Many will contribute St. Louis’ loss to their poor execution on special teams, but it was the gutsy decisions by Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin that played a significant role in Miami’s victory—contributions that will be overlooked by all.
Miami’s Week 3 loss to the rival Jets—a 23-20 defeat in overtime— was a tough one to swallow and many of the so-called experts began to question Philbin’s ability to lead a football team.
His attempt to freeze kicker Nick Folk, which negated a blocked field goal that could have led to a Dolphins victory, led to his crucifixion from the national media and Dolphins fan base, but I still believe he made the right call.
It is a tired debate—but according to ESPN stats and info—kickers are converting 81 percent of their field goals when no timeout was called prior to the snap and 76 percent when a timeout was called.
It is a difference of only five percent.
Now for some that five percent is insignificant and construed as minuscule, but that five percent played an enormous role in Miami’s victory over the Rams.
Philbin’s decision may have backfired in Week 2, but his unwavering approach at the end of the first half may have saved the Dolphins from losing another close game.
After missing the first field goal of his career—having connected on his first 15—rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein was given some extra time to mull it over.
Philbin opted to call a timeout before Zuerlein’s 37 yard attempt—icing the rookie kicker—and impacted a missed field goal that would have cut Miami’s lead to one.
There was no second guessing this time around from the media or the fans, and everyone is once again overlooking the impact something as minuscule as five percent has on a game.
Philbin’s overlooked contributions to the Dolphins’ victory did not end there.
Following St. Louis’ touchdown drive, which cut Miami’s deficit to three, Philbin once again made the tough call that impacted the game’s finish.
With 4:15 left in the game, Miami lined up to punt from their own 40 and Philbin’s decision to opt for a fake punt—a three-yard rush from Chris Clemons up the middle—gave Miami a crucial first down.
The first down allowed Miami to eat up an additional two minutes and 34 seconds, giving the Rams the ball with only 1:41 left to operate, and more importantly, forced Jeff Fisher to use one of his precious timeouts.
Those few extra yards allowed Miami to pin the Rams deep in their own territory, limiting them to minimal snaps in an attempt to tie.
Given the consistency the Rams displayed in moving the football and with four minutes left to be played with two timeouts, I have my doubts Miami could have fended off a late surge.
It is time for everyone to start praising Philbin for his performance yesterday.
The Dolphins are 3-3—in a four-way tie for first place in the division—something nobody predicted at the beginning of the season.
Their collective effort since Week 1 has many believing they have the potential to contend for a playoff spot, which would end a three-year drought.
There is still a lot of football to be played. If Philbin continues to improve as a coach, not only will his team contend for the playoffs, but he will deserve some attention for coach of the year.