You were rolling your
eyes and shaking your head at halftime as your Miami Dolphins trailed the New
England Patriots 10-20 in the season opener at SunLife Stadium.
The turnovers, missed
opportunities, and other mistakes that have burdened the Dolphins’ on-field
play for the better part of the past 10+ years were in full bloom. You’d seen
this movie before, and you knew it was a time-tested recipe for losing. Everything
at halftime felt like a trip down that all-too-familiar losers road yet again.
You were bracing for it.
It seemed inevitable.
But then something
happened at halftime. The Dolphins decided that enough was enough. And they
came out in the third quarter determined to play the Patriots instead of
“We didn't do anything different," DT Jared Odrick said. "We
just went out and played."
Succinct. And music to
Dolphins 33, Patriots 20.
It was a return to the days when the Pats were the Patsies, the Dolphins were
their Daddies, and all was as it should be.
OK, it’s just one game. But
it’s still cigars all around in this wonderfully surprising start to the 2014
season. And two men deserve extra special recognition for getting this campaign
off on the right foot.
The first is new Dolphins
General Manager Dennis Hickey. It didn’t take him long to recognize the mess he
inherited from Jeff Ireland. Hickey fumigated the roster, with 22 new faces on his
53 man line-up. That’s well above the league average of approximately 30%, with
43% of the players having three years or less experience.
Hickey took a dysfunctional
offensive line and re-built it in months. He fixed the running back situation
by signing Knowshon Moreno (24 carries, 134 yards, 1 TD). And he filled a
number of other holes on defense where feasible.
The roster we saw versus
New England would not have happened without Hickey’s intervention and
expertise. Liken it to calling Roto-Rooter to unclog a backed up toilet.
The second man deserving
of extra special credit is offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Yes, he drew up a
nice and balanced game plan which proved effective throughout the afternoon.
But the most important observation in my book is that this man knows how to
properly use the talent he has at his disposal. Lazor understands how to put
people in a position to be successful, and how to leverage their respective
talents to the best possible effect. This sounds simple enough yet so many seem
to fail to grasp this seminal football concept. The execution wasn’t always the
best, but the ideas and intent were beautiful to see. And Lazor’s best work has
been with QB Ryan Tannehill and the run game.
Tannehill seems well-positioned
to take the next step. The entire offense revolves around his skills both
throwing and running, and he forces defenses to respect the read option at all
times. Against the Patriots, Tannehill played a very efficient game with only
one really bad throw (which was easily intercepted). This is the second game in
a row the Dolphins have defeated the Pats with him at QB, and that isn’t an
accident. It says here that this kid is going to be all right.
Moreno ran in a physical
way we haven’t seen since Ricky Williams was in town, complimenting Lamar
Miller’s game much more effectively than Daniel Thomas ever did. With 191 yards
rushing at a healthy 5.0 clip, the Dolphin offense sent a message to opposing
defenses that they will have to pick their poison. If defenses gang up on
Moreno, they will have a difficult time defending WRs Mike Wallace, Brian
Hartline, Brandon Gibson and TE Charles Clay.
Moreno and the Dolphins
offensive line were the offensive keys to yesterday’s win, and the biggest
difference from the lackluster performances we saw last season. And here’s the
thing: the Dolphins put up 33 and could have put up 50 if not for three turnovers
and other miscues that resulted in field goals versus touchdowns!
If this continues, the
Dolphins will have a great opportunity to qualify for the postseason.
Of course I would be
remiss to ignore the effort by Kevin Coyle and the re-tooled Dolphin defense,
sans four starters and key reserves, a unit that played physically throughout
but especially in the second half. Once they got sorted out at halftime, Brady
and his pals found the sledding very difficult.
“We just didn’t do well enough
offensively,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick lamented. “We were in a lot of
long yardage situations. We had a lot of penalties. We didn’t perform well
enough to move the ball consistently.”
“They took away everybody in
the second half,” QB Tom Brady added.
Wake, whose stated profession is to ruin offenses and especially QBs, was the
tone setter. Once he was done abusing RT Sebastian Vollmer and his mates, he
turned his attention to Brady. Wake’s two sacks and two forced fumbles left
Brady a bruised mess and reminded us why #91 is the best player on the team and
one of the best in the game today.
When the fourth quarter
arrived, which is winning time in the NFL, Wake and his pals had their
collective hands around the Pats’ necks. They closed the door and sealed the
win the way good teams do.
How many times in the
past 10 years have we seen the Dolphins fold up? Too many, but not this time. Against
one of the best teams in the AFC and one of the best QBs in NFL history, it
wasn’t the same old Dolphins.
Again, it was only one
game; the Dolphins don’t get a trophy or a parade for it, just a W and kudos
from hacks like me. The outcome also gives hope, gives promise that 2014 could
be fun. These Dolphins have talent, they’re well coached, and now they know
they’re capable of winning even when they don’t play a perfect game or have
their best players available.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said Odrick. “We’ve worked hard to
Let’s hope they’re here to stay.