Miami Dolphins: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the Jackonsville Jaguars' Win

Luke TaylorCorrespondent IIDecember 17, 2012

Miami Dolphins: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the Jackonsville Jaguars' Win

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    The Miami Dolphins improved their record to 6-8 with a dominant 24-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sun Life Stadium yesterday.

    The win snapped their two-game losing streak and kept them in the playoff hunt mathematically, although chances of a playoff berth remain slim to nil at best.

    However, the win was also a relief for the Dolphins for two reasons.

    Firstly, the Jaguars’ name has proven to be a serious case of false advertising recently.

    They are far from the fearless, dangerous predator their name suggests; they more closely resemble a slight undersized and overly-aggressive domestic cat which has just had its claws clipped. The intent is there, but there isn’t a whole lot which threatens you. In other words, losing to Jacksonville means your team is pretty pathetic.

    (When are they going to become my local team and move to London?)

    Secondly, and even more relieving, is the fact that Chad Henne, the Jaguars quarterback, failed to lead Jacksonville to a win over his former club, led by his replacement, Ryan Tannehill.

    The thought of Miami fans reacting to a defeat was seriously worrying; I foresaw hasty conclusions that Henne was the solution after all, Tannehill was a bust and the entire Dolphins’ product was pathetic, while the world was plagued with even more “Fireland” rhetoric and merchandise than we are already subjected to. Things would have gotten ugly…

    Fortunately, Tannehill had a great day, and the Dolphins ran out deserving winners. So, here’s a recap of the good, the bad and the ugly from Miami’s win.

The Good

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    Ryan Tannehill registered a season-high passer rating of 123.2, as he comfortably outplayed his predecessor, Chad Henne, completing 22-of-28 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns to lead Miami to victory.

    He showed good poise and footwork in the pocket and made good use of his speed and athleticism on several occasions too, running for 52 yards on eight plays, including a 30-yard run.

    It may have been against a very poor defense, but Tannehill had a very impressive day both on the ground and through the air, and you can only play against what is in front of you. He made some tough throws and improved in the red zone to throw two touchdowns to Jorvorskie Lane and Anthony Fasano.

    It was also encouraging to see Tannehill rolling out more often, and some inventive play-calling in the red zone managed to get Lane wide open for six points. Fasano opened on a successful two-point conversion. Credit must go to Mike Sherman for that.

    Miami marched down the field with drives of 76, 60, 64 and 85 yards in the second half and limited Jacksonville to just 14 minutes possession in the final three quarters. Sherman deserves credit for that, while the players executed well too.

    In contrast, Chad Henne is exactly what we thought he was.

    For the record, I liked Henne and was desperate for him to succeed, but this game was proof that the Dolphins had to cut ties and move on. Henne made some good throws, but was inconsistent and inaccurate and threw a number of checkdown passes instead of taking gambles down the field.

    It was pleasing to see Tannehill outplay Henne, and it will be even better to see Tannehill when he is surrounded by weapons, and he put up great numbers against Jacksonville with a very weak receiving corps.

    Anthony Fasano and Brian Hartline proved the most reliable receivers, with the tight end catching six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown and Hartline gaining 77 yards on five receptions. Fasano showed what he can do in the red zone and how reliable he can be when he isn’t needed to help on the offensive line.

    Hartline, meanwhile, became only the eight receiver to go over 1,000 yards for a season. It was a fantastic feat for Hartline, and a well-deserved one at that. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, but it is important that he remains in Miami, as he has great chemistry with Tannehill and is a very underrated receiver in the NFL

    Reggie Bush also ran for 104 yards on 21 attempts, although he struggled at times until breaking off a 53-yarder.  It would have been nice to see him used more in the passing game, but another 100-yard game is not to be sniffed at.

    The defense also played well, particularly on fourth down, where they stuffed the Jaguars three times to turn the ball over on downs. Excellent stops by Karlos Dansby (for the second successive week) and Jason Trusnik did the job before Cam Wake batted down a pass to end the game.

    Jared Odrick and Kevin Burnett both registered sacks, as the Dolphins held Jacksonville to a paltry three points, which were registered on its opening drive.

    Meanwhile, Miami’s own kicker, Dan Carpenter, went 3-for-3 on distances of 51, 30 and 31 yards. He also booted five of six kickoffs for a touchback. Do Dolphins fans still want Kid Rock replaced?

The Bad

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    There wasn’t much seriously wrong with the Dolphins on Sunday, but there were a few minor issues which can be improved.

    The first was the Dolphins converting just 2-of-5 trips to the red zone into touchdowns against a poor Jaguars defense. Miami need to find a way to turn three into six points, and it isn’t doing it consistently yet. A third-down conversion rate of 54 percent could also be improved against a team as poor as Jacksonville.

    Miami’s slow start was hampered by a disappointing running game for much of the game. Reggie Bush couldn’t find running lanes until his big run, and he also looked tentative at times. Miami needs a big north-south runner this offseason if it isn’t confident in Daniel Thomas.

    Tannehill was strip sacked as the only Dolphins’ turnover, which was a small blot on a solid day for the offensive line. Jonathan Martin coped well at left tackle, but he will face sterner tests than Jacksonville’s pass rush, and might be up against Mario Williams next week.

    The defense again failed to get a takeaway too. This can be forgiven due to its  fourth-down heroics, but it needs more impact plays from the unit. I am a fan of Jared Odrick, but it does grate to see the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas returning a pick 59 yards for a touchdown when Miami traded back and selected Odrick instead of taking Thomas at a position of need in the 2010 draft.

    The secondary allowed Cecil Shorts a 101-yard game, although a lot of that can be put down to injuries. Sean Smith shadowed Shorts, the Jaguars’ top receiver, for much of the game, even though he would have been better matched up with Justin Blackmon. That is due to poor depth in the secondary, and an injury to Nolan Carroll didn’t help matters; he may miss the final two games.

    RJ Stanford came in the game and gave up a touchdown to Blackmon, which was reversed by a penalty. Stanford was then replaced by Bryan McCann.

    Richard Marshall is missed by Miami, and it is imperative that the Dolphins get cornerback help in the offseason. FSU’s Xavier Rhodes would be a nice second-round pick, but it was interesting to see Tannehill rarely throw the ball in the direction of Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox. It was a sign of respect from Miami’s offense and a recognition of Cox’s talents. For the record, Cox is a free agent this offseason.

    It was a shame to see Miami only sack Henne twice too, and Wake failed to add to his sack totals (not least because I chose the Dolphins defense over the Bengals in fantasy football). The Dolphins still  need a pass-rushing option opposite Wake, and a first-round prospect could be available when Miami picks in the draft. It was nice to see Olivier Vernon force a holding call when he blitzed a guard yesterday, though; perhaps his speed could see him used against slower guards more often.

    On offense, Charles Clay suffered an injury. It’s too early to know how long he will be sidelined for, but with Miami missing Davone Bess yesterday and no one really establishing themselves as a new option for Tannehill, he could be missed.

    That being said, if he does miss games, Michael Egnew may be called upon. The rookie was a seam threat in college, but has struggled with the transition to the NFL. He is what Miami’s offense needs though. The only problem is that he clearly is not ready for the NFL. If he was, he would have played already. If he is active next week, it really could go either way…

The Ugly

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    On the field, there was only one ugly moment…

    I loved the idea of the fake field goal attempt, but…err…well, the execution….hmm…not great?

    Brandon Fields’ attempted pass went so far out of bounds, it might have sailed into the crowd. It was pretty bad. Reminiscent of Mark Sanchez earlier this season, in fact.

    So yes, I don’t expect that will happen again. I will do my best to strike this attempt from my memory and pretend it never happened.

    One other question: Did anyone actually go to the game? I would hate to see the financial hit Stephen Ross took buying up those empty seats to avoid a blackout.

Around the AFC East

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    The Steelers' loss to the Cowboys kept Miami’s (so faint they are almost transparent) playoff hopes alive, but it would take a win in New England and the Browns to beat Pittsburgh for this to happen.

    However, the Patriots lost to the 49ers in New England, which is always good to see: proof that they can be beaten in Foxborough, but also that the Niners are legitimate Super Bowl contenders (making last week’s effort from Miami in San Francisco even more respectable).

    It also means the Patriots might not get their bye in the playoffs. The harder it is for the Brady Bunch to make the Super Bowl, the happier I am.

    Buffalo took another trip north of the border to play in Toronto and lost again. I get the feeling that most people in Toronto don’t much care for the Bills. A 50-17 loss to Seattle probably did little to change their mind.

    Just one week after running a fake punt in their 58-0 drubbing of Arizona, the Seattle Seahawks ran another, as they were up 47-17 in Toronto against Buffalo. Yet another outing for Pete Carroll’s finest tendencies.

    Sexy Rexy’s vomit-green cheating machine play the Titans on Monday Night Football. I wonder how low the viewing figures will be for that; I don’t expect many are excited by the matchup.

    And briefly, elsewhere in the NFL, did anyone in the world tune in for Oakland Raiders’ win
    over Kansas City Chiefs? Anyone at all?

    If so, you need to explain yourselves immediately. The only possible excuse is that you support one of the two teams, and even then, I’m not sure it’s good enough.

    It looks like Jacksonville and Kansas City will be fighting it out to see which of them gets to select this year’s vastly overrated quarterback with the first pick of the 2013 NFL draft.

    Then again, Oakland end up going another year with Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor, so it’s not all bad.

Next Up…

5 of 5’s the Buffalo Bills in Miami.

    Coming off the back of a serious spanking by the Seahawks, Miami will want a win over its divisional rivals. Buffalo was eliminated from the playoff running this week and fell to 5-9, one win behind the Dolphins, so have nothing but pride left to play for.

    It would be really nice for Miami to not finish at the bottom of the AFC East this year, and a win would confirm that.

    The flip-side of this is the Bills getting a good draft pick, which they use to take Manti Te’o. That would be very unwelcome.

    Anyway, the key next week is to bottle up CJ Spiller, and I’d be disappointed if they do not come away with the win.

    All in all, it’s been a good week for the Dolphins, and there is hope that they can build on it for next week too.