Miami Dolphins: Beating Jaguars Was More Important Than It May Have Seemed

Alan Hubbard@@ahubbard72Contributor IIIDecember 16, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 16:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates  a touchdown pass with teammates against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sun Life Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

On a Sunday in which no fewer than eight games had playoff implications, many people probably skipped over the game between the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars

It would be hard to blame them, as it certainly wasn't the most exciting of games. But for Aqua and Orange devotees, this game was hugely important. 

The Dolphins absolutely needed this win. 

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not confused about the quality of Miami's opponent. The Jaguars came into today's game as one of the NFL's worst teams, statistically. They are 30th in the league in points per game (16.6), 31st in yards per game (282.9) and 29th in points allowed per game (27.6). Cameron Wake has as many sacks as Jacksonville's entire team (14). 

Indeed, it's those numbers that show why a win today was imperative for Miami. 

Consider this: Over the past two weeks, the Dolphins played two of the NFL's best teams in San Francisco and New England. Miami played both teams tough but couldn't do enough to win. Those two games alone give the impression that Miami is very close to being a top team in the NFL. 

To follow those games with a loss to one of the NFL's worst teams would have been a disaster. 

Moreover, it would have raised questions about how far along Miami really is. Both the Dolphins and the Jaguars are rebuilding. The Dolphins appear to be at least a year ahead of the Jags, and they showed it today.

Had Miami lost, at least a dozen red flags would have shot into the sky. The entire organization would have come under fire, and heads would have been called for.

Thankfully, none of those things will happen. Not today, at least. Despite a labored start, Miami came out and exerted its dominance over the Jaguars.  

A big part of Miami's success must be attributed to Ryan Tannehill. The rookie quarterback had one of the best performances of his young career, completing a brilliant 78 percent of his passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 52 yards. 

Tannehill appeared poised and confident, never once getting sacked or throwing an interception. This is the kind of highly efficient quarterback play the Dolphins are looking for out of their rookie. If Tannehill can continue to perform this way on a consistent basis, he may yet become the star we're all hopeful he'll evolve into. 

The defense also performed well. The unit may not have generated any turnovers, but it picked up two sacks and kept the Jags out of the end zone. Even after a big fumble that started Jacksonville at Miami's 20-yard line, the Dolphins defense stood strong and forced a turnover on downs (the costly ineligible-man penalty obviously helped Miami on that drive). 

It was not the prettiest win, however. The Dolphins offense still showed signs of impotence on too many occasions, especially in the second half. Three straight drives in the third quarter ended in either a field goal or no points despite each starting with big plays. 

And yes, that fake field-goal attempt was laughably bad. I probably wouldn't expect to see Brandon Fields throw the ball ever again. 

Miami's secondary also gave up a lot of chunk yardage again. Cecil Shorts picked up 101 yards on six grabs, while Justin Blackmon gained 93 yards on six catches as well. The defense obviously held up and made two fourth-down stops, but Chad Henne's ability to easily find open receivers today further highlighted the Dolphins' primary defensive weakness. 

Pretty or not though, this was an important win for the Dolphins. Sure, they're only 6-8. And yeah, they'll need a miracle to make it into the playoffs. But beating the Jaguars today showed something important for the Dolphins' future. 

It showed that the turnaround is working. It showed that this team is not regressing but rather progressing.

To the NFL's top teams, beating an abysmal team is nothing new. 

For the Miami Dolphins, a team that's close to being counted among the league's best but needs another year or two, beating the Jaguars is an indication that the franchise is heading in the right direction.