We've previewed the running game, the passing game, and talked with Purple Jesus Diaries about the Vikings. Now it's time to condense everything, and determine what three things need to happen for the Dolphins to pull off the upset in Minnesota and improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2002. By accomplishing a feat this team hasn't in eight years, against a team with Super Bowl aspirations, could the Dolphins finally be resurrected as one of the league's premiere franchises?
Of course, it would still be too early to tell, and the two games that will likely define them the most will come in Weeks 3 and 4, against the Jets and Patriots on national television. But nonetheless, beating the Vikings on the road, a team that hasn't lost at home since 2008, would be a great first step in the right direction, and the media would finally begin to buy into the Dolphins as a legitimate contender. Who cares what ESPN thinks, though. If you've watched this team over the past three years you know what they're capable of.
I mean, if they nearly beat the Colts and Saints last year without the new additions of Brandon Marshall, Karlos Dansby, and Mike Nolan, they are certainly capable of knocking off the Vikings tomorrow afternoon. There's a huge leap between being capable of and actually doing it, though. Thats the next step for the Dolphins. Will they finally take it in the Metrodome tomorrow? Here's what I think needs to happen for them to do just that.
Take the leash off Chad Henne
Last week, with the defense dominating and the running game pretty solid, Dan Henning was content letting Henne dink and dunk all game long, and didn't want to risk turning the ball over. That's not going to cut it against the Vikings. They're too good up front and offensively for that strategy to work. Henne needs to stretch the field early and often to open things up for the underneath stuff and the running game. I'm not saying they should go on a chucking spree, but developing Brandon Marshall and the rest of the receivers' routes further down field isn't too much to ask. It's totally achievable too, especially against the suspect secondary they will face tomorrow. Could this be Brandon Marshall's breakout game as a Dolphin? It would be just what the doctor ordered, and on paper, anyway, appears to be the most realistic scenario for a Miami upset.
Keep things even in the battle of the trenches
Winning the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball would be great. But come on now, how realistic is that? The Vikings have one of the league's best front sevens on defense, and a powerful offensive line that leads the way for the one and only Adrian Peterson on offense. The Dolphins are solid up front on both sides, don't get me wrong. But they are still young and relatively unproven at a number of positions. Containing Adrian Peterson and getting Ronnie and Ricky a good 40 yards a piece seems like an achievable goal, and would surely keep this game competitive; up front anyway. Chad Henne could still blow it by turning the ball over, and the secondary could always revert back to their old Swiss cheese ways. But if the Dolphins can play stride for stride with the Vikings in the trenches, their chances will significantly improve.
Don't turn the ball over and force a takeaway or two
To beat a superior team, you need to protect the football and generate some takeaways of your own. The Dolphins didn't turn the ball over last week, but saw two golden opportunities to blow that game open go in and out of their hands. Benny Sapp and Jason Allen both dropped two likely pick sixes. One thing about Brett Favre, he's probably going to try to force a few passes. When he does, the Dolphins need to capitalize. An interception or two could generate a much needed extra score, but would at least likely give the offense some great field position to work with. Oh, and let's hope Peterson isn't quite over his fumbling issues yet.