The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS

The story line of the Dolphins’ first win in over a month was truly that the defense never rests.  And that was never truer than in the third quarter when the offense did not step onto the field until there was only 2:03 left in the quarter.  But in many ways the defense gets the credit for this win, especially because the Fins’ defense outscored the Fins’ offense 9-3 after halftime.  The coup de grace was the game-ending sack for a safety by Cameron Wake.  Only 2 other overtime games in NFL history had ever ended by a safety.

The defense never got to rest in large part because it surrendered 28 first downs to the Bengals.  The Bengals were 11 of 21 (52.4%) on third and fourth downs.  In large part this was because Bengals’ QB Andy Dalton was 9 of 11 on third downs during regulation (82.8%) and 1 of 2 in overtime for an overall 76.9%.  The defense could not get a rest because they could not get the Bengals’ offense off the field. 

It was a different story in the first half when the Fins held the Bengals to 141 yards of total offense and led 10-3 at halftime.  But the Bengals piled on 324 yards after the half.  And that’s what made Dolfans sick as the Fins surrendered a 17-3 lead in the second half for the second consecutive week.  This game would be different because the Fins would fight back thanks almost entirely to the defense which intercepted Andy Dalton 3 times and sacked him 5 times.

Leading the way for the Fins’ defense was Cameron Wake who had 3 sacks.  His first sack caused a fumble which he himself recovered.  His last sack produced the game-winning safety in overtime.  The way he took over this game was reminiscent of the way Jason Taylor did so in his heyday.  One thing for sure, he looks fully recovered from the injury that first kept him on the sideline and later slowed him down.  And that is great news for a franchise desperate for some good news.

Another big play on defense was Brent Grimes’ 94-yard pick-six in the third quarter that extended the Fins lead to 17-3.  It not only stopped a Bengals’ drive, but it also produced some much-needed points.  Without that touchdown the Fins’ would not have gotten the game into overtime.

One has to be impressed with the fact that the Fins’ displayed some fight in this game.  It would have come as no surprise had the Fins not persevered given their 4-game losing streak and other multiple distractions.  In the 5 days before this Thursday Night game, Mike Pouncey got subpoenaed to testify regarding Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Gibson went on IR, rumors circulated about serious locker-room dissention (including an assistant coach being dressed-down by head coach Joe Philbin in front of the team) and Jonathan Martin went AWOL, reportedly as a result of an emotional breakdown.  Such disarray would not seem to bode well coming into a game against a team that was 6-2 and coming off a 49-9 win.  But the Fins fought off all of this adversity and maintained their composure even after their 17-3 lead vanished.

The bend-but-don’t-break Fins’ defense surely could have used some help from the offense, but the offense managed only 13 points on the night.  That was a meager total indeed, especially considering the four turnovers produced by the defense.

The story of the Fins’ offense was the opposite of the Bengals’ offense.  The Fins’ managed 10 points and 227 yards in the first half, including 85 yards on the ground.  They had only 118 yards of offense after in the second half and overtime combined.  The only points the offense produced after halftime was the 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining which forced overtime.  And then it was the defense that fittingly won the game in overtime.

There were a few bright spots for the offense.  Ryan Tannehill was 20 of 28 (71.4%) for 208 yards.  Although he did not throw a TD pass, he did have a 1-yard touchdown run and did not turn the ball over at all.  Moreover, he did lead the team on a 5-yard drive which resulted in the field goad that sent the game into overtime.   His QB rating of 92.6 was the best it had been in weeks.

Other bright spots on offense were Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace.  Miller ran 16 times for 105 yards, his first 100-yard game of his young career.  The only negative was a fumble lost at the end of an otherwise brilliant 41-yard run.  Mike Wallace caught 6 passes for 82 yards, but perhaps the biggest play was the penalty he drew in overtime when he had beaten his man who tackled him in desperation rather than give up what looked like it would be a game-ending TD.  The penalty changed field position.  Although the Fins’ did not take advantage and score the winning points on that drive, it was the major factor (along with Brandon Fields’ excellent punt) which backed up the Bengals and opened the door for Cameron Wakes’ game-ending heroics.

But this night belonged to the big plays of the defense.  They may bend until they come up with the big play, but this defense never rests!

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