Starting the season 2-0 before even playing a home game, and beating the NFC runner-up in their own building, is going to qualify for some national attention. Nobody is going to be sleeping on the Dolphins anymore. But how much of that is legitimate, and are they really a championship contender, or just the beneficiary of two sputtering offenses?
Shutting down the Bills offense is a nice accomplishment on the road, but they're going to be at the bottom or near the bottom of most offensive statistical categories at years end. The Vikings on the other hand, appeared to beat themselves. Three interceptions and a lost fumble that resulted in a Dolphins touchdown for Brett Favre, and two failed fourth down conversions deep in Miami territory motivated Visanthe Shaincoe to hint that they gave the game away.
To an extent he has a point, but then again, what game was he watching? Ricky Williams gift wrapped the Vikings their only touchdown, and single handedly left the door open for them to get back in that game after trailing 14-0 in the third quarter.
Later on, after Jason Allen picked off Brett Favre for a second time, the Dolphins had another opportunity to close the deal. Ronnie Brown gave it right back on the next play. So while the media may portray Sunday's win as more of Brett Favre's fault than anything, don't buy it.
It was Cameron Wake that brought the pressure all game long. It was Vontae Davis making an outstanding play, intercepting that ball in the redzone, and it was Jason Allen who had perfect coverage on Favre's other two picks. It was Karlos Dansby who rose to the occasion on fourth and goal. And at the end of the day, no matter what it looked like, or how ugly it was, it was the Dolphins who knocked off the Vikings at home for the first time since 2008.
There is really only one thing left for this defense to prove. We know they are capable of stopping the run, even though Peterson really got going in the second half, and we know they are going to get after the quarterback. We've yet to see them go against an elite passing attack, though. I don't even need to address the Bills, and the Vikings have a depleted receiving core.
Sanchez played well against the Patriots, but I still don't think this improved secondary will get their first true test until Week 4 against Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker. If we can see the type of lockdown coverage we saw yesterday from Vontae Davis and Jason Allen, against New England, I will be ready to jump head first on the "this defense is the real deal" bandwagon. At the very least, though, they are significantly better than they were a year ago, and good enough to compete against elite offenses.
One thing that can't be argued, though, is that the defense could use a little help. The defense got this team to 2-0. The offense did their job by not blowing it in Buffalo, but they nearly did just that in the Metrodome.
I don't think we need to talk about the fumbles anymore. It's a shame they happened, but come on, we are talking about Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams here- the bread and butter of the offense.
I will say I'm slightly concerned about Ricky, though. He had some ball security issues down the stretch last year, and even looked like he bobbled the ball at least once earlier in yesterday's game. But the Dolphins really don't have a choice but to put the miscues behind them and trust these guys. Without them, this offense wouldn't have an identity.
The Dolphins may be relying too much on that identiy, though. In case you missed it, Chad Henne set a franchise record for fewest pass attempts in a half with five. He only added nine more in the second-half, for a whopping total of fourteen. Why exactly do you go out and spend $50 million on an alpha receiver, if your only going to use him on a limited basis?
Grant it, some of it had to do with Minnesota dominating in the time of possession battle, thus cutting down on some of the Dolphins opportunities. But the defense isn't going to win every game for you. You have to go out and score some points to help them out.
Why not get the ball down field more? It worked to perfection on the first play of the game. Some consider Marshall to be the best athlete in football. Utilize that. Throw him some jump balls down the sideline. I promise you, he's going to make some game-changing plays if you give him the opportunity. When he does, and the defense is back on their heels, then go back to pounding the rock.
On the bright side, the Dolphins proved they can run the ball against anybody. The Vikings have one of the better run defenses in football. Maybe they are on the decline, but it's still tough sledding trying to get the ground game going against the Williams' wall.
Heading into the game, I said about 40 yards a piece from Ronnie and Ricky would be enough to keep things competitive. They wound up combining for 110 yards, and the Dolphins as a whole put up 120 yards on the ground. If they can run the ball like that against that front seven, they should be able to have their way with just about any defense.
Now, of course, the fumbles are unacceptable, and the passing game still obviously has a long way to go. But lackluster offense or not, the Dolphins are winning, and winning on the road. They are currently in first place in the AFC East, and have a golden opportunity to seize control of this division in the next two weeks.
Fab Five Fins
Jason Allen: Two picks, eleven tackles, and three passes defensed. Really, enough said, but this is turning out to be a great story. He's finally living up to where he was taken in the draft, and it couldn't come at a better time for this secondary.
Vontae Davis: Brett Favre threw him praises after the game, and fans are starting to buy into him as a Pro Bowl caliber corner. I want to see him matched up against an elite receiver before I go that far, but nonetheless, he's played at that level for two games.
Cameron Wake: I'm starting to think this guy is unblockable. Through two games he's showing the league why Dolphin fans were so high on him after last season. He's already registered 2.5 sacks, and made the play of the game (and that's saying something) when he stripped Favre in the end zone.
Karlos Dansby: I love what Brandon Marshall brings to the offense as much as the next guy, but I'm starting to think the biggest player acquisition this offseason was the signing of Karlos Dansby. The guy makes plays, plain and simple. Sunday, he saved the game by stuffing Adrian Peterson on fourth and goal late in the fourth quarter.
Jake Long: The much anticipated battle between Jake Long and Jared Allen was pretty one sided. Allen got to a scrambling Henne a couple times, but that wasn't Long's fault. He locked up one of the league's premiere pass rushers for most of the game. Is there any doubt now, that the Dolphins have one of the top two or three tackles in football?