Bills vs. Dolphins: 10 Things We Learned from Miami's 35-8 Win
The Dolphins continue to shock the league with unexpected success from unexpected players. Matt Moore tossed three touchdowns, Nolan Carroll intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick and Charles Clay reeled in a touchdown catch.
Miami looked incredibly crisp and synchronized, showing a distinct contrast from the team that looked completely hapless through the first half of the season.
Now that the 'Fins are playing so well, the outlook for the rest of the season and the offseason are starting to change. Here are 10 things we learned from Sunday's win.
Tony Sparano Will Still Be Fired, but Brian Daboll Is Making a Case to Stay
Despite Miami's incredible play over the past three weeks, Tony Sparano is still doomed. Remember, this team greatly underachieved in 2009 and 2010 and was the laughingstock of the NFL for most of this season.
However, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is making a case to stay onboard next season.
Whoever takes over as Miami's general manager will want to clean house and bring in his own staff. But based on the production Daboll has managed to soak out of this offense, he could feasibly keep his job.
Matt Moore Could Be Miami's Starting QB at the Start of the 2012 Season
After struggling through his first four starts with the 'Fins, Matt Moore is gradually becoming a potent passer. He played nearly perfect on Sunday, tossing three touchdowns and posting a 133.3 passer rating.
Even though Moore has played brilliantly over the past three weeks, the Dolphins will most definitely draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. However, Miami would be wise to keep Moore around.
Not only could he help tutor and mentor Miami's draftee, but he could keep the team competitive whilst the rookie develops.
Charles Clay Is a Matchup Nightmare; Should Be Utilized More Often
Charles Clay isn't really a tight end, but he isn't exactly a fullback, either.
So, what is he?
Well, Clay can't exactly classified by position, but he can be classified as a matchup nightmare. At 6'3", 239 pounds, Clay is powerful, yet boasts soft hands and deceptive speed.
Against the Bills on Sunday, he reeled in four receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Clay struggled with injuries for most of the season, but finally seems to have a clean bill of health. If he can stay injury-free, Clay could become a breakout rookie over the second half of the season.
Daniel Thomas' Struggles Persist
In Daniel Thomas' last five games (including Sunday vs. Buffalo), he has accrued a measly 204 rushing yards on 73 carries—resulting in a 2.68 yards per carry average.
Thomas' struggles has been a recurring theme here for weeks now. And statistics aside, he looks very hesitant and unconfident when he has the ball in his hands.
Miami's offensive line definitely shoulders some fault for the rookie's woes, but Thomas needs to start producing at some point, or running back could be a position to address in the offseason.
This Is What the Dolphins Defense Was Supposed to Play Like All Season
After the Dolphins defense finished the 2010 season ranked sixth in the NFL, we all had lofty expectations for 2011. Jared Odrick was returning from injury, Kevin Burnett figured to provide a big upgrade from Channing Crowder and the team's young cornerback duo seemed primed for stardom.
Of course, monumental disappointment ensued, but Sunday's game provided a look at just how good this defense can be.
Miami's infinite rotation of defensive linemen stifled Fred Jackson, and the secondary blanketed Buffalo's receivers throughout the game. Moreover, they played with fire and intensity, laying bone-crushing hits at every opportunity.
If the Dolphins can add some depth to the secondary and linebacker corps, this defense could easily be a top 10 unit in 2012.
Jared Odrick Is Maturing into a Dominant Pass Rusher
When the Dolphins drafted Jared Odrick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, they expected to receive a powerful player who could wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
Unfortunately, Odrick missed the entire 2010 season due to injury, but he is now becoming the player Miami thought he would be.
Odrick has registered a sack in each of the team's last three games, and he is starting to demand attention. With Kendall Langford slated for free agency this summer, Odrick might soon become a focal point on the Dolphins defense.
Miami's Late Season Success Could Carry into 2012
When the Dolphins sat at 0-7, the team looked completely dejected and uninspired. Reggie Bush said "we suck," and Karlos Dansby and Anthony Fasano lashed out at fans supporting the Suck for Luck campaign.
In other words, the Dolphins locker room was a toxic environment.
However, there has been a notable shift in mentality, attitude and energy since Miami defeated the Chiefs three weeks ago. Everybody simply looks in-sync on the field, and more importantly, they look like they're having fun.
Not only will this positive environment attract coaches and free agents, but the Dolphins are learning how to win again. Even though they are bound to lose a few games over the next few weeks, the 'Fins can capitalize on this momentum next season.
The Dolphins Special Teams Had Their First Great Game in Recent Memory
Miami's horrid special teams have plagued the team for years, but they posted their first great performance in recent memory on Sunday.
The 'Fins blocked a punt and turned it into a touchdown, Davone Bess averaged just under nine yards per punt return, and Brandon Fields booted a 64-yard punt.
Special teams generally go overlooked, but they serve a vital purpose in every game—and Sunday's game showed just how much influence a good unit can have on a game.
Those Home Field Woes Are Finally Gone
By defeating the Bills on Sunday, the Dolphins secured back-to-back home victories for the first time since 2009.
Perhaps those home field struggles are finally dissipating.
Not only are the Dolphins winning, but all of the facets that vexed the team in years past—special teams, home field, poor defense—are starting to work in their favor.
We'll See If Miami's Success Is Legitimate on Thursday
There's plenty of reason to be ecstatic about the Dolphins. They have rattled off three straight wins and are no longer the laughingstock of the league.
But, let's temper our enthusiasm. Miami has defeated the Kansas City, Washington and Buffalo. None will reach the playoffs, and there's a good chance that none even finish above .500.
On Thanksgiving Day, however, the Dolphins will square off against the scorching hot Dallas Cowboys. The 'Boys will provide the 'Fins with a worthy adversary. If Miami emerges victorious, then we can start to get seriously excited.