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

The Return of College Football Saturday

Certain events herald in the different season for some of us. Regardless of the actual start date, the last day of school always told me that summer was here. In the same way the first college football Saturday let me know that fall was here.

These are my thoughts on the beginning of the College Football season.

My day started in Dublin with the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF. There is nothing so special as getting to watch Football before I head into my day job. As far as the game itself by the fourth quarter we really had a game. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg looked good, he is one of the more promising young quarterbacks in the game today. On the UCF side on the other hand, they still need to find the replacement for Blake Bortles. Starter Pete DiNovo looked lost, in his first start he played timid as if he was afraid to make a mistake. Justin Holman performed much better giving the Knights a spark and nearly leading them to a comeback victory, just coming up a little short. Honestly I do not believe either player will be the long-term starter for UCF. Whether that player is on campus or not remains to be seen.

As I watched the games throughout this first weekend I could not help but think: College Football really could use a preseason. Not a full multi-game preseason, just one game. Let the players hit someone in a different uniform just a little before the games really count. As it is now we had some sloppy games along with horrible mismatches. Teams could schedule the cupcakes for the preseason game and actually strengthen the regular season schedules. Just a thought.

Now is the time when I piss off Florida State fans…

I do not know that Jameis Winston is that great a quarterback. It is not that he is a bad quarterback, he is very good. I simply think that he is, how do I put this. I think Winston is Chad Pennington. Good, solid, efficient. That is all. He has been blessed with an incredible supporting cast. Rashad Greene is a perfect example of this. Greene can turn a two-yard pass into a fifty yard touchdown with ease, as he did last night. When judging Winston consider is he making the plays or is it what he has to work with. While he has an embarrassment of riches right now when he moves onto the NFL things may be a little different.

I know it is ridiculously early but I have chosen my front-runner the Heisman race already. Todd Gurley of the Georgia Bulldogs ran for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns on only fifteen carries. Add to that his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and he had a very nice night. Yes it was one game, but it was one very impressive game. Gurley is not a flash in the pan either. He has shown this kind of ability before for Georgia. If he can remain healthy he may break the streak of no running backs going in the first round of the NFL draft.

It was a great first Saturday. Let us hope it is just the appetizer for a fantastic season of football for all of us.

Categories: Blake Bortles, College Football, Football, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everyone Loves the Backup Quarterback.

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

There are times when I think the fans are the ones who need to be drug tested.

This is one of those times. Over this past weekend I have heard fans suggesting that the Miami Dolphins start Matt Moore over Ryan Tannehill. This was after Moore gifted the Dallas Cowboys with a pick-six during their preseason game Saturday night, against the backups no less. I can understand getting excited by Moore moving the offense down the field, he is an excellent backup quarterback. I even understand the frustration of Tannehill having difficulty connecting on the long ball with Mike Wallace(perhaps the receiver should receive some of the blame). But start Moore over Tannehill? I do not see it.

Do these fans remember the last time Matt Moore played during the regular season?

I will remind you. Moore took over for an injured Tannehill during the 2nd half of the Buffalo Bills game. He manage to complete 2 out of 6 passes, worse still he completed the same number of passes to the Bills. Two completions and two interceptions. It was a bad day for Moore. Not that he cannot do better, he has, but with that memory is that who you want replacing a very promising young quarterback?

Fans love the backup quarterback.

Last season I had a friend of mine suggest that Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions should be benched for his backup Shaun Hill. Matt Stafford who has thrown for over 17,000 yards and over a hundred touchdowns should be benched for Shaun Hill.

It seems ridiculous. But it is understandable. Every fan wants that elite quarterback, they want Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. The problem is there are only so many of those going around.

It is not that Matt Moore or Shaun Hill are not starting quality quarterbacks, they would easily start for the Houston Texans or Oakland Raiders this season. It is that in those situations, behind Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford, they understand their role as the backup. While Moore and Hill have tremendous ability, Tannehill and Stafford have that extra something that puts their ceiling just a little higher.

Enjoy your backups, cheer for them when the time does come for them to come into the game. Just try to have some perspective. Understand there is a reason they are the backup and the other guy is the starter.

 

Categories: Football, Matt Moore, Matt Stafford, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Preseason, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Johnny Clipboard

jmbh

It has been announced that Brian Hoyer will start week one for the Cleveland Browns.

Johnny Football will start his career as Johnny Clipboard. While some national media may try to paint this as a mistake it makes perfect sense. This is not about the partying, it is not about the middle finger on Monday Night Football. This is not even about ill-advised photo with Justin Bieber (really what were you thinking?). It is all about the fact that Hoyer is simply better at this point.

Johnny Manziel is shiny. As a quarterback he creates something out of nothing, no one is disputing that. That is not the problem. The improvisation is a rare trait, something that simply cannot be coached up. The concern with Manziel are the parts of the game that can be coached up.

While he had a wonderful college career, he did struggle at times. Most significantly against LSU and Missouri last season. The connection: They forced him to play from the pocket. He seemed lost, the great player we had seen was missing. Creating is great but if you cannot play from the pocket you will be in trouble.

Players are better, faster in the NFL. This is the top one percent of the top one percent of football players on the planet. What worked in college may not work here. If he cannot learn to play from the pocket he may not make that jump. Relying solely on his scrambling ability could get him killed at this level.

So it is Johnny Clipboard to begin. If he can get out of his own way and learn while he is on the sideline he may be ok.

Categories: Cleveland Browns, Football, Johnny Football, Johnny Manziel, NFL | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Secondary

Michael Thomas

This is the last in my series looking at the position groups as we enter into preseason.

The secondary went through several changes in the offseason. Gone from the team are safety Chris Clemons along with cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll. Taking their place are veterans Louis Delmas at safety and Cortland Finnegan at corner. There is no doubt about the talent of Delmas and Finnegan, rather can the players stay healthy.

Rather than go player by player this time I chose to look at what we know and what we don’t.

What we know:

Not a lot. We know Brent Grimes will excel at one corner position. He is one of the best in the game right now. Reshad Jones will miss the first four weeks of the season due to a suspension forcing the team to improvise at the safety position. Louis Delmas should be a solid ball hawking safety on the other side, question is will he make more plays that he gives up as the last line of defense.

What we do not know:

Will Cortland Finnegan regain his former pro bowl form, he has looked good so far in training camp so that is a plus. Who is the third corner? Last years draft picks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor look to have the first shot at the job. Jimmy Wilson seems likely to take Jones’ spot at safety, what happens when Jones is back from suspension?

Michael Thomas brings energy and enthusiasm to the secondary, will he find a home here in Miami? I believe he can be a star if given the chance. Either at safety or corner just get the man on the field.

Draft pick Walk Aikens looks promising, but I see a safety more than a corner in him.

When I look at our secondary there is a lot to like, but so many questions. The talent is there. Just put it together.

 

 

Categories: Football, Free Agency, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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