, the fourth time this season the team had scored over thirty points.

36 points should have been enough for the Dolphins defense to win two games. Not this time.

The defensive line, a strength of this team all season long, rarely pressured Manning. He would go on to throw for 257 yards and 4 touchdowns, three of them to wide receiver Demaryuis Thomas. Even worse they allowed the Broncos to run over them for 201 yards. There were receivers running free throughout the secondary and runners fighting for extra yards.

All the Dolphins needed even after all of that was one stop. Just one.

The offense had put in its work. The defense simple was not up to the task this day. One stop would have given them a chance.

These are the growing pains of a good team getting better. This team has shown that it belongs on the field with the best. Now they need to show that they can beat them, consistently.

 

Categories: Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Peyton Manning, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill, sports | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Showdown at Mile High-Miami Dolphins v. Denver Broncos

Snow game

Sunday afternoon the Miami Dolphins take the field against the Denver Broncos in the most important game of the 2014 season. At this point in the NFL season every game is the most important game. Each game sets up the next as teams jockey for playoff position.

This particular game sets up a faceoff with the New England Patriots on December 14th. Win this game and the Patriots game could be for the AFC East title, it could also be for the best record in the AFC. Lose, lose and it may be time to fight and claw for a wildcard berth.

The advantage heading into the game with the Broncos is simple: Everyone expects the Dolphins to lose. All over social media, across the television dial, pretty much all the national media has already given the win to Denver. This does not come from some matchup advantage or even some deficiency on the Dolphins part. No apparently Denver will win because they are Denver and oh yeah because “Peyton Manning”.

Fortunately for the Dolphins the games are played on the field. On the field Miami has a chance, actually they have a really good chance.

Denver is beat up. Tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders are recovering from injuries, while their offensive line is just bad.

“It’s worse than bad — it’s horrendous,” ESPN analyst and ex-Broncos Pro Bowl offensive lineman, Mark Schlereth said to the Denver Post. “If I was grading, giving an F would be kind.”

Coming to town are the Dolphins with the 2nd ranked defense in the NFL. The pass rush led by Cameron Wake and his 8.5 sacks will try to harass Peyton Manning throughout the game. Getting pressure on Manning is the only sure way to disrupt the hall-of-fame quarterback and Denver’s potent offense.

On the other side Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is on a hot streak. Since the game against the Oakland Raiders in London, Tannehill has posted four games with over a 100-quarterback rating. This brings his rating up to 92.2 for the season, a nice improvement over last season 81.7.  It seems as if offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s offense is finally clicking, with the rest of the offense pulling their weight as well.

For the first time in far too long it seems as if the Dolphins are playing as a complete team. The timing could not be better.

No game against Peyton Manning is every easy. This week however the Dolphins can walk onto his field with no fear.

 

 

Categories: Football, playoffs, NFL, Miami Dolphins, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, AFC East | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hit the Road Jack.

Early Tuesday afternoon the Cleveland Brown announce that they were releasing running back Ben Tate, a few hours later the Pittsburgh Steelers released veteran running back LeGarrette Blount. Players get released during the season, it happens. What is surprising is veteran, proven players being released by two teams who are competing against each other for the AFC North division title.

While some will surely point to their releases as further evidence of the devaluing of the running back position, I do not feel that is the case. Both players have played well in the past, both are being outplayed by younger players. Second year player Le’veon Bell’s play has limited touches for Blount in the Steelers offense, while rookie Terrance West has replaced Tate as the starter in Cleveland. That does not mean these teams do not value their running backs, they just do not value Blount or Tate.

So why the release now.

Attitude.

Teams often put up with an attitude from their stars. You only have to look at the odd behavior sometimes seen from Marshawn Lynch for the Seattle Seahawks. The problem is if you are not that star you have a much shorter leash.

Both players had complained to some extent about their roles in their teams offenses of late, Blount even going as far as leaving the field before the end of the Steelers comeback win against the Tennessee Titans Monday night. At some point complaints become a distraction. Teams want passionate players, they do not want distractions. Distractions get let go.

This should be a warning sign for other players in the NFL and even more so for college players hoping for a career in the league. It has always been not-for-long that has never been more true than now. With the added focus on players behavior off the field of late, being part of the team is more important than ever.

While the league will always reward stars, divas who rock the boat may find the ride shorter than ever.

Categories: Aaron Rodgers, Cleveland Browns, Football, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dolphins-Bills Round 2

Dolphins Logo

Sundays game at the Detroit Lions was a fistfight. It was a back alley brawl. Miami struggles against physical teams, but on Sunday they took every punch and threw a few of their own.

I found myself in an odd position. On the one hand I was disappointed that Miami could not pull out the win at the end of the game. On the other…I simply could not be mad.

Sometimes you lose. Sometimes there is no one to blame. The other team gets paid too.

Yes you can easily nitpick and find a play here or a play there that would make a difference. None of that matters. The Dolphins have nothing to be ashamed about. The important part is what happens next.

What happens next is the game against the Buffalo Bills. Four days after a physical matchup against the Lions the Dolphins welcome the Bills for yet another tough matchup. Some may look at facing another physical team so soon as trouble. I look at it differently.

Sometimes a man has to get his hands dirty. The Detroit game actually sets the team up well to face the Bills. Yes the Detroit game was tough but the Dolphins proved they could take the shots and keep coming. Yes the Bills have had their number recently but at some point you have to make the change yourself.

Time to dig in, bring your lunch and just get your hands dirty.

Categories: Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Four Quarters: Miami Dolphins v. Green Bay Packers

Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald

Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald

Sunday morning I decided I would do things a little different this week. Instead of the usual review/preview I thought I would try to write about my thoughts as the game was going on. Quarter by quarter. So here goes…

Four Quarters: Green Bay Packers v. Miami Dolphins

First Quarter.

Green Bay started out with the ball. They moved down the field with ease. The Dolphins secondary were playing off the receivers and Aaron Rodgers made them pay with a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson.

After a great return by rookie Jarvis Landry the Dolphins started in Green Bay territory. The Packers defense came to play forcing Miami to settle for a Caleb Sturgis. The score now sat at 7-3 Packers.

After blocking a punt the Dolphins once again had good, no make that great field position. Unfortunately even after getting the ball down to the Green Bay one yard line they could not find the end zone. Missing out on a scoring opportunity against a team like Green Bay is dangerous.

The good news as the quarter ended was that the defense had finally come to play, bad news was the running game was stuck in neutral.

Second Quarter.

Both teams defenses stood tall. The Packers struggled to move the ball and Aaron Rodgers began to feel the effect of the Dolphins pass rush. On the other side Green Bay forced Miami quarterback into two interceptions costing the Dolphins the opportunity to put points on the board.

I feel there are three types of interceptions: 1. The receiver simply fell down on his route, offense has no chance. 2. The defense just makes an incredible, highlight-reel kind of play. and 3. The quarterback had no business throwing that ball whatsoever. The first two are forgivable offenses, the third-well the third you want to kill the qb. In this case the defense simply made a great play on a contested ball. It could easily have gone the other way.

Needless to say the half ended with the Packers up 10-3

Third Quarter.

The Dolphins started the second half with the ball. Ryan Tannehill hoped to erase the memory of the first half quickly. On the second play of the drive he took it himself and ran 40 yards, surpassing the Dolphins rushing total of the first half. Watching this first drive you would never think that this was the same team from the first half. Jarvis Landry caught his first NFL touchdown pass to tie the game. Both teams would trade drives during this quarter leading to a tie game at 17-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter.

Rodgers is not simply one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he is THE best. On this afternoon Ryan Tannehill showed he could stand toe to toe with the best the NFL has to offer. This is something Tannehill’s critics should remember.

Sadly we tend to remember what we saw last.

What we saw last was Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers and the Dolphins defense falling apart when they were needed most. With a 24-20 lead the Dolphins failed to get a first down and gave the ball back to Rodgers with 2:04 left in the game. It would be just enough.

There was blame to go around on the last drive. Brent Grimes falling down while covering Jordy Nelson. Cortland Finnegan trying a very lackadaisical tackle of Davante Adams inside the ten yard line. Worst of all was the coverage by Philip Wheeler on the touchdown play. It is not that he got beat by the tight end for a touchdown that will happen. It was that he did not even try to engage Anthony Quarless until he was already in the end zone. By that point he had already lost. If he made contact before Quarless entered the end zone he may have had a chance. It was not to be.

A great comeback fell just six seconds short. All of the good things we saw in the second half came of naught. Time to move onto the Bears.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill, sports | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Patriots not quite done.

The Cincinnati Bengals had one job Sunday night. And they failed to do it.

The Bengals came into Sunday nights game at the New England Patriots on a three game winning streak. They had been impressive. After the way the Patriots looked the previous Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs many expected the Bengals kick them while they were down. That simply did not happen.

The Patriots beat the Bengals 43-17.

They did not just beat them they dominated.  The Patriots did not do anything special. There were no trick plays, no new offense. It was simple. They ran the ball down the Bengals throat for 22o yards. If you run for 200 yards and have an hall-of-fame quarterback you are going to win.

This is what happens with the Patriots. They get brutally embarrassed one week. Next week they are bullies. They dominate and go out of their way to pound the point home.

The most disappointing part of the Patriots winning for me: I was hoping for a just amazing press conference from Bill Belichick after another loss. I was hoping to see him just sit there and refuse to answer legitimate questions once again. I was hoping to see in any of the beat writers would have the stones to actually question Belichick on you know anything. A man can dream can’t he?

Are the Patriots back?

No.

Have the issues they had the first few games magically disappeared?

No.

They simply won this one game.

This is why they stick around. When the Patriots are down opposing teams just do not do what is necessary. They need to kick the Patriots while they are down. The Bengals should have stood on their throat.

They did not do their one job.

 

Categories: Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, NFL | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Play the team in front of you.

Tim Ireland/ AP

Tim Ireland/ AP

The scene was set at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday September 28th. Perhaps the most important game of this young season for the Miami Dolphins. It was an important game no doubt. The Dolphins were not in must win territory but a win(or loss) here could go a long way in determining how the rest of the season would go. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had struggled early in the season with the new offense and head coach Joe Philbin did no one any favors by refusing to name his starting quarterback early in the week. Things were on edge, something had to give. Win this game and the team can move forward, lose it and it could be a train wreck.

Thankfully the team came together across the pond. They dominated. The defense intercepted their first three passes of the season, while also returning a fumble for a touchdown. The running game came alive rushing for 157 yards. And the much-maligned quarterback? Ryan Tannehill played his best game of the season. He played confident, decisive. Tannehill threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns, he added another 35 yards on the ground. This was the full-team performance many had been waiting for. Time to exhale, all was right with the Dolphins world.

Not so fast…apparently.

In what should be a time a joy complaints could be heard. Some fans and even some media complained:

‘It’s only Oakland, It doesn’t really count.’

It doesn’t count?!

The Oakland Raiders are still members of the National Football League, right?

Yes they are. The truth is you play the team in front of you. That is all. 16-0 or 0-16 you play the team in front of you. These players are the top 1% of all football players on the planet. No game is given to you. Everything is earned. We do not get to choose which games we count and which we don’t.

Yes some teams are clearly better than others, but that changes from week to week.

You play the team in front of you.

Sometimes it is not so much about the team across from you. Sometimes it is simply about executing the offense, making the plays on defense. That is exactly what Miami did that Sunday. It is a start

Now it is time to build upon that.

Categories: Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Ryan Tannehill | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Wheels falling off.

Philbin

Three games. That is all. Three games into the season and the wheels seem to be coming off these Miami Dolphins.

If you talked to fans that is what they would tell you. It only took two games to erase the excitement of the opening game victory over the New England Patriots. Two games.

Fingers being pointed, blame being placed. Not so much within the team but surely from the outside. By the media. By the fans.

There are so many issues right now it is hard to really say where the blame actually lies. So many moving parts. Every man in that locker room has to look at himself and ask is he doing his job. It is a hard question to ask.

Looking from the outside where do you start?

There is no consistency. One moment the defense seems dominant, the next they give up a 21-yard run for a touchdown. Offensive drives ended by a bad throw or a drop or an inexplicable play call. The special teams units are an adventure, great plays followed by disaster. If it was one unit failing that would be one thing, it is everything.

We have seen enough good from the players on the team to know that they can get the job done. So that brings us to coaching.

After the offensive struggles last season the Dolphins moved on from offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, hiring Bill Lazor to take his place. At the time the question was: Was Mike Sherman responsible for offensive struggles or was it Joe Philbin?

After three games do we have an answer? This is a team that has not looked well prepared the last two weeks. It looks for all the world like the wheels are starting to fall off. Ultimately the head coach is responsible.

This week in the media it looked as if Joe Philbin was trying to play games. Every coach has his own way of dealing with the media. Refusing to answer a direct question and creating questions about the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game may not have been the best course of action. This was a unneccasary distraction for a team preparing to head to London for a suddenly important game.

These situations often go one of two ways: Either the team comes together, turns the corner and plays to their ability or the coach simply loses the team altogether.

Categories: Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Miami Dolphins Week Two Review

The Dolphins came back to earth very quickly. After an emotional home opener against the New England Patriots, Miami traveled to Buffalo where they promptly dropped the ball.

It is easy to assign blame for the 29-10 loss. Special teams were far from special. The defense gave up chunks of yardage. On offense they simply could not find a rhythm. Any one of those reasons would do for why they performed so poorly. There is of course another reason. Emotion and Intensity. Buffalo had it, Miami did not.

It is understandable that the Bills had emotion on their side. The sale of the team had been finalized keeping the team in the Buffalo area, Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly attended the game cancer free and if that was not enough the Bills honored beloved recently passed owner Ralph Wilson during their home opener. They came out of the locker room with all the emotion and intensity in the world, Miami simply never matched that intensity.

On paper the Dolphins have the better team, that only matters if you are playing the game on paper. Under Joe Philbin the team has struggled against teams playing with emotion. It happened last season against the New York Jets. The best way to combat that is to put together a solid drive from the get go. The offense did not cooperate for most of the first half, by the time the offense woke up it was too late.

As far as the actual on field issues the fixes are not that difficult. Both the special teams and the defense will be helped dramatically when Koa Misi returns from injury and Jason Trunsik can return to special teams where he belongs. While he did an admirable job filling in as a starter at linebacker, his absence on special teams was glaring. As far as the offense they need to regain the confidence they lost against Buffalo. Usually this is where I say “run the damn ball!”. While the ground game is essential it is the passing game that needs the boost. Starting the game with easy completions should let quarterback Ryan Tannehill get in a nice rhythm, something that was missing against Buffalo.

The sky did not fall last Sunday. The season is not over. Time to get serious and put in work.

Categories: Buffalo Bills, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Ryan Tannehill | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Week 2: The Great White North, The Buffalo Bills

mblogo

Last week was a great win. The Miami Dolphins did everything in their power to give the game to the Patriots in the first half. Three turnovers by the Dolphins turned into 20 quick and easy points for Tom Brady and the Patriots. On top of that the entire starting linebacking corps was out with injuries by the end of the first half. Then came the second half. The entire team stepped up and absolutely dominated. The defense only allowed three, count them three first downs. The offense shoved the ball down their throats. It was a domination. It was not perfect but it was a good start.

That was last week. It was wonderful. Now forget it. It is over. It is in the past. Time to move on.

The game against Buffalo that is what is important now. I felt great about our chances against New England, with Buffalo I have concerns. It all comes down to how the Dolphins play.

Did they learn anything from last season?

One of the big problems we had as a team last year was playing to our opponents level. If they were great like the Patriots the team stepped up to their level. Unfortunately that also meant underperforming against teams we should have dominated. On paper the Dolphins are a better team than the Bills, they were last year too. Last year the Bills beat the Dolphins twice. So the question is do we play to their level or play to our level, our ability and dominate like last week?

As far as the game. It is not about our passing game or our running game. It is not about the Bills receivers or even E.J. Manuel their second year quarter back. The game will be decided by the play of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Buffalo Bills running backs killed Miami last year. If our defense cannot tackle them, cannot contain them the game is over before it starts. That is my one and only concern. Stop Jackson and Spiller, everything else will take care of itself.

Not too tall a task.

Time for these Miami Dolphins to prove last week was not just a great win. Time for last week to simply be the beginning of something special.

Categories: Buffalo Bills, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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