I can only imagine that it will be much easier to come back to work for the players and coaches after defeating the Washington Redskins 20-9 at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday. It’s been 364 days since Miami Dolphins fans could stand up and celebrate a home victory, but quietly this football team is getting healthier, and more consistent as a football team. Now this team can focus on putting back to back home victories together as the Buffalo Bills (5-4) stumble into town coming off of two losses, getting pummeled by the Dallas Cowboys 44-7. Before I focus on the Bills, let’s look back and find out what we’ve learned about Sunday’s victory.
1) Turnovers And Keep’em Out Of The End Zone– The one statistic that stands out from the victory against the Redskins is turnovers. The Dolphins defense was able to force takeaways on quarterback Rex Grossman, getting two interceptions, equaling the team’s output for the entire season! Washington came into the game with at least one turnover in 22 consecutive games, and that dubious streak continued verses the Dolphins! Cornerback Vontae Davis, coming back into the lineup after battling hamstring issues, snagged one and linebacker Karlos Dansby turned away the Redskins offense in the red-zone late in the fourth quarter. That was the theme for the defense all afternoon, keeping the Redskins out of the end zone. It’s two weeks and counting since an opposing team has scored a touchdown on the Dolphins defense, and that’s a pleasant surprise for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
2) Matt Moore And Offense “Start Fast” And “Finish Strong” – Matt Moore said after the game on Sunday that some of the things the offense focused on throughout the week was starting fast and finishing strong. Looking back at the game you would have to say that the Dolphins offense reached its goals in both areas. The Miami defense set the tone going three and out in its first defensive series, and Davone Bess added a 19 yard punt return to give excellent field position to Moore and the offense. Two third down conversions (third and eight to Brandon Marshall for 26 yards, and third and two pass to Reggie Bush for four yards) allowed Bush to go in untouched from one yard out to open the scoring. Closing out the game was even more impressive with linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepting quarterback Rex Grossman at the ten-yard line. Then the offense took control going ten plays over eighty yards taking 5:50 minutes off of the clock. Bush appeared to score on the same play that worked against the Chiefs, going in motion from the wide slot position, and sweeping around the short side of the field from 18 yards out to close out the game!
3) Pressure! – Over the last two weeks, the Dolphins defense has been around the opposing quarterback, effecting the consistency and accuracy in the passing game. The pressure has resulted in eight sacks in two games, and more importantly, turnovers have come as a result of affecting the pocket. On Sunday against Washington, Jared Odrick, Karlos Dansby and Jason Taylor found there way to the quarterback, registering sacks and constant pressure throughout the afternoon. The Miami defense is starting to get healthy, and play with the confidence they displayed in the 2010 season!
4) Bess And Fasano Contribute – It was nice to see wide receiver Davone Bess get involved in the offense and showcase his abilities to move the chains on third down situations. Bess was targeted six times against the Redskins catching four passes for 37 yards. Those aren’t numbers that jump off the page, but Bess was able to convert two critical third down situations (a third and 10 catch for 23 yards, and a third and seven situation going for 13 yards), kept drives alive with his sure hands and run after catch ability. Tight end Anthony Fasano didn’t reach the end zone this week, but his three receptions for 60 yards all were important. The 21-yard catch in the fourth quarter, in my opinion, sealed the victory for Miami. If the Dolphins get the tight end more involved in the offense, the easier it will be for Moore and Marshall to be productive o a consistent basis!
5) Third Down And Red Zone Getting Better – Getting all of the play makers healthy and involved in the offense is making it a lot easier to convert on third down situations. The Dolphins were eight of 14 for 57 percent against Washington and two of five (40 percent) in the scoring zone. That’s a huge improvement over the beginning of the season, and will continue to play an important role in winning games against better competition in the up coming weeks. If Moore has the time to make accurate throws from the pocket, play makers like Bush, Bess, and Marshall can beat coverage and dominate games. This team is playing with confidence and believes in what they doing as a unit. That’s going to be difficult for opposing teams to overcome in the second half of the season!
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.