Dolphins passing attack: 235.0 pass ypg (13th)
Bengals passing attack: 270.8 pass ypg (6th)
Dolphins pass defense: 216.5 pass ypg (17th)
Bengals pass defense: 222.0 pass ypg (19th)
Dolphins passing stats
C. Henne: 130-206, 63.1%, 1,452 yards, 8 TD's, 6 INT's
B. Marshall: 42 rec. 524 yards, 1 TD
D. Bess: 32 rec. 348 yards, 3 TD's
B. Hartline: 20 rec. 234 yards, 1 TD
Bengals passing stats
C. Palmer: 151-244, 61.9%, 10 TD's, 6 INT's
T. Owens: 40 rec. 564 yards, 3 TD's
C. Ochocinco: 36 rec. 424 yards, 2 TD's
J. Shipley: 21 rec. 321 yards, 1 TD
Back on Tuesday, when we looked at how the these two teams matched up in the running game, it was quite clear, on paper at least, that the Dolphins have the advantage on both sides of the ball. The passing game is the strength of this Cincinnati team, though.
On offense they posses potentially the most lethal wide receiver duo in football with T.O. and Ochocinco, and on defense, many have praised Leon Hall and Johnathan Joesph as the best corner tandem in the entire league.
Needless to say, the Bengals' passing game is a big reason why I have a strong feeling they are much better than their 2-4 record suggest. That's why the Dolphins better get over their controversial loss to the Steelers in a hurry, because the Bengals are a playoff caliber team that is very capable of dropping the Dolphins below .500 for the first time of the season.
Bengals passing attack vs. Dolphins secondary
The Bengals' mediocre record is probably the main reason why Terrell Owens and Ochocinco's prolific season together isn't getting too much attention. When I see the numbers Owens is putting up, I can't help but wonder why nobody wanted to sign him in the offseason. Sure, he's old and doesn't exactly have a model character, but you can't tell me teams couldn't have used a good 1,500 receiving yards, which is what he's on pace for.
Based on the way Vontae Davis has played, we know not to worry too much about one side of the field, but it's the other side that has me nervous. Jason Allen has been hit and miss this season, and was badly burnt by Mike Wallace a week ago. Rumor is, Sean Smith will once again return to the starting lineup against the Bengals.
Despite not picking off a pass in his rookie season, I was a huge fan of how well Smith played last year. He made his rookie mistakes, but overall he showed some lockdown potential, and was actually thrown at far fewer times than Vontae Davis. If only Smith could make the same huge strides Davis has made in his second season, this Dolphins' secondary would be set for years to come and they could possibly challenge Mr. Hall and Joseph for that "best corner duo in the league" title.
But that is very optimistic. Davis and Smith are completely different players, and will develop at different speeds. But if Smith can come out, for this game at least, with a chip on his shoulder for getting benched for the first six games and attempt to cement his name in stone for that starting position opposite Davis, we should see a solid, inspired performance out of the kid.
Regardless of how well the corners play, they can always use a little help from the pass rush. Cameron Wake and Koa Misi haven't disappointed replacing Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, and they are only going to get better and better as the season goes on. Last week we saw the Dolphins pressure Big Ben frequently, but because Roethlisberger is just so good at hanging in the pocket and keeping the play alive it didn't result in a bunch of sacks and didn't help the secondary out much.
Carson Palmer doesn't have the same sort of mobility that Roethlisberger does, and he is battling a hip injury that forced him to sit out Thursday's practice to boot. I see the Dolphins' front seven having another big day, and possibly forcing a turnover or two from Palmer. That still probably won't be enough to stop the Bengals from moving the ball through the air, though.
Dolphins passing attack vs. Bengals secondary
Like I said in the running game preview, Sunday will provide a golden opportunity to get back to running the football successfully. That doesn't mean Chad Henne can't have another big day. Yes, the Bengals have a very good corner tandem, but their third contributor, Adam Jones, is out for the season and Leon Hall did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with a hamstring injury and Johnathan Joseph has only practiced on a limited basis due to a hurt ankle.
Add corner Morgan Trent, safety Chinedum Ndukwe, and safety Roy Williams to the list of those who haven't practiced and the Bengals have a pretty banged up secondary. That obviously doesn't mean the Dolphins should get all pass happy, but it does mean this Bengals' pass defense must be tested early and often, regardless of most of these injured players play or not.
Look back to the Green Bay game. That's the type of balanced approach this offense should try to employ week in and week out. Against teams like the Steelers that's obviously impossible because they are so stout against the run. But against a team like the Bengals, there's no excuse because they aren't dominate against the run or pass.
Even if the Dolphins have consistent success on the ground, hopefully we see Dan Henning let Henne take some shots at the endzone once Miami moves the ball to the Cincinnati redzone. The Dolphins should have learned their lesson last week. You can't settle for field goals and win in this league. Yes, you have to take the points once you hit fourth down under most circumstances, but the redzone struggles is what is currently holding this Dolphins' offense back.
I would be willing to bet this offense ranks in the top ten by year's end in total offensive yardage. But unless they improve in the redzone and put more points on the board, all of that won't matter a whole lot, because it likely won't lead to any more wins. Besides giving Henne a true go-to threat, I was especially excited about this team's redzone potential once they acquired Brandon Marshall.
How many fade routes to the corner of the endzone have we seen thrown Marshall's way? There was that back shoulder throw that was slightly off the mark last week against the Steelers, but other that, it seems like the Dolphins have been using Marshall as more of a decoy than anything near the goal line. That needs to change in a hurry. Marshall is too big of target to only have one touchdown on the season.
One thing to be very optimistic about, though, is the lack of a Bengal pass rush. They have only registered six sacks collectively so far, which is fewer than Cameron Wake all by himself. When you add that to the fact the Dolphins' offensive line has been very effective in pass protection, Henne should have plenty of time to scan the field on Sunday.
Dolphins passing attack: 235.0 pass ypg (13th)
Dan Carpenter: 13-15 FG's, Long 53
Brandon Fields: 42.0 yard average, 12 IN20, Long 68, 2 punts blocked
Davone Bess: 7 returns, 13.0 yard average, Long 18
Patrick Cobbs: 10 returns, 20.9 yard average, Long 30
Nolan Carroll: 9 returns, 24.3 yard average, Long 37
Punt Coverage: 13 returns, 4.7 yard average, Long 19
Kick Coverage: 20 returns, 30.1 yard average, Long 103, 1 TD
Mike Nugent: 14-16 FG's, Long 54
Kevin Huber: 44.5 yard average, 11 IN20, Long 73
Quan Cosby: 9 returns, 6.0 yard average, Long 10
Adam Jones: 5 returns, 6.6 yard average, Long 27
Benard Scott: 13 returns, 20.2 yard average, Long 60
Adam Jones: 7 returns, 19.1 yard average, Long 29
Punt Coverage: 8 returns, 6.5 yard average, Long 20
Kick Coverage: 25 returns, 28.9 yard average, Long 97, 1 TD
After the Steelers fumbled the opening kickoff and the Dolphins conclusively recovered, it appeared the special-teams woes were officially in the rear view mirror. The Dolphins went on to cover several other kicks well, but conceded 37 and 48-yard returns to Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders, who went on to be named AFC Special-teams player of the week.
Both returns set up Steeler scores, and both killed momentum the Dolphins were beginning to build. We've seen how well the kickoff unit can cover kicks, now it's just time to see it consistently. And by consistently I mean every single time.
On the bright side, we didn't see any blocked punts or kicks, and Dan Carpenter was once again ol' reliable, nailing all five of his field-goal attempts. Sure, we want to see more touchdowns, but it's comforting to know Carpenter is almost a guaranteed three points if the offense happens to sputter.
Against the Bengals this week, the Dolphins will actually be facing a unit that has been almost as bad covering kicks. Cincinnati is nearly allowing 30 yards per kick return themselves, and have also had one taken back to the house.
Dolphins' kick returner Nolan Carroll has showcased some potential returning kicks and has very nearly broken off a few big returns. Too bad he's banged up and has missed the whole week of practice, though, because this Bengals coverage unit may have been the first victim of a big Carroll return.
Patrick Cobbs will fill in admirably, though, but won't be much of a threat to take one the distance because of lack of breakaway speed. He will hit the whole hard and possibly set the Dolphins up with solid field position, however.
In my humble opinion, the Dolphins are a better team than the Bengals right now, and should be the favorite to come out with another close win on the road. That would change in a hurry, though, if the Dolphins happen to make another costly mistake in the kicking game.
Dolphins running game: 107.0 rush ypg (16th)
Bengals running game: 100.2 rush ypg (19th)
Dolphins run defense: 100.8 rush ypg (12th)
Bengals run defense: 118.0 rush ypg (22nd)
Bengals leading rushers
C. Benson: 123 att. 476 yds. 3.9 ypc, 2 TD's
B. Scott: 18 att. 92 yds. 5.1 ypc
Dolphins leading rushers
Ronnie Brown: 76 att. 313 yds. 4.1 ypc, 1 TD
Ricky Williams: 67 att. 288 yds. 4.3 ypc
After watching the Heat's lackluster performance last night, maybe it's not time for the city to move on to basketball season just yet. Despite the blown opportunity last week and despite being in a stacked division and conference, the Dolphins have a golden opportunity in the next three weeks to stake a claim in the heated playoff race.
Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, it's all about how they respond emotionally after such a heart breaking loss to the Steelers. If they come out still hungover from last Sunday, the Bengals are a good enough team to expose them big time at home. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Cincinnati runs them off the field in a uninspired blowout. But then again, they could come out with a cheap on their shoulder after feeling slighted by the refs the week before.
This team is very young, with some new faces assuming critical leadership positions. We just don't know what to expect from them yet. But let's move on from the emotional part of the game and get back to X's and O's.
Bengals running game vs. Dolphins run defense
The run defense was phenomenal in that second half on Sunday. The Dolphins were getting to Mendenhall nearly the second Roethlisberger handed him the ball. Even more encouraging was how well Wake and Misi contained the edge, which appeared to be this defense's biggest weakness before this past Sunday.
If this front seven can dominate one of the best running game's in the business, there is an awful lot to be excited about defensively Dolphin fans. Many fans were probably so caught up in the controversial call, they really haven't given the front seven the credit they deserved for that performance. Of course, though, it can easily go under the radar when the secondary is surrendering big play after big play.
Nonetheless we should expect similar stoutness against the run this Sunday. The Bengals haven't been running the ball as well as they have the past couple seasons, and Cedric Benson is averaging a shade under four yards per carry. After what we saw this defense do against the Steelers, it's not acceptable to get gashed on the ground anymore.
We now know this front seven is capable of great things. Consistency is obviously the next step, though.
I think the biggest reason for improvement has been Channing Crowder's return. Say what you want about his mouth and play-making abilities, but the dude can fill run lanes. Also, despite Jared Odrick getting knocked out for the year, the Dolphins are starting to find the right mix for the front three.
Tony McDaniel has stepped in effectively at defensive end when the Dolphins move Randy Starks to nose tackle, and Paul Soliai has played like a starting caliber nose tackle when Starks lines up at end.
Dolphins running game vs. Bengals run defense
The Dolphins had to stray away from the approach they took against the Packers that yielded their best all-around offensive outing of the season. Dan Henning was able to strike up the right balance of the run and pass in that thrilling overtime victory in Lambeau. Against the Steelers, though, the Dolphins were forced to become one dimensional because you simply can't line up and run on that dominate Pittsburgh front seven. They moved the ball fairly effectively but faltered in the redzone in large part because of a lack of a running game.
Against the Bengals, though, there really is no excuse for not returning to that balanced approach. Of course, hopefully Dan Henning doesn't get too conservative either. Henne has been playing well and deserves his share of opportunities to move the football, but when this offense has been at it's best, they have been running the football successfully.
If Ronnie and Ricky can return to the form and consistently pick up a good four to five yards a pop on Sunday, things are going to be considerably more manageable for Henne and the passing game. The play-action pass will once again enter the equation, and this offense will have the potential to be near unstoppable if they can run the ball like they did last year with Henne playing as well as he has the last couple games.
That's still a pretty big "if" at the moment, though. And for this running game to get back on track the interior offensive line needs to get its act together in a hurry. That brings me to John Jerry. Forget about him? Yes, the promising rookie hasn't been on the field since Week 2, but if you can remember back that far, he was actually playing like the most consistent interior lineman the Dolphins had.
I'm not blaming the woes all on Jerry's replacement, but the drop off has been considerable since Pat McQuistan entered the lineup. Hopefully, that's about to change in a hurry, because according to some practice reports today Jerry was back working with the starters. The Dolphins may just be testing him out to see where he's at, and who knows how well he will even perform after missing so much time, but the ceiling is much higher for this running game with Jerry alongside Berger and Incognito.
Let's not forget that the Benglas are ranked in the bottom half of the league when it comes to stopping the run. Sounds like a great opportunity to get back to Dolphin football.
No matter how many times we look at the image of Ikaika Alama-Francis holding the football in his hand out of the pile, bash the two refs responsible for all of this madness, and tell ourselves over and over again that we got screwed, what's done is done. There is nothing that can be said that will make anything better. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dolphins on Sunday, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Having said that, the outcome of such a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching defeat is still undecided. Sunday's game is a thing of the past, but the impact of Sunday's call will surely influence more than just one game. That impact will either be positive or negative. The physical equation is only half of football. The mental and emotional part of the game hold equal influence in a parity driven league.
When teams suffer a loss like the Dolphins did on Sunday, two things can happen. The first being they could crumble under the adversity and fall apart. Maybe, just maybe, though, they could come together and rally around each other with the "us against the world" mentality. That saying has become cliche in the sporting world, but it could serve as a springboard to a miraculous playoff run if the leaders in that locker room can unite this team like they need to.
I think most mature fans realize that the call didn't cost the Dolphins the game. Like I mentioned yesterday, they did settle for five field goals after all. And that's not even taking into account the fact that the Dolphins probably would have went three and out from their own twenty, and punted the ball away to the Steelers with plenty of time on the clock in a two point game.
Even though it may be an exaggeration, the Dolphins probably should believe the refs took that game from them, though. If they have the type of character we hope they do that is. Because if they do, the only response to getting cheated is to come out and play emotionally charged football. Not the kind that induces personal fouls out of frustration, but the kind that is derived from a healthy anger.
The kind of anger that's going to give 100% every play and not leave the door open for a ref to take away a game with one call. Of course, though, that's only the optimistic side of me hoping we see this from the Dolphins. The reverse is just as possible.
Take the Denver Broncos for example. A week after a pass interference call cost them the game against the Jets, they came out and laid down for the Oakland Raiders in a 59-14 beat down. How's that for a wake up call? Similarly, after the Dolphins lost to the Jets in the final minute in Week 3, they looked thoroughly unprepared in 41-14 massacre against the Patriots.
And that was to a division rival on Monday Night Football. If they couldn't get over the week before then, how exactly are they going to come out firing on all cylinders against the Bengals in Cincy? They really don't have a choice, though, if they want to save this season.
At the beginning of the year I said they needed to stay at .500 through the first eight games to position themselves for a playoff push in the second half of the season. And while they are doing just that, it doesn't appear good enough anymore. You really can't even count on both the Patriots and Jets losing more than three games for the entire season, so the division title is looking less and less realistic.
And the prospect of landing a wildcard spot is also in danger of slipping away. You have to figure either the Jets or Pats will snag one spot, and either the Ravens or Steelers will get the other. And even if one of those teams falls off, there are three AFC South teams that are playoff caliber.
The bottom line is, the Dolphins can't afford to dwell on this loss. They need to fight their way back into the AFC discussion, and these next four games will provide an avenue to do just that. All four are winnable games, with the Ravens in two weeks being the biggest test. If the Dolphins can escape 3-1 or better yet run the table, they will be set up nicely for a playoff push as the schedule softens up quite a bit with teams like the Browns, Bills, Lions, and Raiders on the late season slate.
But it all comes back to how this teams responds emotionally. If they feel defeated, these next four games will likely ultimately doom their season. If they come out angry and desperate, however, don't count out these Dolphins just yet.
Steelers 23 Dolphins 22
The blowout loss the Dolphins suffered against the Patriots three weeks ago was tough, but these type of loses are by far the hardest. Lets get the complaining over with, "the call" was beyond frustrating. Everyone knows who recovered that ball, even the refs, but because it wasn't completely obvious on the replay (even though CBS showed a snapshot of Alama-Francis with the ball out of the pile, and several players mentioned that the refs were calling "white ball, white ball, white ball" on the field) Pittsburgh retained possession.
First off, if the line judge does the right thing and lets that play continue it would have been Dolphins ball, no need for controversy. In that situation, once you recognize that there is a fumble on the field, you let it play out because if Big Ben had indeed scored, replay would have easily overturned the call on the field. Of course, though, were talking a decision that needs to happen in a split second, which is way easier said than done.
Secondly, even if the refs did stick to the rule book and "technically" get the call right, it's something that defies common sense and needs to be changed immediately. The final rule was that Roethlisberger fumbled the ball before crossing the plane. However, the ref said there was no clear cut proof that the Dolphins recovered, but that doesn't negate the fact that there was indeed a fumble. There was no proof that the Steelers had recovered either. That's why the league needs to allow the refs to go back to the officials who called Dolphins ball on the field once they have established that a fumble did take place under the hood.
Either that or allow the reviewing ref to make a judgment call when viewing the play over and over again from all sorts of different angles. We trust them to make judgement calls all game long with only a split second to decide, so why can't the refs give the ball to the team that appeared to recover the fumble when they have more than adequate amount of time to decipher who that team is. And in yesterday's case, it was clearly, decisively, conclusively the Dolphins.
Enough is enough with all of that talk, though, the Dolphins beat themselves yesterday. They did enough to win the game, but anytime you leave the door open for one horrible call to decide the outcome you have nobody to blame but yourself. And when looking at where the Dolphins went wrong yesterday, the redzone is where most of the blame should lie.
Five field goals. Five! That's completely unacceptable. I was happy to see Chad Henne pick apart one of the best defenses in football on one side of the field, but I think Dan Henning needs to trust him a little more on the opponents side of the fifty. Maybe not against teams that the Dolphins should beat, but against teams like the Steelers where you need to put up as many points as possible, let Henne air it out a little more in the redzone when it's obvious that you won't be able to run it in.
Anyway, I'm going to keep things short as usual after a loss. Just a dark day to be a Miami Dolphin fan. Take solace in the fact that we saw a lot of potential out of our quarterback and front seven defensively, but patience may become the key word around here. Yes, it's still too early to give up on this season, but sitting at 3-3 in this division and conference is just a tough spot to be in. I guess we will just have to wait and see how this team responds. This could be a back-breaking loss, or one that motivates an outstanding playoff run.
It's that time of week again. Time to sit down with a blogger of the opposing team and get a little insight into our enemy before Sunday's big game. After having to do some web surfing a week ago to find a Packers' blog, I had to look no further than Bloguin network to find a great Steelers site. Please welcome in Brian from Blitzburgh Blog. As always, head over to their site to see the questions I answered for them about the Dolphins sometime before Sunday's game.
Phins Phocus: What is the biggest difference between the Steelers team we saw in Week 17 last year that failed to make the playoffs and this year's team that is unanimously considered to be the best team in football right now?
Blitzburgh Blog: Right now, the defense is healthy and playing well. In 2009, Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith were banged up. Bryant McFadden had departed for Arizona. Those losses meant the world to the Steelers defense. Late in games, the secondary was tired, unfocused, and generally untalented (Sorry Tyrone Carter, but you're just no Polamalu). The games they lost last year were all close games, usually decided by late game heroics, courtesy of the other team. Right now, the defense is playing 60 minutes of good football. The stars are back in the lineup, the role players are solid, and Lawrence Timmons has emerged as a dominant linebacker in the middle.
Phins Phocus: Since everyone is talking about it, we might as well too. What is your take on James Harrison's comments and the league's crackdown on violent hits?
Blitzburgh Blog: We're Steeler fans. We learn the names of our linebackers before we learn what a touchdown is. Nothing is more important to the diehard Steeler fan than big hits from a punishing defense. So naturally, we're pretty reactionary when it comes to changing the game to favor the offense. Right now, we're in total agreement with seemingly every NFL player. This will take the fun out of watching football. Still, we've dealt with rule changes before and we will again. Hopefully the defense will adjust and remain dominant. James Harrison and Ryan Clark will be affected the most, since they tend to be the biggest hitters.
Phins Phocus: How much is the offense about to open up with Ben Roethlisberger now back under center?
Blitzburgh Blog: Probably not as much as everyone's acting like it will. The offense is more committed to running the ball this year, and while we did see a few pretty passes against the Browns, that's all it was. A few pretty passes that took advantage of how well Mendenhall was running. It was a nice blueprint to see against a mostly non-existent defense, but more talented defenses will obviously force them into different situations.
Phins Phocus: If you were the Dolphins' offensive coordinator, how exactly would you go about moving the ball on the Steelers' defense?
Blitzburgh Blog: First thing's first, don't even bother trying to run. It doesn't work. Everyone keeps doing it, though. Ask Bud Grant how that worked out in Superbowl IX. No, if the Steelers have a weakness, it is the pass defense. Specifically, checkdowns to shifty running backs. The linebackers have been known to take bad angles here and there and running backs (by "running backs" I mean "Ray Rice") can pick up some major yards when a play has broken down. That, and somehow every week a wide receiver whose own mother hasn't heard of him always manages like 3 catches for 40 yards, or so it seems.
Phins Phocus: Finally, who do you see winning Sunday and why? Final Score?
Blitzburgh Blog: To conclude all my Steeler-ranting, I'll be the homer and predict the Steelers to win 21-16. It's a weak prediction, but I only really say it because I really don't know what to expect from Miami. Literally, it's hard to tell how good they are. Everything I've seen from them makes them look competitive, but I think competitive teams are beatable for the Steelers. Definitely not a game to overlook, though, and I wouldn't be particularly shocked if the Phins pull out a close victory. Disappointed, but not shocked. Still, I expect the Steelers to win despite never meeting the Pittsburgh fan base’s lofty expectations.
Dolphins passing attack: 232.2 pass ypg (13th)
Steelers passing attack: 160.2 pass ypg (28th)
Dolphins pass defense: 201.8 pass ypg (12th)
Steelers pass defense: 233.0 pass ypg (24th)
Dolphins passing stats
C. Henne: 107-170, 62.9%, 1,195 yards 7 TD's 5 INT's
B. Marshall: 37 rec, 467 yards, 1 TD
D. Bess: 26 rec, 282 yards, 2 TD's
Steelers passing stats
C. Batch: 29-49, 352 yards, 59.2%, 3 TD's 3 INT
B. Roethlisberger: 16-27, 257 yards, 59.3%, 3 TD's 1 INT
M. Wallace: 12 rec, 301 yards, 3 TD's
Hines Ward: 17 rec, 219 yards, 2 TD's
Now on to the more optimistic element of Sunday's game. Yes, things would be even more upbeat if Roethlisberger's six game suspension would have held up, but on paper the Dolphins actually have the advantage here, both offensively and defensively. Of course, the game is not played on paper.
If the Steelers were really an easy to team to throw on, their defense wouldn't be clearly the league's most dominate unit five games in. And obviously, with Roethlisberger back, they are going to drastically improve that 28th overall passing game. Still though, if your looking for a reason to believe the Dolphins can knock off the Steelers for their first home win of the season, this is it.
Steelers passing attack vs. Dolphins secondary
It's really tough to get a feel for this Dolphins' secondary right now. Vontae Davis has been the most consistent, but was finally exposed in Green Bay on that 86-yard Jennings' touchdown. On the other side, Jason Allen has been either hit or miss every week. Safety wise, Chris Clemons has disappeared ever since his solid performance in Week 1 and Yeremiah Bell is better off playing inside the box than trying to cover.
The key match-up will undoubtedly be Vontae Davis vs. Mike Wallace. I'm confident that what we saw in the first four games is a sign of things to come from Vontae, but the speedy receivers, like Wallace, usually give him the most trouble. Jennings beating him deep this past Sunday is the most recent example of that.
Davis is a physical corner, and matches up better with physical receivers. But the Dolphins like to keep their corners on one side of the field, and the Steelers like to move their receivers around quite a bit, so we should see bothDavis and Allen getting opportunities to cover Wallace and Hines Ward.
Like I said a couple days ago, though, the key to stopping the Steelers' play-action passing game isstopping Reshard Mendenahll and their running game. And we know the key to that will be Cameron Wake and Koa Misi successfully setting the edge.
But just like every week, Wake and Misi getting after the quarterback may serve as the Dolphins' best pass defense. Hopefully, the momentum from the three sacks Wake registered against the Packers will carry over to this week, and hopefully Misi continues his trend of improving each and every game.
Dolphins passing attack vs. Steelers secondary
When Dan Henning knew the Dolphins wouldn't be able to run the ball consistently against the Jets in Week 3, he completely opened up the playbook and let Henne air it out 44 times. Yes, the Dolphins lost that game, but you can't blame that on the offense.
There were times where they relied too heavily on the pass, and should of at least attempted to keep the defense honest. Personally, I would like to see the Dolphins try to unleash a balanced attack every week. But against the Steelers, they will most likely just be hitting their heads against a wall all game long and will find themselves in way too many third and longs.
I'm not saying let Henne throw close to 50 times again either. But I think they need to spread it out a little bit early on and take some shots down field in order to get that aggressive defense back on their heels.
If they find success moving the ball through the air and Henne is able to avoid the costly mistakes, then you come back to the run once the Steelers start respecting Henne a little more. Yes, a lot of ifs for that formula to work, but unfortunately that's just how good this Steelers defense is.
Match-up wise, Brandon Marshall versus the physical Ike Taylor will be key. At 6'2, Taylor is the prototypical corner for covering Marshall, but let's be honest here, nobody can single cover Marshall with any sort of consistency.
The Steelers will likely double-team Marshall on most passing downs, so opportunities will once again present themselves for Davone Bess to eat up receptions underneath. If the Dolphins want to take some shots with Marshall, they would be wise to do so on first and second down when the Steelers may employ some single coverage.
Let's remember too, if the Dolphins are going to open things up a bit, keeping Henne clean will be crucial. Jake Long will have his hands full against James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley could present problems for Vernon Carey on the other side.
At the end of the day, though, it's all going to comeback to Henne. If he plays miskate free football, the Dolphins are going to be in this game.