The roller coaster that is the 2010 Miami Dolphins continues. Ten days after putting together an inept offensive performance that drew parallels to the John Beck led 07’ squad, the Dolphins had their best offensive outing of the season without the receiver who they dished out a $50 million contract to in the offseason.
Chad Henne quieted all the doubters with arguably his best performance of the season by topping 300 yards and adding two touchdowns, although he did make one ugly mistake in the red zone. And with no Brandon Marshall, guys like Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Patrick Cobbs, and Marlon Moore all stepped up and answered the call.
The attention Brandon Marshall constantly attracts has done wonders for Bess and Hartline in particular this season, but I think it’s fair to say that both proved to be solid NFL starters who are capable of getting the job done on their own.
Maybe this offense doesn’t need Marshall’s services as much as we once thought, but before you go bashing him, let’s give credit to where credit is due for the offense finally putting over 30 points on the board. The coaching staff’s commitment to the running game, and patience not to abandon it when it struggled to produce early on was clearly the difference yesterday.
Balanced offenses will always trump what one-dimensional ones can accomplish. And it just goes to show how true that is when Chad Henne goes for over 300 yards through the air on a day when the Dolphins put the ball on the ground 46 times for nearly 200 yards.
What happened up in Oakland yesterday has to be the blueprint offensively from here on out, even when #19 returns. Obviously, the Dolphins won’t have that type of success every game, as the Raiders do possess one of the league’s worst run defenses, but if the coaching staff can just have the same commitment level to establishing at least some mild success on the ground, this offense will be much better off.
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Because in reality, the final score doesn’t do that offensive performance justice. Let’s not forget Henne’s forced interception in the end zone, Carpenter’s two missed field-goals, or the fact that the Dolphins settled for a whopping six field-goal attempts in the first place. This team’s red zone struggles continue, but just the fact that they moved the ball into Raider territory so many times yesterday has to be reassuring for an offense that looked incapable last week.
The offense was overdue for that type of breakout game, but the Dolphins’ defense was equally impressive, if not more so against what has been one of the league’s most dangerous running teams. Going in we knew that the Dolphins’ 20th ranked run defense was playing much better than what it looked like on paper, but I for one was shocked by how dominate they were against Darren McFadden.
The Raiders totaled a mere 16 yards on 12 carries. That should be all that needs to be said, but considering that 13 of their rushing yards came on a Jacoby Ford reverse, I would say that the Dolphins flat out destroyed the Raiders in the trenches.
The pass defense wasn’t quite as dominate, but they definitely had a very solid outing. The Yeremiah Bell and Chris Clemons interceptions were both great plays on the ball and both halted promising Raider drives.
Gradkowski’s total of 252 yards passing doesn’t look all that bad, but you can hardly blame the Dolphins for surrendering that much yardage. The Raiders’ only offensive touchdown, and really the Dolphins’ only lapse of the game, came courtesy of a perfectly placed Gradkowski pass to Jacoby Ford along the sideline despite outstanding pressure from Yeremiah Bell and pretty solid coverage by Benny Sapp.
Jacoby Ford was also responsible for another huge Raiders’ gain when he made a phenomenal grab by taking the ball right out of Clemons’ hands. I’m not making excuses for the defense, they still need to finish out plays even when they are where they need to be, but I’m simply showing how they were certainly capable of completely shutting down the Raiders’ offense.
At the end of the day, though, the win keeps the Dolphins’ already slim playoff hopes alive for the time being, but there is still an awful lot of work to do if those hopes have any chance of becoming a reality. They will still need either the Jets, Pats, Steelers, or Ravens to lose three more games to stand a chance, but Week 13 provides a great opportunity to make up some ground as the Ravens and Steelers face off on Sunday Night Football and the Pats and Jets do battle on Monday night. First things first, though, the Dolphins need to keep taking care of their own business. It’s a one game season for the Dolphins nowadays, and an improved Browns team is next on the slate.
Fab Five Fins
Chad Henne: Fans may criticize Tony Sparano for pulling the plug on Henne a couple weeks ago in favor of Chad Pennington, but it has to be comforting to see how well Henne has responded to that adversity. He was in the midst of a great game against the Titans before going down with that knee injury, and had one of his best performances of the season yesterday in Oakland.
Davone Bess: What a performance Davone Bess put on for his friends and family. Bess is labeled as a slot receiver but he proved to be capable of much more than that by making plays on the outside as well.
The R&R Express: It’s been awhile since we've heard that nickname, but Ronnie and Ricky finally looked like their old selves by combining for 180 yards on the ground. If the Dolphins really stand a chance in the AFC playoff race, we are going to need to see much more of Ronnie and Ricky down the stretch.
Dolphins’ front seven:Okay, I’m blatantly cheating on this one, but I can’t say enough but how dominate the Dolphins were against what was the league’s 2nd best ground attack. They are now 5th and the Dolphins' once 20th ranked run defense now ranks 13th. That should put things into perspective for you.
Yeremiah Bell: The Dolphins’ offense didn’t exactly capitalize on his interception and fumble recovery but both helped set the tone for a dominating defensive performance.