3 Keys for Miami Dolphins to Upend the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3
Make that two-for-two for the Miami Dolphins after their victory against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. They have played two road games and have won them both, something that is very hard to do in the NFL.
The Dolphins are now 2-0 for the first time since Abraham Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address. They also took a step in the positive direction in the playoff race. I know it's still very early, but a win against the Colts gives Miami a leg up for a wild-card spot.
Miami will now shift their focus to the Atlanta Falcons. They will finally play their first game at home, another big game. The Dolphins have one of the toughest opening schedules in the league, and if they're able to begin the season with three wins, it would give them a lot of confidence going forward.
It won't be an easy game against a tough Falcons team, but it's certainly winnable given the way Miami has played for the past eight quarters.
Now let's take a look at what Miami has to do to win this game.
Continue Improving the Running Game
The Dolphins saw a lot of improvement in the running game from Week 1 to Week 2. Against the Cleveland Browns last week, Miami rushed for 20 yards on 23 attempts. Those are numbers you don't want to see in back-to-back weeks.
Against the Colts, Miami rushed for 101 yards on 27 carries. These numbers still aren't ideal, but they are much better than in the first game.
Something that may have caused the big difference is the opposing defense. The Browns run defense is much better than the Colts defense. That, however, is still no excuse to average less than one yard per carry.
Now the Dolphins will be facing a Falcons defense that has given up just over 73 yards per game on the ground after two games. The Colts, on the other hand, rank 29th in the league against the run.
If they want Ryan Tannehill to be successful during his second season, the running game needs to help him out. Last week was an improvement, but this week will be a good measuring stick to see how far the running game has really come since that atrocious Week 1 performance.
Can Mike Wallace Repeat His Performance?
The Mike Wallace that the Dolphins paid so much money for showed up big time against the Colts. After catching just one pass for 15 yards against the Browns, Wallace bounced back with nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
It looked like Tannehill and Wallace had some chemistry that was beginning to grow, which is essential going forward.
This week, Wallace will be facing a combination of Asante Samuel and Desmond Trufant. These are two good cornerbacks, but if Wallace is able to get separation like he did against the Colts, he may be having a second straight big game.
The Browns concentrated on stopping Wallace and allowing other wide receivers to be defended one-on-one. However, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson were able to have big games and the Dolphins still managed to win.
If Wallace is able to duplicate his performance, it may force the Falcons to choose between covering him with double-teams or keeping just one defender on him.
Dolphins Defense vs. Falcons Offense
This will be the biggest matchup of the game.
The Falcons are going into Miami with one of the more explosive offenses in the league. Matt Ryan has proven to be a great passer and is even more dangerous with the weapons he has. Roddy White and Julio Jones are able to generate mismatches, and Tony Gonzalez is still a dangerous weapon.
Miami's defense has had two very good games to start the season. They have generated turnovers while making it hard for quarterbacks to throw the ball around.
Even though the Colts have a very good offense, the Falcons offense is better. This will prove to be a tough test for the Dolphins defense, which will also face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints a week after.
If Miami's defense is able to contain Atlanta's offense and give the Dolphins offense good starting field position, Miami has a very good shot at winning this game.