Dolphins vs. Saints: Miami's Blueprint to Knock off New Orleans on MNF

Jesse ReedCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Lamar Miller #26 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 9, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints enter Week 4 with undefeated records, but there's no doubt the Saints are expected by most to win at home on Monday Night Football

Oddsmakers are among those who expect New Orleans to win, as the Saints enter the game as seven-point favorites to win, per Covers.

Given the way the Saints have performed this year—especially on defense—this shouldn't surprise anyone. Under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, this team has allowed just 12.67 points per game, which is a death sentence considering the explosive nature of New Orleans' offense behind superstar quarterback Drew Brees

If the current trends hold for the Saints, then the Dolphins will certainly lose. But trends are made to be broken. 

Here's what Miami must do on Monday night in order to knock off the impressive Saints at home. 


Establish a Running Game Early

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 22:Running back Daniel Thomas #33 of the Miami Dolphins runs the ball against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Falcons 27-23.  (Photo by Marc S
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Miami has done a lot of good things early in the season, but running the ball isn't one of them.

Through three games, the team has failed to establish a rushing attack, averaging just 70.3 yards per game, which ranks No. 27 in the NFL

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas both showed signs of life last weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, rushing for 83 yards with a touchdown, but the duo only combined for 13 carries in the game.

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Running back Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushes upfield in the 4th quarter against the New Orleans Saints September 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Saints won 16  - 14.  (Photo by Al Mess
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman cannot continue to keep his rushing attack on the back burner—especially in Week 4 against the Saints. New Orleans is allowing 5.3 yards per carry this year, and Miami can certainly take advantage.

First and foremost, establishing a running game is beneficial to the young quarterback, Tannehill. When running backs are getting regular carries, opposing defenses necessarily crowd the line of scrimmage in order to stop them from breaking off big gains on the ground. 

This opens up passing lanes down the field, and Tannehill has the arm to get the ball to his receivers over the top of coverage. 

But running the ball effectively is also the best way to help Miami's defense, which will be hard-pressed to keep Brees and his potent offense from scoring points at home. An effective ground game chews up the clock, which keeps Brees on the sideline. 


Pressure Drew Brees into Mistakes

Brees is undoubtedly one of the NFL's premier quarterbacks, but that doesn't mean he's always perfect. No one is in this league.

Sep 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster (59) runs around New Orleans Saints guard Ben Grubbs (66) after intercepting a pass during the second half of the game at Raymond James Stadium. Foster ran the ball back 85
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

A savvy veteran who can carve up any secondary when given enough time, Brees isn't a particularly mobile quarterback and can be pressured into mistakes. Through three games, he has already thrown four interceptions—one of which was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Mason Foster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In that game against the Bucs, Brees threw two interceptions, which were a result of Tampa Bay's ability to pressure the quarterback. The Buccaneers sacked Brees four times in that game and had him on the run throughout the contest. 

Miami has the pass-rushers to get the job done, too. 

Cameron Wake is listed as questionable to play on the team's official injury report with his knee injury, but even if he can't go, the Dolphins have players who can get after the quarterback. 

Defensive tackle Randy Starks will provide invaluable pressure up the middle, while defensive end Derrick Shelby and rookie Dion Jordan will provide the heat off the edge. 


Protect Ryan Tannehill

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 15: Pat Angerer #51 and Bjoern Werner #92 of the Indianapolis Colts converge for the sack on Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 15, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hicke
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

When examining Miami's inability to run the ball, it's clear that the team's offensive line has struggled to create running lanes. This offensive line has been equally bad at protecting its young franchise quarterback, allowing 14 sacks through three games.

When given enough time to throw, Tannehill has been phenomenal. For the season, the second-year signal-caller is completing 66.4 percent of his passes, averaging 249 yards a game while throwing four touchdowns and just two interceptions.

But he's already fumbled the ball five times, thanks to the turnstile of an offensive line Miami has trotted out, and he hasn't had enough time to progress through his reads to find open receivers downfield.

Second-year tackle Jonathan Martin has been atrocious at times, and the play of the interior linemen has been abysmal. The past is something nobody can change, however, and a strong showing on Monday night would go a long way toward putting these mistakes behind this team.

If Miami can protect Tannehill, then the Dolphins have a great chance of shocking the league with a statement win on the road in New Orleans. 


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