The Dolphins may be 1-3, but they have proven that they can play a good 55 minutes of football. It's the other five minutes that seem to be giving them a hard time.
With the right game plan, the Dolphins could once again go toe-to-toe with a legitimate opponent. Whether they win or lose will come down to execution, but they put themselves in a much better position with the right game plan.
Here's what I think the Dolphins should be working into their game plan this week as they prepare for a tough opponent.
Contain A.J. Green
You can't stop him. You can only hope to contain him.
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was dubbed AFC Offensive Player of the Month for his fantastic 27-catch, 428-yard, three-touchdown performance in September.
It wasn't wholly dominant. The Baltimore Ravens were able to hold Green to five receptions for 70 yards. Those are still solid numbers, but not on par with the world-beating numbers Green put up in other games.
He had all five of his receptions with 27 minutes remaining in the game. At that point, the Ravens shut him down for good.
They did it with smart play at the safety position.
They were consistently doubling him deep, with the safeties paying extra attention to Green's routes in relation to the routes being run by the other receivers. Here, we see Green running a go-route on the left sideline, and tight end Jermaine Gresham cutting across the middle of the field 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Once Bernard Pollard (red) sees that Gresham (orange) is running an intermediate route, he knows the linebackers will take care of him and helps out over the top on Green (yellow).
With both safeties in the way, Green has no chance of getting to the ball, and there's nowhere Dalton can put it that gives him a chance to catch it. The pass falls harmlessly to the turf as a result.
The Dolphins may struggle to keep up with Green. Their strength has been against the run, where they currently rank first in the league, giving up just 2.4 yards per carry. The Bengals have moved the ball well even when the running game has failed to help them along the way.
That's good for them, because they probably won't be terribly effective running the ball against the Dolphins front seven.
If the Bengals become one-dimensional, the Dolphins must capitalize with an effective pass rush, as they did last week against the Cardinals, when the team logged eight sacks of quarterback Kevin Kolb and doubled their production of the first three weeks of the season in a single game.
The more time Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has in the pocket, the more time A.J. Green has to get open. The coverage and the pass-rush always work as a unit, but the Dolphins must emphasize that even more strongly against the Bengals.
Stick With The Balance
Lost in the spectacle of the Bengals' 3-1 start to the season is their difficulty stopping the run. Not only have they allowed the league's highest yards-per-carry average at 5.4, but they have also allowed opponents to pick up a first down on 33.68 percent of their rush attempts, which ranks 10th-worst in the league.
The Dolphins have spent much of the season establishing the run to help open up the passing lanes for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and their balance to this point has been astounding at 143 pass attempts to 134 rush attempts.
Bleacher Report AFC North lead writer Andrea Hangst described the Bengals run defense as "bend-don't-break," and if that's the case, the Dolphins needs to go Ivan Drago on the Bengals run defense.
Recently, the Bengals have clamped down well on opposing No. 1 running backs and held Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew to 38 yards on 13 carries, but they also got a bit of help from quarterback Blaine Gabbert being...well, Blaine Gabbert (78.8 passer rating).
The truth is, while it seems their pass defense is the saving grace for the unit as a whole, they haven't been that great in pass defense, either. They give up a defensive passer rating of 102.4, which currently ranks sixth-worst in the NFL. Much of that has to do with the fact that they've only reeled in one interception, but they're also giving up completions on 67.9 percent of passes, for the fourth-worst completion rate in the league.
If the Dolphins stay balanced, they will have opportunities both in the air and on the ground.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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