Despite allowing a 101-yard kickoff returned for a touchdown to begin the game, the Miami Dolphins dominated the Oakland Raiders for most of the game in Week 12 on the way to a 33-17 victory.
Quarterback Chad Henne excelled with over 300 yards and two touchdown passes, while the running game helped eat up more than 40 minutes of the clock as the Dolphins controlled the ball for much of the game.
The Dolphins are now 6-5 and still alive in the playoff hunt, with a home matchup against a 4-7 Cleveland Browns team that is playing better than their record indicates.
Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Raiders in Week 12:
- I was pleasantly surprised to see Chad Henne have such a good game after all he's been through with a benching and an injury over the past month. He excelled against the NFL's third-ranked pass defense, which was missing a fully healthy Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback. Henne picked on rookie Walter McFadden all game and did an excellent job of putting the ball where it needed to be and converting first downs. Aside from his lone interception, which admittedly was a terrible decision, Henne's play was excellent.
- One qualm I had about the way the Dolphins ran the offense was interruptions Chad Henne saw to his playing time with a few Tyler Thigpen draws and plenty of wildcat plays. Yeah, it worked out in the end and the Dolphins won, but I don't like taking your starting quarterback out for two downs, then throwing him back out there on third-and-11 and expecting him to convert. Henne needs to fully be given the keys to the offense.
- As much as the Dolphins controlled the clock in this one, the running game was actually pretty lackluster again. Aside from his late 45-yard touchdown run, Ricky Williams averaged 2.6 yards per carry, while Ronnie Brown came in at 3.5-yard average on a season-high 24 carries. Those kinds of numbers won't move the chains, so it's a credit to Henne, who had over 300 yards, moving the ball and converting first downs through the air.
- Patrick Cobbs burned the defense for a touchdown on a wonderfully drawn-up play, and it's nice to see him back having a role on offense.
- Davone Bess had a nice homecoming in Oakland, as did Brian Hartline. The Dolphins certainly aren't better off without Brandon Marshall, but it was good to see the Dolphins' primary receivers step up in his absence.
- Lets not get too high on Marlon Moore just yet. He played well for his first offensive playing time in the NFL, but his touchdown was a bit of luck and a bad play on the ball by the defender, so it's not really indicative of the undrafted rookie's talent. I'm still a bigger Roberto Wallace fan.
- The tight ends were nowhere to be found for Miami in this one, as Fasano totaled two catches for 10 yards and the backup was invisible as always. The running game wasn't too productive either, so it's not like they were busy blocking defenders with much success.
- Assessing the Dolphins' sacks, the first two (one each by Raiders safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch) were the result of the defense bringing more guys than Miami could block. Huff came past Lousaka Polite and Branch past Jake Long, but both Dolphins players were blocking other players and wasn't beaten by the sacking player. The third sack of the day was technically Long's man, but it was John Jerry who allowed Tommy Kelly to come in practically untouched and run Henne into Desmond Bryant, who got the take-down.
- The running game suffered once again at the hands of the interior line. Center Joe Berger and left guard Richie Incognito were the biggest culprits, as per usual. Both need to go in the offseason, or at least be relegated to the bench.
- No one really stood out on the defensive line, but they did a good job shutting down what few attempts the Raiders made to run the ball, while getting solid pressure on Bruce Gradkowski and never letting him get totally comfortable.
- Cameron Wake wasn't around standing out for much of the game, but he did have two tackles for a loss and got into double-digit sacks for the year by taking Gradkowski down late in the game. Koa Misi had a nice play against the run but was largely invisible, while Quentin Moses apparently wasn't able to motivate himself enough to play well against the team that drafted and cut him within a few months (for good reason, mind you).
- Tim Dobbins actually outplayed Channing Crowder as he did a nice job filling in for an injured Karlos Dansby (wrist). Dobbins did have a blatant and laughable tripping penalty, but he played much better Sunday than he did earlier in the season when filling in for Crowder.
- Vontae Davis and Sean Smith apparently were late to a team meeting and benched to start the game, but they responded well and turned in good games. They both seem like good kids, so one hopes they'll get more mature and stay out of the doghouse.
- Benny Sapp does way too much talking for someone that isn't very good. He'd talk trash and gesticulate after every incompletion his way, whether he did anything or not, and Jacoby Ford owned him for most of the day.
- Chris Clemons finally got his first interception on an under-thrown ball to Jacoby Ford, but reverted back to his old self when another ball that should have been picked ended up being caught by Ford on a spectacular grab. It's good Clemons is in position to make plays a lot, but I'd prefer him to actually come down with a few more turnovers.
- After what I would call a pretty down year, Yeremiah Bell turned in a really good performance on Sunday. He pulled down an interception, recovered a fumble and made some nice plays against the run.
- Dan Carpenter had a bit of a rough day, going 4-for-6 on field goals with misses from 49 and 51 yards. Both are long tries, so it's nothing to be too concerned about. It is a bit odd he came up short on the 51-yarder, though.
- Obviously, the kickoff coverage has to get better. The 101-yard touchdown return was inexcusable, although I will credit the coverage team with putting a clamp on the Raiders' returns from that point on. Credit to Roberto Wallace, Jonathon Amaya (more than once) and Lex Hilliard for some nice tackles.
- Davone Bess actually made some plays returning, with a 47-yard punt return that nearly doubled his previous career long. The Dolphins obviously blocked well on that one (or the Raiders didn't cover well) because Bess is far from explosive on returns.
This was a strange game to watch, as it was dominated by the Dolphins in terms of time of possession and rushing attempts, but the running game wasn't really productive. The only reason the Dolphins were able to covert first downs was because Henne was often on point and made good plays.
Some of the Dolphins' old problems again reared their heads, like poor run blocking by the interior offensive line and shaky special teams coverage. While it's great the Dolphins won and played well in some areas, you have to look at the bad too and shouldn't get too high about this win.
The Dolphins have a better team than Cleveland and should win at home next week, but the Browns are playing well and aren't going to go down without a fight.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
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