The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

AWWWRIGHT MIAMI!!!

On a day reserved for the induction of Jim Mandich, the Mad Dog, in the Miami Dolphins’ Ring of Honor, the Fins played like it was the good old days, soundly defeating the Oakland Raiders, 34-14.  And it really wasn’t that close as the Fins had a 34-0 lead by the end of the third quarter.  In the words of the immortal Mad Dog:   Awwwright Miami!!! 

Was this a resurgent Miami team winning its fourth game out of their last five (while outscoring their opponents 139-54 in those games)?  Or was this about the Fins beating another average team, this time one which happened to be in first place merely because it plays in a weak division?   These are natural questions given that the Fins are still only 4-8 due to their miserable 0-7 start to this season that was essentially over before the clock struck November. 

For the fifth consecutive week the Fins’ defense played lights-out football, precisely the kind of football that was expected from that side of the ball going into this season.  What happened over the first dreadful 8 weeks of the season (which spanned 7 games and the bye week) remains a mystery.  Had the defense played as expected in September and October, Dolfans would now find themselves scoreboard watching those games of teams vying for playoff spots rather than those games of teams vying for top draft pick slots. 

There was plenty of credit to go around as the Fins were mounting their 34-point lead during the first 3 quarters of the game.  While the defense forced 8 punts in the Raiders’ first 9 possessions (the other Raiders’ possession ending with a Kevin Burnett pick-six), the Fins’ offense scored on 6 of its first 7 possessions (discounting when the Fins got the ball with 1:13 left in the first half and wisely elected to run out the clock).   Reggie Bush had another impressive game, gathering his second hundred-yard game of the season; his sidekick, Daniel Thomas, added a 73-yard performance.  As a team, the Fins amassed 209 yards rushing.  Meanwhile, against a Raiders’ team that was 4th in the league rushing the ball, the Fins’ defense surrendered a mere 46 yards the entire afternoon.  The defense held Carson Palmer to a completion percentage of 48.8 and also sacked him twice, while repeatedly rushing his throws and intercepting him once (with a second being lost to a penalty).  Matt Moore was efficient but certainly not spectacular in leading the Dolphins, completing 52% of his passes for 162 yards with 1 TD and no INTs.  Special teams performed well, with the highlight being Clyde Gates’ 77-yard kickoff return to start the second-half.  But the bottom line is that it was the ground game and the defense that won this game for the Fins. 

The teams’ respective third down stats were rather telling.  The Raiders were a mere 2 of 11 (18%) while the Fins converted 57% (8 of 14) of their third down opportunities.  Time of possession was even more telling as the Fins held a 16:40 edge over the Raiders for the day.  In the first 3 quarters the Fins held the ball for 30:20 compared to the Raiders’ 14:40, a margin of more than 2 to 1.  What else do you need to know about Sunday’s total domination. 

This impressive win was the Fins’ third home win in a row.  Whatever illness infected the Fins’ at home in the last couple of years has mysteriously disappeared.  And so the Fins’ have begun reclaiming the home field advantage that was once a cornerstone of this franchise’s tradition. 

It was indeed fitting for the Fins to not only win, but to do so in such an impressive fashion on this day that the name of the Mad Dog went up on the Stadium’s Ring of Honor.  And when the Fins’ scored each of their 4 touchdowns you could swear you heard the Mad Dog screaming “Awwwright Miami!!!”

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