Dolphins vs. Rams: Miami's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 6
For the second consecutive week, the Miami Dolphins had to fend off a late surge from their opponent before sealing a win.
But, hey, a win is a win.
Despite minimal production from Reggie Bush and no production from Brian Hartline, Ryan Tannehill managed to quarterback the Dolphins to their third win of the season, bringing the team back to .500 entering their bye week.
Miami's defense was propelled by Olivier Vernon and Karlos Dansby, and it came up huge in clutch situations.
Ultimately, however, the Dolphins are very fortunate the Rams didn't win this game. Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed three field goals—after hitting his first 15 attempts of the season—and Miami managed only seven points in the second half.
But, again, a win is a win, and the Dolphins are 3-3 as they embark on a stretch of very winnable games.
Winner: Ryan Tannehill
On paper, Ryan Tannehill's Week 4 aerial assault on the Arizona Cardinals was his most impressive performance.
However, he may have outdone himself on Sunday.
For starters, Brian Hartline was completely shut down by Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan and failed to catch a single pass. On top of that, Reggie Bush ran for just 17 yards on 12 carries. So, Tannehill's favorite target and most dangerous weapon were both rendered useless, yet he still managed to lead the Dolphins to a win.
Tannehill completed 21-of-29 passes for 185 yards and two touchdown, giving him a 72.4 completion percentage and a 112.0 quarterback rating.
Assuming Jabar Gaffney makes his debut following the bye week, Tannehill will have another weapon—however mediocre—at his disposal, which should translate to bigger and better things.
Loser: Brian Hartline
Brian Hartline might've played like a Pro Bowler through the first five weeks of the season, but don't be mistaken: He is not a viable No. 1 wide receiver.
On Sunday, Hartline was matched up with Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who's currently enjoying a phenomenal season. Finnegan literally eliminated Hartline from the game, preventing him from registering a single reception or target.
This is the second time Hartline has faced an elite cornerback this season. His first bout came in Week 3 when he was matched up with Darrelle Revis. He caught just one pass in that game.
Hartline has established himself as a viable starter, but the Dolphins still desperately need to add a true No. 1 wideout.
Winner: Marlon Moore
With Jabar Gaffney still inactive and Legedu Naanee on the outs, the Dolphins entered today's game desperate for contributions from unexpected places.
Marlon Moore answered the call.
Despite playing solely on special teams this season, Moore was worked into the offensive game plan and came out with three receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Moore has shown flashes before (http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/09000d5d81c7bab3/Moore-TD-catch), but he's yet to receive any extended opportunity to prove himself as an offensive asset.
He may have finally garnered that chance.
Loser: Richie Incognito
Entering Sunday's game, Richie Incognito was rated by Pro Football Focus as the fourth-worst run-blocking offensive guard in the NFL and 96th overall.
He didn't do anything to reverse his woes this week.
In the second quarter, Incognito was flagged for two penalties within six plays. The second penalty was an uncalled-for late hit that negated an 11-yard reception by Anthony Fasano (and Incognito wonders why players call him dirty).
At this rate, it'd be very surprising to see Incognito return next season. He's struggling to adapt to this zone-blocking scheme, and he's the weak link on the left side of the offensive line.
Winner: Olivier Vernon
Prior to Sunday's game, Olivier Vernon was a non-factor.
Despite playing 128 snaps, he had registered zero sacks and just one quarterback hit.
Vernon finally showed up on Sunday, however. He finished the game with two sacks, four tackles and three quarterback hits. Both of his sacks came on third down, but his second one came on the Rams' final offensive play of the game and forced Greg Zuerlein to attempt a ridiculous 66-yard field goal.
And don't forget, Vernon left the game with what initially appeared to be a serious leg injury.
Vernon, like Ryan Tannehill, looks better and better each week.
Loser: Reggie Bush
Is Reggie Bush still hindered by his left knee injury, or have defenses figured him out?
Hopefully, it's the latter.
Realistically, though, it's probably a combination.
Bush finished Sunday's game with a dismal 17 rushing yards on 12 carries (1.4 yards per carry). He salvaged his day by reeling in five receptions for 44 yards, but this is a concerning development nonetheless.
In his last three games, Bush has just 132 rushing yards on 38 carries. With a bye week to nurse his knee, he may return to form, but if he doesn't, then the Dolphins' offense will struggle.
Winner: Joe Philbin
However, Joe Philbin was atop the list.
Miami's players are certainly at fault as well, yes, but Philbin and Mike Sherman's questionable play-calling and clock management couldn't be ignored.
But on Sunday, Philbin and his staff finally turned a corner.
The Rams' pass rush was overwhelming Ryan Tannehill in the first half, but the 'Phins came out with a screen-heavy, dink 'n' dunk attack in the second half. It prevented St. Louis' defense from playing too aggressively, which helped Miami hold on for a win.
Loser: Sean Smith
There's only one thing preventing Sean Smith from reaching elite status: consistency.
After containing Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green in consecutive weeks, it appeared as though Smith was finally turning the corner and reaching his potential. So, it only seemed logical for him to shutdown a Rams wide receiver corps that just lost Danny Amendola.
Instead, he took a step back.
Smith struggled with Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens at times, which, all things considered, is just frustrating.
Playing in the final year of his contract, Smith needs to elevate his play both for his own interest and for the competitive interest of the Dolphins as a whole.