I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and was able to take solace in the fact that the Cowboys eking out a win against our Dolphins prevented us from ruining our draft slot any further for the time being. Being No. 8 is not terrible, but I don't like taking chances, and I want a franchise quarterback!
Now on to the observations...
- Matt Moore definitely came down to earth in this one after a handful of good games. He made some nice throws with help from his receivers, but he was off a lot and didn't have good pocket presence. He probably cost the team the game with a handful of botched snaps that I'd put on Moore rather than Mike Pouncey. The snap before the half recovered by DeMarcus Ware deep in Miami territory was slightly up and to the left, but still 100% catchable. That's on Moore.
- Reggie Bush was mediocre in this one, although I didn't think he got a whole lot of help from the line. Daniel Thomas only had six carries, but he's a much better north-south runner. Perhaps they are being careful with the rookie because of his recurring hamstring issues, but he's clearly the better pure runner and he needs to be more involved the rest of the way.
- One week it's Bush with the breakout game, the next it's Charles Clay. This week it was the receivers. Davone Bess hauled in a touchdown and made a great one-handed grab on another play. Brian Hartline caught four balls for 77 yards, including another impressive toe-tapping sideline grab that's become a regular occurrence for him. And then, you had Brandon Marshall, who had one of those dominant performances we all know him to be capable of. His long touchdown reception was a thing of beauty, as he was literally being strangled by Terence Newman the final five yards and still managed to make the catch. Even Clyde Gates got in on the action a bit and even had a good block on a running play. It'd certainly be nice to see him more involved over the final month of the season.
- This was probably one of the worst games I've ever seen Jake Long play as a pro. He wasn't consistently bad, but he was beaten by Ware a few times and, incomprehensibly, had four penalties between three false starts and a hold.
- The rest of the line wasn't much better in this one, as the running game never really got going and the right side continues to be an issue. Nate Garner replaced an injured Vernon Carey late in the game and did well, and I honestly don't know why this guy isn't starting yet over Carey or Marc Colombo.
- It took DeMarco Murray 22 carries to gain 87 yards, and I thought the Dolphins did a decent job of holding him in check. He was productive, but never really had a home-run play. Jared Odrick is playing very well right now, and one has to wonder what the team is going to do about extending Kendall Langford and/or Paul Soliai. It's not impossible that Randy Starks becomes a cap casualty at some point.
- Cameron Wake notched a sack, giving him 6.5 for the season, but he continues to have an underwhelming year. He's struggling against the run at times, and one would think the lack of any other dangerous pass rushers on the roster has hurt Wake's productivity, now that teams know all about him.
- Kevin Burnett was all over the place in this one, possibly playing with a little extra motivation against the team that drafted him. He was good in coverage and easily overshadowed Karlos Dansby, with 12 tackles to two.
- Both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith made nice plays on interceptions early in the game. It's great to finally see the Dolphins actually coming through on turnover opportunities. Despite Laurent Robinson's two-touchdown day, I liked that Dez Bryant was shut down for most of the game. And you can't totally pin Robinson's second touchdown on Smith, as Smith chased the receiver all over the field while Tony Romo had infinite time to throw.
- I'm still not sure who the free safety should be, but it shouldn't be Tyrone Culver. He simply doesn't have the upside or athleticism to make any big plays. I like Reshad Jones the best of the bunch and I think we'll continue to see him more down the stretch. On a side note, I'm glad to see that Culver was fined $20,000 for his senseless and dangerous hit on Stevie Johnson in last week's game.
- Shayne Graham was a solid 4-for-5, but in a one-point game, that missed 47-yarder ended up being huge. His kickoffs are also fairly unimpressive, though I still can't tell whether the team is aiming for returns over touchbacks. Graham is a good kicker but he won't be long for the team once Dan Carpenter is healthy.
- Another week, another nice day for Brandon Fields. Two of his four punts landed inside the 20, ranking second in the NFL in that category, and he had a long of 58 yards. When you watch punters for other teams, you realize just how good Fields really is.
- Clyde Gates averaged a rock-solid 30 yards on three kickoff returns, and I'm glad he's the man with the job right now. With some better blocking and a little luck, he can definitely take one all the way. Davone Bess, on the other hand, remains useless in this category.
Dolphins fans, desperate for some consistency at quarterback, have been hoping Matt Moore is the answer, but I think this game, and his overall performance this season, show that at best he's a short-term starter. He's under contract through 2012, and he's probably the ideal guy to begin the season as the starter while our likely high draft pick sits and waits in the wings.
There's no doubt the Dolphins are playing better football lately, but this game showed that their recent winning streak was a bit of luck from facing some bad teams. The Dolphins still have their offensive miscues and areas where they just aren't executing (run blocking, pass rush, etc.)
That's all the more reason why I'm hoping the Raiders and the remainder of the teams on the Dolphins' schedule can come out on top. The Dolphins have some good pieces and aren't in Colts territory as far as bad teams go, but a franchise quarterback is sorely needed, and the best way to get one is with a high draft pick next April.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and currently works for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.