Miami Dolphins: 10 Things We Learned From The Fins Week 6 Victory Over Packers
The Miami Dolphins marched into Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon in the aftermath of a disastrous prime time loss at the hands of the New England Patriots. Despite their prior troubles, Miami squeaked out a 23-20 overtime win against the injury-laden Packers, thanks to a game winning field goal by Dan Carpenter.
Miami spiraled into complete disarray after that Week 4 loss. Special Teams coach John Bonamego was fired, criticism swarmed around the organization and coaching staff, and Chad Pennington rumblings began circulating. However, the 'Fins Week 5 bye week seemed to seal the team's wounds, literally and figuratively.
In what seems to be morphing into a regular pattern, Dolfans hit the panic button too soon, and the team responded to their criticisms and adversity.
Cameron Wake Just Might Become a Star
Last off season, the Miami Dolphins scouting department crossed the Canadian boarder in search of a young linebacker who could fill the unavoidable hole aging sack-masters Jason Taylor and Joey Porter would soon leave.
Miami reeled in CFL superstar Cameron Wake, and he has exceeded all expectations. Wake racked up three crucial sacks against the Packers on Sunday, bringing his total to six on the year.
Wake often appears to swim through the line with ease and unstoppable power. His play will not go unnoticed from here on out.
Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall Are on The Same Wavelength
After the Dolphins Week 4 loss to New England, all eyes suddenly shifted to Chad Henne's poor play and Brandon Marshall's exclusion from the game plan. Even though the abysmal special teams play emotionally crushed this team, Henne was pinned as a scapegoat.
Two weeks later, the Dolphins reverted back to a heavy dose of Marshall. Henne sliced up the Packers' 16th ranked pass defense, completing 23 passes for 231 yards, including ten completions to Brandon Marshall.
Henne was still not spectacular in Green Bay, but he is still an incredibly young quarterback in his first full year as a starter. You can support a Chad Pennington swap, but his arm limits what Marshall and the passing game can do.
Special Teams Repeated Mistakes and Are Still The Weak Link of The Team
I would love to praise the Dolphins special teams for a great rebound performance against the Packers, but one game does not defy a successful unit, an entire season does. The Dolphins' special teams performed horribly in the Preseason, and only passably in the team's first three games, and then imploded against the Pats. It was going to happen at some point.
Special teams coach John Bonamego was handed his walking papers, and even with a bye week to recuperate, they still struggled.
Brandon Fields had a punt tipped, and very nearly blocked, and Packers return man Jordy Nelson churned out 18 yards on his only punt return of the day.
On a bright note, Nolan Carroll nearly broke a kickoff return for a touchdown, and is starting to cement his spot on Special Teams.
The Defense Is Still Vulnerable To Pass Heavy Offenses
Although they have performed very admirably to this juncture of the 2010 season, the Dolphins secondary is still a patchwork group of players. Vontae Davis is on the road to becoming an elite player, but he is only in his second year, Jason Allen has been great, but sketchy at times, Sean Smith fell off the face of the planet, and Benny Sapp is simply a serviceable nickel back.
So, when a team like the Packers trots out a pass heavy offense with five or six legitimate receiving threats on the field at any given time, there are problems.
Greg Jennings completely burned Vontae Davis for an 85 yard touchdown, and help was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers tossed 313 yards on just 18 completions.
Overall, though, the secondary posted a pretty decent performance against arguably the league's most lethal passing offense.
The Dolphins Want To Lean On Ronnie Brown, But He Isn't Producing
Finding production out of the running game has not been a problem for the Dolphins since Ricky Williams abruptly retired in 2005.
This year, however, the Dolphins rank 14th in rushing offense, a steep drop off from their 4th overall ranking in 2009.
Ronnie Brown is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and Ricky Williams is averaging 4.1, so they have been consistent. It seems as though neither have a nose for the end zone or for big plays this year.
Brown has been receiving a majority of the carries, and he needs to start making the most of his opportunities. He even failed to convert on a crucial 4th & 1 in the third quarter (why didn't Lousaka Polite get the ball?).
Miami's Offense Needs To Re-Establish Its Identiy
Head coach Tony Sparano has repeated his desire to revert his offense back into the run first, ground 'n' pound game that catapulted the Dolphins into the 2008 Playoffs.
Whether out of lack of trust in his running backs (see slide 5) or timidness, Sparano is yet to live up to his word.
Chad Henne has attempted 131 passes, far outweighing Ricky and Ronnie's 91 rushing attempts. Miami is clearly leaning towards becoming a pass-first offense even though they have only faced a heavy deficit once (against the Patriots) and arguably twice (down 14 to the Jets).
The Dolphins seem a little bit confused as to what they want to do offensively, but they need to clear the air sooner than later.
Dan Carpenter Is on The Verge of Elite
One year removed from a Pro Bowl appearance, Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter is becoming an increasingly reliable source of points for Miami.
Carpenter hit all three of his field goal tries against the Pack on Sunday, smacking a career long 53-yarder, and a game winning 44-yarder through the uprights at Lambeau.
He is now 8 of 10 on field goal tries this season, and one of those attempts was blocked. The rest of the Dolphins special teams is slacking, but it is refreshing to see the kicking game at an all-time high.
Anthony Fasano Might Have Won Team Touchdown Dance Of The Year Honors
It was not flashy, there were no props, and he will not be fined, but Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano performed one of the more memorable Dolphin touchdown celebrations in a very long time.
The fake Lambeau Leap has been performed many, many times before, but none have executed it as seamlessly as Fasano did on Sunday. Once he crossed the goal-line, the tight end did not even hesitate on his way to the stands, only to throw a believable fake jump towards a first row filled with screaming Cheeseheads.
Jason Allen Is Still Doing His Job and Doing It Well
While Jason Allen has been under a harsh and unforgiving microscope all season long, he out-shined teammate Vontae Davis on Sunday.
Granted, Davis was given the brutal task of covering speedster Greg Jennings, Allen was stuck on James Jones and Donald Driver all day, neither of whom are slouches.
Allen deserves copious amounts of credit for his work this season. Might he be a contender for comeback player of the year?
This Win Might Salvage The Dolphins' Season
The old cliche says "every game is a must win," but for the Dolphins, Sunday was a must win. They had to capitalize on a chance to break .500 before running through a gauntlet over the next few weeks.
Miami will host the Steelers next week, then play back to back road games in Cincinnati and Baltimore, and then proceed to host the "Jekyll and Hyde" Titans and Bears the following two weeks.
Had the Dolphins lost to an injury-laden Packers squad, they would have buried themselves in a hole. In a realistic and idealistic scenario, Miami will go 3-2 over this five week span, which would give them a 6-4 record. In the AFC East, they have no games to spare, and that extra game will keep them in contention.