Monday, December 14, 2009

Locking Down the Fourth Quarter

December 16, 2009

The fourth quarter: the most crucial period in an entire football game - where games are decided, heroes are made and championships won. Conversely, it is also where hopes are crushed and morales are destroyed. For the Miami Dolphins, they had their fair share of devastating late-game collapses, allowing almost half of all points in the 4th quarter (134 total to be exact).

Now December has come and the tides have turned as the Dolphins have not allowed one single point in the fourth quarter for two consecutive games. Players and coaches knew that their fourth quarter woes would doom them had they not made a dramatic turnaround down the stretch.With the playoffs in sight, the determination and resilience of this team has overcome those troublesome times.

Going into Tennessee for their final away game of the season, the Dolphins will look to stop the Titans' run-oriented offense headed by RB Chris Johnson. If there's one thing the Dolphins have been consistent on it's stopping the run (currently ranked 13th in run defense, allowing 106.1 yards per game). It's not to say that they will completely shut down the blazing hot Johnson, who's averaging 147 rush yards ever since QB Vince Young took the helm, but expect a suppressed effort from the shifty halfback - Miami knows how to plug up those holes.

With Young's status uncertain for Sunday's game, the Dolphins will need to plan for two completely different styles of play: one of a speedy, roll out QB and another of a conventional, pocket passer. While QB Kerry Collins was unable to lead Tennessee to a single victory in his first six starts this season, he was taking the snaps last season when Tennessee went 11-0. That means his presence should not be taken lightly, despite his rough start.

Once again, the season will be on the line for the Fins as any loss will likely be a knockout blow from the playoff race. Given the fact that Miami has not won three consecutive games all season long, a victory in Tennessee would serve as a huge confidence booster - one that would make the Dolphins a force to be dealt with heading back home.

One improvement that must be made in the fourth quarter is on the offensive end for Miami. Although the defense has locked down in the final quarter, the offense has been stagnant for the most part. The Fins offense has only scored three points total in their past two fourth quarter stints. Contending teams capitalize on defensive stops, especially in the clutch. If Miami hopes to continue this winning trend they will need to make opponents pay on turnovers once the fourth quarter rolls around.

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