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Phinfever, NFL, Miami Dolphins, Rich Rodriguez, BlogThe Good

 

Ryan Tannehill had his best game of the season. He played a really clean game, completing 70.8% of his passes and attaching downfield for a 10 yards per attempt average. He also had 2 TDs, 0 INTs and 240 yards passing. Both TDs were beautiful downfield throws. One to Kenny Stills for a 39 yards TD on a playaction play where Tannehill was about to get killed. The other was a beautiful touch pass to Damien Williams for 18 yards. Tannehill also had a 56 yard bomb to Devante Parker late in the game to put the team in scoring position. In a game where the running game was not dominant, this is what we needed to see from Tannehill, especially in the 4th quarter.

 

Cameron Wake continues to be a beast off the edge, with two sacks of Phillip Rivers. There was a stat put up during the game that said Wake gets pressure on 20% of his pass rushes and that is near the top of the league. Considering how his snaps have been limited this season, that is remarkable and he is still playing fresh.

 

Kiko Alonso's pick 6 reminded me of the type of play Zach Thomas would make. Alonso was lined up in the A gap showing blitz. Right before the snap, he shifted towards the left side of the offense. Seems like Phillip Rivers didn't see him. Alonso jumped the slant route and took the interception 60 yards for a TD. It seems as if Alonso knew the play and was disguising his coverage. Maybe I am giving him too much credit and he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but it sure felt like he knew the play.

 

Tony Lippett, who has been struggling at corner as a second year player, had a monster game with two perfectly timed interceptions. The first was after a muffed punt by Jakeem Grant was recovered by San Diego in prime scoring position. Lippett made a nice read and beautiful interception in the end zone, effectively getting the Dolphins out of a very dire situation. The second pick was late in the game when the Chargers were trying to mount a comeback. The interception sealed the win.

 

Kudos to Byron Maxwell for another interception. It was good to see that offseason trade for Alonso and Maxwell pay off so huge in this game.

 

The Bad

 

Man, Jakeem Grant had a rough game. On paper, he had two fumbles, one that was recovered by the other team. But he also had a third fumble in the end zone on a kick off that was considered a touchback. Why on Earth was he still in the game after two fumbles?

 

Bacarri Rambo - I was paying attention to him since we just picked him up and he is a known name. He was out of position quite a bit it seems. The scouting report on him is that he makes plays, but he plays very undisciplined. Hopefully, it was just a case of being new to the system.

 

The Ugly

 

Look, we have come a long way on defense. We're getting stronger against the run and we did pick off four passes. But at other times, when we were in zone coverage, Chargers receivers were running wide open in the middle of the field. That's unacceptable. I think Vance Joseph has done a good job of turning the defense around, but there shouldn't be massive gaps in the middle of the field when we're in zone coverage. This may go back to my previous comments about Bacarri Rambo. It could be that he missed a couple of assignments. Without carefully studying the film, it is hard to tell.

 

Overall

 

All credit continues to go to Adam Gase. The young head coach is really starting to impress. After starting 1-4, the Dolphins are now 5-4. The 4 wins have come against competitive teams. Maybe not elite, but competitive. Teams that are still in the playoff hunt. And guess what! The Dolphins are in the playoff hunt after that terrible 1-4 and some embarassing losses early on. It seems that Gase getting rid of some underperforming players has really sparked this team. Or maybe it's something else. Who cares!

 

We have a rookie head coach who is beginning to earn credibility with the players and the fans. It has been a long time since we've had something like this. Let's enjoy it while it lasts!

 

 

Halfway through the season and Miami is playing winning football. This week brings a true test in Philip Rivers and an elite attack. 4 PM game is San Diego where the Chargers are -4 with a 48 O/U.

Make no mistake, Miami must be prepared for a shootout. San Diego has won 3 of their last 4 games after starting the season 1-4. They are averaging 29.6 points per game and allowing 27.4 points per game. Their competition has been pretty good (Denver twice, Oakland, KC, Atlanta) so they are battle tested. Even worse, Philip Rivers has only thrown one stinker in that stretch. He is playing good football.

Even if Rivers has a modest day, running back Melvin Gordon is having something of a breakout season. He's rushed for 768 yards and 9 TDs. Miami's defense has been playing much better but this isn't Ryan Fitzpatrick and a gimpy Matt Forte they are attempting to shut down. If given time Rivers will carve them up (think Jimmy G in week 2) and run away with this one early. Melvin Gordon's YPC weren't too hot at first but the last two weeks he has really picked it up. Missed assignments or bad angles could be catastrophic as he can break it for big runs.

San Diego's defense is better than in years past but certainly vulnerable. They have 18 sacks, 11 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles. But again, they are giving up a lot of points with opponents having scored 13 rushing TDs and 14 passing TDs in 9 games. If Miami can get into the red zone it won't be impossible to come away with points.

Last week I had said the defense forcing turnovers was the key to victory over the Jets. I was partially correct as some late Fitzpatrick interceptions helped Miami get a few extra points via field position. But they still let Ryan bleeping Fitzpatrick make some big throws to extend drives. They can't get away with that against Rivers. They have to shut him down or at least keep him at a pedestrian level to reduce the chances of a shootout. Scares me to say it, but this week I think its on Ryan Tannehill.

I loved that Gase criticized himself for not getting the ball to Jarvis Landry more. That tells me he is going to dial up plays for #14 in San Diego and IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. Look, Miami isn't going to change what is working. I fully expect a heavy dosage of Ajayi and hope he rips off another 100+ yards of rushing. But what will be even better is a performance similar to the Houston game last year. In that game Tannehill put the ball in the hands of his playmakers where they found a lot of space to operate. Slants, quick outs and half back screens decimated Houston's "vaunted" defense. I'd like to see something similar today.

The injury report is out and thankfully the Kenny Stills situation was illness, not injury. With Devante Parker still gimpy, Leonte Carroo still raw, and Jakeem Grant not really being utilized Miami needs more than just Landry out there catching passes. Marqueis Gray and Dominique Jones have been wonderful surpises at TE, but Miami needs some explosiveness on the field. Hopefully Stills and Landry will give Tannehill some quality routes that produce points.

Speaking of Tannehill, he has gone 3 games without a turnover. Yes, he should have had a couple last Sunday, but he got away with a few bad passes. We say this every week, but he is what he is - a game manager who can rip a few clutch throws every week. Put the ball in your receivers' hands and lead them so they can accumulate YAC. Nothing more, nothing less. He doesn't have to take over and be Dan Marino, just play a clean game where your receivers do the work. Like Houston last year, he can take all of the statistical credit while not having to truly air it out.

Barring any crazy injuries I feel pretty good about this one. Tannehill is due for some numbers and Gase has these guys believing in both him and themselves. Rivers will get his but it won't be enough to prevent Miami from being over .500 for the first time since Week 1 of last year.

Miami 33

San Diego 27

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