Monday, September 20, 2010

Dolphins' Defense Vetos Vikings

September 20, 2010

Take a look at the Miami Dolphins defense and you will see two clearly defined letters stamped all over it: M. N. Standing for Mike Nolan of course, who is cutting out to be Miami's most valuable offseason acquisition thus far. Sunday afternoon, it was the Nolan-led defense that drove Miami to its 2-0 start.

Miami's offense had an impact early in the game, but when they went dry it was the defense that kept the Minnesota Vikings in check. Miami scored on their first drive of the game, but did not score another offensive touchdown the rest of the game. However, the defense helped the cause with a TD of their own in the third quarter. It was that kind of game for the Fins and the majority of their success can be attributed to three defenders.

Three Key Defenders of the Game:
  • Jason Allen: This is not a typo. Allen has truly come around in the first two games of the '10 season. In Minnesota, Allen led the team in tackles and interceptions, sending a clear message that he is a force on this defense. Here's his stat line - 11 tackles, three passes deflected and two interceptions (a third interception was negated by a penalty).
  • Cameron Wake: We all knew that Wake was a tremendous pass rusher, but now he's beginning to look like Dwight Freeney out there. It was his pressure in the the third quarter - wherein he bypasses two Vikings defenders - that led to the Favre fumble and a Miami TD. On the day, Wake had five tackles, 1.5 sacks and one QB hit. Let's just say Favre was getting more close encounters with #91 than he would have prefered.
  • Vontae Davis: That amazing interception in the Minnesota redzone - which actually was number one on ESPN's Top Ten Plays - is the most notable play Davis made all game. But his performance extended beyond the INT, making backfield tackles and deflecting a couple passes in the process. We'll excuse him for tweaking his shoulder after celebrating a tackle for a loss, but know Coach Tony Sparano won't be too happy with future incidents like that.
    Beyond the good that came from Miami's week two victory, we must point out some areas in need of improvement. While the Fins are headed back to Miami for a two-game homestand, their opponents will be as difficult as they come in the New York Jets and New England Patriots. If they hope to succeed, Miami must improve on their mistakes and prepare for some of the toughest games they play this season.

    What Miami Must Improve On:
    • More effective late-game execution: Miami has held opponents to 20 points total in their first two games this season. However, simple mistakes on offense and defense led to 17 of those points being allowed in the second half. In Buffalo, a major defensive gaff gave Trent Edwards a wide open shot at Roscoe Parrish for a TD. In Minnesota, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown each fumbled late in the game, which eventually gave Minnesota points on the board. Not to mention, Miami's defense committed two penalties of "12 men on the field" against the Vikings in the fourth quarter, with only a seven-point lead. Clearly, these kinds of mistakes are potential game-changers for the worse. The Fins wont always be fortunate enough to survive after such costly mistakes.
    • More effective usage of wide receiving core: Chad Henne has done a solid job of managing the game and avoiding turnovers thus far. However, the current offensive play-calling may be limiting Miami's offense, as Dolphins receivers are being rarely used (outside of Brandon Marshall). Marshall was targeted eight times versus the Vikings, whereas the rest of the WR unit received seven targets combined. Weapons like Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano should be targeted more frequently in order to improve Miami's scoring opportunities. Otherwise, the passing game will become a one-trick pony with Marshall as the overused option.
    • Second half urgency on offense: Of the 29 points Miami has scored this season, 17 of them have come in the first half. The remaining twelve points in the second half have come from a defensive TD, a safety and a field goal. In other words, the Dolphins offense has only scored three points in two second half performances. Although the Fins left with two victories despite these facts, such performances will hurt Miami in games where they are behind entering the second half.

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