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66 posts from September 2013

September 30, 2013

Cameron Wake inactive PLUS live blog here

NEW ORLEANS -- This is an all hands on deck game. Except Cameron Wake is not on deck tonight.

If you read the previous post, you know Wake worked out for coaches and trainers prior to the game and it did not look good. Well, it's not.

Wake is inactive tonight for the Saints game. The Dolphins will start Jared Odrick at defensive end in place of Wake. Randy Starks will continue to start at defensive tackle and Paul Soliai, who missed one game with a knee injury, is also starting.

Jamar Taylor is active for the first time this season. Will Davis, active last week, is inactive today. The other inactives are Pat Devlin, Mike Gillislee, Dimitri Patterson, Dallas Thomas, Wake, Danny Watkins.

There will be a live blog as always.

Join it here: 

Soliai likely playing and Wake also looks possible

NEW ORLEANS -- The Dolphins have arrived at the Superdome and as part of their pregame preps, doctors and the personnel department is deciding whether Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai will play.

I'm told Soliai playing is looking really good at this point. If he goes through the pregame workout well, he's a go for tonight against the Saints.

Wake is less certain of playing but remains a strong possibility. The Miami team doctors have to see how he looks this evening first before deciding on his status. It does look good, however.

Check back for the latest update.

{Update: Soliai has come on the field wearing his uniform pants. Something would have to go wrong for him not to play.]

[Update: Cameron Wake went though a workout in front of coach Joe Philbin, general manager Jeff Ireland, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and team doctors. He did pass rush moves and contain moves. He didn't look very good. Afterward the men gathered with the player and, reading the body language, it didn't look good. I'd say Cameron Wake is not playing tonight.]

[Update: Soliai didn't even go through a workout pregame. He's playing.]

Defense has to resolve issues vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- It won't all be about offense tonight when the Dolphins play the Saints. This game will put a spotlight on Miami's defense as well.

And the Dolphins D has issues it has to address and overcome if the good guys are going to win tonight.

The issues?

Injuries is one. As we speak the Dolphins are hopeful Cameron Wake can play against New Orleans -- at least on passing downs. The team will not know for certain about Wake until a couple of hours before game time as that's when trainers and doctors will put Wake through a pre-game workout to see if he's capable of holding up despite his sprained knee.

Do not be surprised if Derrick Shelby starts for the Dolphins regardless of whether Wake is active or not. If Wake is not active, Shelby might get 50-60 plays. If Wake is active, Shelby might get 30-35 snaps.

The Dolphins are also uncertain about the status of defensive tackle Paul Soliai. His chances of playing are much lower than Wake's. As of this weekend, Soliai had not been cleared to play. Once again, pregame will help determine Soliai's availability. I doubt he plays. But he wants to play.

The secondary will be challenged again today and perhaps more than they've been all season. Yes, Miami faced good quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan earlier this season without cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Drew Brees is better. He's more accurate. He's more experienced.

And Miami has issues in matching up with New Orleans receivers -- particularly tight end Jimmy Graham -- while also being without Patterson for the third consecutive game.

This has to be a big game for Nolan Carroll, Jimmy Wilson and R.J. Stanford. You might wonder about the rookies -- Will Davis and Jamar Taylor. My opinion is they help on special teams but tonight is not the time to introduce them to NFL action.

 

Dolphins offense must stay with or ahead of Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- I asked Ryan Tannehill if he feels the Dolphins offense has to produce more points than usual tonight against the Saints based on the fact that team's offense can score a lot of points, particularly at home.

“I don’t think so, it goes game by game, obviously if they’re scoring a lot of points during the game, we’re going to have to pick up our offense and put a lot of points on the board," Tannehill said. "It’s not something where we go into the game and say, ‘Hey we have to score x amount of points to win this game’, we obviously want to score as much as we can every game, but it depends game by game. If the situation calls for it, then you’re going to have to score a lot of points."

Scoring a lot of points is something the Miami offense has been troubled doing in recent years. But as I wrote in my column today, this year's offense is enjoying a renaissance the likes of which has not been seen since Dan Marino was in the huddle and Don Shula was roaming the sideline.

As you'll read, Miami's offensive production is already Super Bowl good (read the column for the details) and is likely to get better, according to the players.

By the way, am I the only one that enjoys seeing interesting offense?

Let's face it, the Dolphins got a lot of fans used to bigtime offensive production in the 1980s through the mid 1990s. It was about scoring 45 points even in losses. It was about 400-yard passing games. It was about never really being out of a game (remember the fake spike game)?

The Miami offense still has much work to do. The running game. The protection of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Consistent production out of the tight ends. All of those need to get better.

But the Dolphins are clearly on to something so far this year.

September 29, 2013

Dolphins in New Orleans PLUS keys to the game

NEW ORLEANS -- The Dolphins are in town and, as I reported on my twitter account, both Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai traveled with the Dolphins today.

 

Both remain pregame decisions and although I have been told it is unlikely Soliai plays, the possibility that he is active is 50-50. Wake? That's going to be close.

I believe he will try to play. We'll see.

Meanwhile, let me share the keys to the game with you:

When the Dolphins pass the football: If the Dolphins can resolve their issue with sacks, the passing game would border on elite. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 14 times this year, which is more than any other NFL quarterback. Some of that is the offensive line, some of that is poor blocking by backs and tight ends, some of that is Tannehill holding the ball too long. Tannehill is spreading the football around – completing passes to nine different receivers last week. Miami has speed on the outside and a physical presence from Brandon Gibson in the slot. Add Charles Clay, who is finally emerging, and the passing game is borderline dynamic. The Saints have been equally dynamic stopping the pass. They’re No. 4 against the pass, they’re sixth in interception percentage. Cameron Jordan is emerging as an excellent pass rusher. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: The Dolphins running game came around a bit last week, as Miami rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries – a 6-yard a carry average. But the Dolphins need to actually run more often against the Saints so that they can improve the time of possession and limit the amount of time Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense is on the field. This would be a good strategy because the Saints aren’t exceptional against the run. And by not exceptional, read terrible. New Orleans is 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt allowed and 20th in rushing yards allowed per game. They are vulnerable. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Saints run the football: Pierre Thomas remains the most effective running threat for New Orleans despite the fact the team invested a first-round pick in Mark Ingram two years ago. Thomas is averaging a 4-yards per rush but his longest run of the season is 11 yards. He is not breakaway threat. Darren Sproles is actually New Orleans’ change-of-pace back while Ingram has been something of a disappointment, averaging only 2.6 yards per run. The Dolphins missed 11 tackles last week against the Falcons. Six of those were on linebacker Phillip Wheeler. The Dolphins struggled with average running team Atlanta perhaps, in part, because defensive tackle Paul Soliai didn’t play. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Saints pass the football: The Saints are scary good when they throw the ball but not infallible. Yes, Drew Brees is among the NFL’s acknowledged elite QBs but he has thrown four interceptions to go with his six TD passes. And while Jimmy Graham is a match up nightmare, the Saints are an intermediate passing team. The Dolphins must pressure Brees. He has been sacked 10 times in three games so there is vulnerability there. But if Miami is without defensive end Cameron Wake aside from the loss of cornerback Dimitri Patterson, the defense against the pass will be great diminished. The Saints lead the NFL in yards after the catch since 2006. ADVANTAGE: Saints.

Special teams: Brandon Fields and Caleb Sturgis are arguably the most consistent players on the Miami roster. Sturgis has not missed this season and is even 2-for-2 on FGs of 50 yards or more. Fields is third in the NFL in net punting average and fourth in overall average. The Saints have a threat in Darren Sproles on both kickoff return and punt returns. But this is mostly about reputation. Sproles is averaging only 7.3 yards per return. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: The Miami coaching staff is good at correcting issues that pop up in previous weeks. Look for defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle to address the issues with stopping the run and missing tackles, which showed up against Atlanta. The Saints, terrible on defense a year ago, have completely turned around under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Saints allowed 3.1 TDs per game last season. They are allowing 1.3 TDs per game this season. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Intangibles: The Superdome is a difficult place to play even when the Saints are mediocre.  It can get unbearable when New Orleans is good and on a roll. It is loud. The crowd seems to feed the home team with momentum and vice versa. OVERALL ADVANTAGE: Saints.

September 28, 2013

Final injury report update of the week

The Dolphins have released their final injury report of the week leading up to Monday night's game at New Orleans and both Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai, who have practice limited throughout the week, are listed as questionable.

Both players are expected to travel with the Dolphins to New Orleans on Sunday. But the certainty of both playing remains in the air.

It is unlikely Soliai, who suffered a knee injury against Indianapolis two weeks ago, plays although he wants to and still has two more days to heal. Soliai was originally expected to miss up to four weeks and has been walking with a pronounced limp this week. He has also worn a brace in practice.

Wake, who sprained an MCL against Atlanta last week, is more likely to play although a final decision has not been made on that, either.

A reminder: The Dolphins are able to downgrade or upgrade players again on Sunday.

It is clear that cornerback Dimitri Patterson will miss his third consecutive game of the season with his groin injury. He has not practiced since Sept. 18 and is listed as out for the game.

Linebackers Koa Misi (shoulder) and Jonathan Freeny (shoulder) are listed as questionable. Misi is expected to play.

September 27, 2013

Run game needs more chances to be explosive

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wants more explosive runs out of the running game.

“I would like to see a little more explosiveness. We had one explosive run. They all count. I’ve been around the game long enough to know every single run counts. Both sides of the football, you can play great run defense on 25 snaps, but if you give up a 75-yarder or 70-yarder, you are still giving up five-and-a-half yards a run. They all count, but I would like to have a little more consistency in terms of the explosive (plays)," the coach said this week.

"If we can get two to three a game every single game as opposed to none against Cleveland, two against Indy and one (against Atlanta) ... that would be good."

This also would be good:

Run the ball enough to actually get explosive runs.

The Dolphins last week against Atlanta ran the ball 15 times. And two of those were scrambles by quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

So offensive coordinator Mike Sherman called 40 passing plays (five of those turned into sacks) and 13 running plays against the Falcons. That is nearly a 4-1 pass-run ratio. Weeeeee, wide open football time.

The week before, Sherman was a bit more balanced although nowhere near a 60-40 split of pass to run. The Dolphins called 41 pass plays and 22 run plays against the Colts, which is nearly a 2-1 pass-run ratio.

This isn't a critique of the Dolphins offensive balance (or lack of balance) because they pass the football so often. The NFL is, after all, about passing the football. I like that Miami is a passing team. It beats being stuck in the 1970s.

But I also like expectations of the run game to be balanced against the reality of what is happening on the field. One cannot expect more explosive plays when one's offensive coordinator isn't calling very many runs.

If Philbin and the Dolphins are expecting more than one big running play per game and, more specifically, expecting more production from Lamar Miller, the number of opportunities have to go up.

Miller has carried the football 32 times so far this season. He's averaging 4.2 yards per carry. But anyone who watched Miller at the University of Miami knows his typical game would go something like this:

Five-yard gain. Three-yard gain. Four-yard gain. One-yard gain. One-yard loss. Three-yard gain. 55-yard gain. Six-yard gain. And so on.

He would usually deliver a big run in the game and sometimes two. But he needed carries to get there. He needed work and opportunities to break out.

The most Miller has carried the ball for the Dolphins in one game so far? Fourteen times versus Indianapolis. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry that game. His eight carries against Atlanta returned a whopping 7.8 yards per carry average.

Miller averaged more yards per rush (7.8) than the Dolphins averaged passing yards per dropback (5.9). Indeed, he even averaged more yards than quarterback Ryan Tannehill averaged per pass attempt (6.7).

Why does this matter? No, it's not because anyone is pounding on a table demanding Miller carry the ball more often. It's definitely not because anyone wants the Dolphins to become an out-of-step-with-modern-times running team.

It's because running the football often enough to succeed promises so many dividends.

Running the football enough gives you a balanced offense. Suddenly the safeties that cheat toward receivers Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline have to play straight.

"It opens things up for Mike and those guys to stretch the field and make some big plays," offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said.

Running the football enough increases the offense's time of possession. It's hard to win the game when the other team has the football more. The Dolphins did it the past two weeks, but that is tempting fate.

Running the football enough helps your defense. This is particularly important against elite quarterbacks such as Drew Brees. If the Dolphins are able to go into the Superdome Monday night and run the ball effectively enough to keep Brees mostly on the sideline, the chances of giving up more plays to Brees on defense decrease. And that's a good thing for Miami.

Running the football enough helps in cold weather. The running game is not as affected by tough climes as much as the passing game. November and December are coming and teams that can run well have a built-in small advantage. (And when you consider every venue in the AFC East is open to the elements, every little bit helps).

Running the football more helps you to, well, run the football better. The Dolphins need to do it to get better at it.

"I think our run game has gotten better every week," Clabo said. "We were more consistent the week before and last week we had the big run. I think we're working to improve week to week. We just have to do it."

Finally, running the football enough is a weapon in the playoffs. Yes, I said the p-word. The Dolphins are 3-0. Seventy-four percent of teams that start 3-0 make the playoffs. It's not wrong to improve a vital facet of the team now that will be important in the playoffs.

My suggestion on how to maximize the Dolphins running game?

Obviously running it more is a theme here. But splitting the runs more intelligently might be almost as good.

So far this season Miller has carried the ball only nine times more than Daniel Thomas (32-21). The two backs are close to splitting carries. Well, perhaps it's time to not split carries. Thomas is averaging 3.1 yards per gain and his long gain is 12 yards. He's not typically going to come up with a 50- or 60-yard run.

So stop splitting the carries.

Give Miller more carries. Give Thomas fewer carries. Make Thomas the true change-of-pace back rather than a near-equal partner in the backfield. Defer, as the statistics and the eyes suggest, to the better breakaway threat.

"I think we are making some progress," Philbin said. "We certainly have some room to grow.”

Watch the video of Miller below to see what I told you about giving Miller more work:

September 26, 2013

First injury report of the week right here

MIAMI DOLPHINS

             

Thursday (9/26/13)

Friday (9/27/13)

Saturday (9/28/13)

Out

 

 

Out

 

 

Out

 

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Not Participate in Practice

Did Not Participate in Practice

Doubtful

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

CB

Dimitri Patterson

Groin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limited Participation in Practice

Limited Participation in Practice

Questionable

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

S

Chris Clemons

Hamstring/Quad

 

 

 

 

 

 

LB

Dannell Ellerbe

Ribs

 

 

 

 

 

 

LB

Jonathan Freeny

Shoulder

 

 

 

 

 

 

LB

Koa Misi

Shoulder

 

 

 

 

 

 

DT

Paul Soliai

Knee

 

 

 

 

 

 

DE

Cameron Wake

Knee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Participation in Practice

Full Participation in Practice

Probable

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

WR

Brandon Gibson

Knee

 

 

 

 

 

 

C

Mike Pouncey

Ankle

 

 

 

 

 

 

LB

Philip Wheeler

Thumb

 

 

 

 

 

 

S

Jimmy Wilson

Groin

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

Bold indicates change in status 

Bold indicates change in status 

                 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

             

Thursday (9/26/13)

Friday (9/27/13)

Saturday (9/28/13)

Out

 

 

Out

 

 

Out

 

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Did Not Participate in Practice

Did Not Participate in Practice

Doubtful

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

DT

Brodrick Bunkley

Calf

 

 

 

   

 

S

Roman Harper

Knee

 

 

 

   

 

RB

Mark Ingram

Toe

 

 

 

   

 

DE

Tom Johnson

Hamstring

 

 

 

   

 

G

Tim Lelito

Calf

 

 

 

   

 

WR

Lance Moore

Hand

 

 

 

   

 

DE

Tyrunn Walker

Knee

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Limited Participation in Practice

Limited Participation in Practice

Questionable

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

S

Isa Abdul-Quddus

Ankle

 

 

 

   

 

CB

Chris Carr

Knee

 

 

 

   

 

G

Jahri Evans

Hamstring

 

 

 

   

 

CB

Jabari Greer

Back

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Full Participation in Practice

Full Participation in Practice

Probable

 

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

Pos.

Player

Injury

WR

Marques Colston

Foot

 

 

 

   

 

DE

Glenn Foster

Ankle

 

 

 

   

 

LB

Junior Galette

Hamstring

 

 

 

   

 

DE

Akiem Hicks

Knee

 

 

 

   

 

LB

Curtis Lofton

Knee

 

 

 

   

 

T

Zach Strief

Neck

 

 

 

   

 

LB

Martez Wilson

Elbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

Bold indicates change in status 

Bold indicates change in status 

                 

Limited Participation (LP) = less than 100% of a player’s normal repetitions

 

 

Full Participation (FP) = 100% of a player’s normal repetitions

 

 

Did Not Participate in Practice (DNP)

   

 

 
         

 

Mike Wallace: Tannehill ahead of where I thought

On Wednesday Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said this about quarterback Ryan Tannehill:

"I think he's a really good player. I think he's ahead of where I thought he would be. He's a smart player. Whatever it is, the hype and stuff we've been getting the past week or two, he's like, 'I don't care about it.'  He's the same guy. He goes to work and prepares the same way. I think that's going to make him a very good player. He doesn't get caught up in the hype. He continues back to work and worries about what he did wrong. He's not worried about the good throws he made, he's worried about the ones he missed. As long as our quarterback is working like that, we'll be fine."

Let that all marinate for a moment ...

And now let us consider what it all means. You have to remember Wallace came to the Dolphins from the Pittsburgh Steelers and he did so mostly because Miami paid him $60 million with $27 million guaranteed. But in making the move, Wallace understood he was trading in an accomplished, outstanding Super Bowl caliber quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger for a youngster that had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns as a rookie.

Wallace hoped Tannehill would be good. But obviously, now he is seeing Tannehill is better than even he thought he'd be at this stage in Year 2.

Secondly, the Dolphins are starting to get attention now.

(I have always paid attention, but now the national media is coming around because the team's 3-0 record merits it. ESPN was in town on Wednesday. And Tannehill will be the focus of much of that attention.)

Will that freak Tannehill?

He flew under the radar last year compared to Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III because, well, he didn't play as well as those oung guys. But now he's apparently joining their performance ranks.

So what Wallace is saying is important: The attention isn't affecting Tannehill so far.

He doesn't think he's arrived. That's good because he hasn't. But he believes there is still much work to do and much to improve and he's busy working on that rather than basking in any adulation.

That's very good.

Discuss ..

 

Patterson setback pushes Carroll to forefront

With Dimitri Patterson's on-going groin issues -- he hasn't practiced this week -- the Dolphins seem poised to once again rely on Nolan Carroll as a starting cornerback, this time against the pass-happy New Orleans Saints Monday night.

Now, this is not really about Carroll. We'll get to him in a few grafs.

This is mostly about Patterson.

He has suffered a setback of some sort.

I remind you that after injurying his groin against Cleveland in the season-opener, he told The Herald he would be fine and play the following week against Indianapolis.

And although Patterson didn't practice except on a limited basis that week, he did indeed work every day and was active for the game. The reason he didn't play, coach Joe Philbin said, was because coaches decided not to use him.

Then last week Patterson practiced on a limited basis on Tuesday and Wednesday (as he'd done the week before) but then sat out drills altogether on Thursday and Friday and was pronounced out for the Atlanta game two days prior to the game.

That's not improvement.

In fact, I am told the setback came at that Wednesday practice that forced him out the remainder of the week.

And, again, Patterson has not practiced this week. He has not practiced at all since that fateful Wednesday.

And, I remind you, the Dolphins brought in half-a-dozen cornerbacks for workouts on Monday, which obviously speaks to the idea they believe they might need help at that position in the coming weeks.

The picture painted here is that Miami's starting cornerback is dealing with an injury that has already cost him two games, is likely going to cost him Monday night's game, and there is uncertainty beyond that.

That leads to Carroll.

He had a wonderful game against Cleveland. He was less effective against Indianapolis. And he struggled mightily against Atlanta, although against one of the best receivers in the NFL.

I love Carroll as a No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback. I don't love him as a starter. Neither, by the way, do the Dolphins. (There's a reason they drafted two cornerbacks in the draft's early rounds last April).

But as Carroll's the best Miami has right now, the team is definitely supporting Carroll and talking him up.

"I think he’s more consistent," coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday. "Obviously he made that one real, real nice play on the ball in the first game. I think it was the first drive of the first game. He’s a competitive guy. He’s very, very competitive. He comes out and works hard every single day.

"He’s certainly gotten better. His transitions gotten better. His coverage ability has improved I like the way he plays the game. He competes. You can put your head at night into a pillow and know that guy is going to give you everything he’s got."

I get it. Nolan Carroll's a competitive competitor competing in a competition.

But how good is he?

ProFootballFocus.com rates Carroll the 46th best cornerback among the 102 it has graded. (Brent Grimes, by the way, is rated No. 2).

Carroll has allowed 11 receptions in 21 targets this year -- a 52.4 completion percentage. Opposing teams average 13.6 yards per completion against him. He has given up 76 YAC (yards after catch), which is a big deal this week as the Saints lead the NFL in YAC since 2006.

That's not terrible. That's middle of the road.

The interesting thing is that Carroll hasn't been targeted more. The Browns couldn't really go after anyone outside and instead worked the tight ends vs. linebackers and safeties. The Colts didn't go after him, opting instead to go at Grimes with poor results. The Falcons didn't chase Carroll for nearly three quarters until they seemed to discover him in the fourth quarter.

But my experience tells me this train normally gains momentum once it starts rolling. Once a team sort of discovers a perceived weakness in another team, the next team goes after that weakness a bit more, then a bit more, then a lot more unless that weakness is addressed and the tide is turned back.

Obviously the Dolphins don't have a lot of options for turning back the tide as long as Patterson remains injured and rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis continue to need more practice and honing.

So perhaps they can hide Carroll a bit by having Grimes shadow the other team's best receiver throughout the game. The Dolphins have considered this in the past and Philbin doesn't dismiss the possibility.

"We’ve done some of that, and we’ll do whatever we think is in the best interest of our defense as a whole to stop the opponent," he said. "We certainly aren’t opposed to doing that stuff."

September 25, 2013

Reasons for Tannehill's 14 sacks are everywhere

Ryan Tannehill has gotten sacked more than any other NFL quarterback and that really is not a sustainable statistic if the Dolphins are going to keep the most important offensive player healthy.

Tannehill, sacked 14 times in three games, knows this is a problem and says the Dolphins aren't happy about it.

"Well obviously you don’t want to be taking sacks, that’s a negative part of the game and you don’t want to be on the ground," Tannehill said. "I’m not concerned with it, I’m not thinking about it as I’m back there.  The situations where I need to get the ball out of my hands obviously I need to correct and either get the ball out or tuck it up and get back to the line of scrimmage as best I can.

"It’s not something we’re happy about right now, it’s something we’re looking at, we’re working on, but I’m not concerned with it, I have confidence in the guys in front of me.  They’re getting better, I’m hopefully getting better at the same time and we’ll hopefully see those numbers go down."

It's obvious the offensive line is responsible for protecting Tannehill. And so are the running backs and tight ends. But Tannehill knows he's responsible for keeping himself out of trouble either by getting rid of the football quicker or running out of trouble.

That's why he admits at least one sack against Atlanta on Sunday was on him.

"The one early in the game, the first drive, I definitely held the ball too long," he said. "It wasn’t playing out down field the way we thought it was going to, and I didn’t get rid of the ball in a situation I should have, so that one was definitely on me."

Here's a twist on the whole sack deal. Sometimes Miami's receivers aren't getting open. And sometimes the secondary is playing very well against the Dolhins.

" There was also some times when the coverage’s were just great down field, and I just wasn’t able to get the ball off, so I think it’s a combination of sometimes holding the ball too long and sometimes the other team doing a good job,” Tannehill said.

Latest on the injury front (with analysis)

The Dolphins are back at practice, preparing for New Orleans and with that practice it is becoming more evident what is going on with the team's injuries.

First the good news: Defensive end Cameron Wake (knee) is doing some light work so he is at least limited in practice today. Reports of him being out two-to-three weeks or longer are greatly exaggerated. He hopes to play Monday night against New Orleans.

That does not mean he will play against the Saints. But he is not today certain of missing the game. Wake is wearing a brace on his sprained knee.

If Wake can go, he'll still be somewhat limited. Expect a lot of snaps for Derrick Shelby and Dion Jordan. Obviously if Wake cannot go, both those youngsters will get even more snaps.

Now the other news: Paul Soliai, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, is also in the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble but he is not practicing at all today. He has been fitted with a brace. And despite that he is limping noticeably.

While he wants to play against the Saints, I seriously doubt he'll be able to do that. Seriously doubt it.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who has missed the past two games with a groin injury, is also not practicing. His status for Monday night is also in serious question to the point I would doubt it.

The Dolphins are getting practice repetitions for rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. Davis played last week while Taylor was inactive.

Finally, Koa Misi, who played less than two dozen snaps against Atlanta, is practicing today. He took part in all the portions of practice open to the media. He could be limited the rest of the way but it is looking good for him to be on the field Monday night.

Dolphins outscoring the AFC East

It was the turn of the century, in the year 2000, when the Dolphins won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The team had four Pro Bowl players on defense. And on offense the team did something it hasn't done since.

It outscored the New England Patriots.

Since then for a dozen years New England has scored more points than the Dolphins -- until this year.

But right now, today, the Dolphins are averaging 24.7 points per game. The Patriots, an offensive juggernaut for a dozen years since Tom Brady took over at quarterback, are averaging 19.7 points per game.

And indeed the Dolphins are leading the division in scoring.

It might be a new day in the division.

This statistic speaks to the addition of talent the Dolphins got on offense this year. Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson are helping the passing game.

This statistic speaks to the maturation of talent the Dolphins drafted. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, tight end Charles Clay, and left tackle Jonathan Martin are playing well.

And, yes, the statistical fact speaks to a talent decline in New England. Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Rob Gronkowski hasn't played a snap. Wes Welker is in Denver. And Danny Amendola is injured, as he perpetually seems to be.

Tom Brady doesn't have the supporting talent he's had in the past. (It's like watching the 1996 Dolphins with Dan Marino and only one worthy wide out, O.J. McDuffie, a possession receiver).

But this statistic is also interesting because while the Patriots have played Tampa Bay and the Bills and the Jets -- none of them playoff teams a year ago -- the Dolphins have played two 2012 playoff qualifiers -- Indianapolis and Atlanta -- in two of their first three games.

Now, I recognize this is a small sample size. The season is still very young.

But I suggest the Miami offense has room to grow. The running game, mostly a non-factor so far, can get better. The combination of Tannehill to Wallace is still not quite comfortable for both players. The pass protection has been poor. Tannehill, while very good so far, could help by not holding the ball so long.

There is great room for improvement in Miami.

By the end of the year 24.7 points per game might be the Dolphins' output on a bad day.

All this is good news for the franchise. The truth is fans who grew up watching and expecting great offense every week when Marino was quarterback have been starved for good offense for nearly a dozen years.

Yes, the defense has often been very good.

But the offense has rarely been any good.

The Dolphins have had to win many 20-17 games in which they score only two TDs. It was unexciting.

This year the Dolphins have scored three touchdowns in two of their three games.

Progress. Perhaps a new day.

September 24, 2013

PFF-Salguero study of Miami over Atlanta

Another Tuesday has arrived and it is time to look back, probably for the last time, at the Dolphins rousing victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

My partners at ProFootballFocus.com have passed along their best nuggets based on their tape study and metrics and I will add insight and opinion wherever I can.

Here we go:

OFFENSE

Daniel Thomas allowed one sack and three hurries in 11 pass blocking opportunities.

The Lamar Miller-Daniel Thomas timeshare is still close. Miller played 27 snaps to Thomas’ 24, but played exclusively on the game winning drive.

Salguero: Thomas is averaging 3.1 yards per carry so he is not exactly lighting it up running the ball. The reason he has value is because he pass blocks well, supposedly. Well, this was the second consecutive game he allowed a sack. So if he can't pass block well, either, where are we?

LT Jonathan Martin had his best pass blocking grade of the season (+2.3), allowing one sack and doing most of his work against Osi Umenyiora.

Salguero: As you know the Dolphins allowed five sacks on Sunday. But Miami's two tackles had their best days of the season. Tyson Clabo, who had given up three sacks in the first two games, did not yield a sack against his former team. He did yield a hit on QB Ryan Tannehill and a hurry. But all things considered, that's improvement.

LG Richie Incognito had his least productive day of the season. He yielded a sack and a quarterback hit. RG John Jerry, meanwhile, had his best game of the season. Yes, he also gave up a sack but for the first time in three games he comes away with a plus grade. 

Tannehill only attempted two passes travelling 20-plus yards in the air.

Tannehill was 13-of-14 when blitzed, but also was sacked four times and threw an interception.

Tannehill targeted Asante Samuel just two times on Sunday.

Salguero: PFF has Tannehill rated No. 8 among QBs overall. But if you boil it down to just passing, which in my estimation is what QBs are about, the ratings improves to No. 4 overall behind Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan. Are there issues? Sure. Tannehill is still holding the ball too long at times and that's perhaps one reason he's been sacked 14 times this year -- more than any other NFL quarterback.

Brandon Gibson caught at least one pass against each of Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Robert McClain, Robert Alford, and Joplu Bartu.

Lamar Miller was matched up against DE Jonathan Massaquoi on the play where he dropped potential TD pass.

DEFENSE

DE Dion Jordan saw his first extensive action as a rookie. Rushing the passer on 20 out of 31 snaps, he tallied 4 hurries and a hit as the highest graded defender.

Salguero: PFF has Jordan rated the highest graded defender in the game -- for both teams.

OLB Philip Wheeler had rough afternoon with six missed tackles, repeatedly whiffing on Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers.

Salguero: The Dolphins missed 11 tackles this game. Safety Chris Clemons was the second-highest on the missed tackle scale with two missed tackle. MLB Dannell Ellerbe did not miss a tackle.

Wheeler was targeted nine times in pass coverage, giving up six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Brent Grimes was targeted just two times by Matt Ryan.

Nolan Carroll struggled against Julio Jones, allowing 4 catches for 70 yards on 7 targets.

September 23, 2013

Dolphins shopping for CB help

The Dolphins have had trouble keeping their cornerbacks healthy this year and with two Super Bowl winning QBs on the shedule the next few weeks, the team went looking for help at the position Monday.

The team brought in half a dozen cornerbacks for tryouts Monday, according to a league source. Among those were former University of Miami and Oakland Raiders starter DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Former Bills starter Terrence McGee, cut by Buffalo in February, was among the players brought in although at 32 years old he doesn't fit the Dolphins typical search for youth.

In that regard, the tryout for Ron Bartell also raises eyebrows because he's 31 years old. Bartell was a second-round pick of the Rams in 2005 but has bounced around with Detroit and Oakland.

Ryan Mouton, a former third round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, was among the group trying out also. Mouton was cut by the Washington Redskins from their injured list in August.

The Dolphins also took a look at Jacob Lacey, who was waived by the Vikings in August after he had arthroscopic knee surgery. Lacey played with the Colts but after being cut in 2011 bounced around to the Lions and Vikings.

The sixth of the CBs brought in was Jalil Brown, 25, who was with Kansas City until the final round of cuts this year. Brown was a fourth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

The Dolphins are concerned cornerback Dimitri Patterson last week seemed to take a step back in his return from a groin injury suffered the first week of the season. Patterson had practiced on a limited basis the week after the injury and was a game-time decision for the game against Indianapolis. After missing that game Patterson was again limited in practice last week and then ruled out days before Miami's game against Atlanta.

The Dolphins have been trying to get both their rookies -- Willie Davis and Jamar Taylor -- ready to play and so far have had only mixed results. Davis recovered sufficiently enough from a toe injury to be active for Sunday's game but Taylor was not.

Taylor, fighting a groin injury and the aftermath of hernia surgery, has practiced the past two weeks but has yet to play a game for the Dolphins. 

 

Dion Jordan plays perhaps best game yet

On Saturday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin told his players that some of them might have to play more than they expected against the Falcons and so they should be ready.

And sure enough, when Cameron Wake went down with a knee injury, the Dolphins turned to players who previously hadn't really played a whole lot for the Dolphins. Wake has a mild knee sprain, according to CBS.com, and while he may miss some practice time and possibly Monday's game, it is not overly serious.

Wake took 19 snaps on Sunday. Derrick Shelby played 46 snaps, Vaughn Martin played 26 snaps and rookie Dion Jordan played 31 snaps.

And the result?

Jordan played quite well.

As I tweeted during the game, Jordan did a great job in turning a potential first-and-goal situation into a fourth down situation in which Atlanta settled for a field goal.

But in looking at Jordan's complete game byline, you have to appreciate that he played perhaps his most complete game to date.

He did not collect a sack, but according to ProFootballFocus.com, he collected four quarterback hurries, a quarterback hit and got a plus grade for his run defense.

Overall, Jordan was the highest rated Dolphins defender on Sunday and one of only five who had plus grades for the game.

Random thoughts for a Monday afternoon

Still feeling the high from Sunday's 27-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons? Allow me to share some thoughts to feed your buzz aside from my column in today's Herald:

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed up bigtime on the final drive. He began by telling his teammates to forget everything (much of it bad) that had happened in the game previously. Then he authored a 75-yard game winner that included him doing his job and even helping offensive coordinator Mike Sherman do his.

Yes, it was Tannehill that suggested that one-yard pass to tight end Dion Sims to take the lead.

"The orginal call was something else and I suggested that one," Tannehill said. "It's something I liked. Coach [Mike} Sherman agreed and thought it was a great idea. It's a play we know very well, and Dion stepped up and made a great play."

----------

Dion Sims has a flare for the dramatic, I'll give him that.

That game winning catch? One handed.

That game winning catch? The first of his career.

----------

Sims is a very quiet kid. He was asked his thoughts as he's making that important catch.

"I didn't really think about the situation," he said. "I knew it was crunch time and I just wanted to go out there. We ran that play in practice. I knew it was coming."

----------

The Dolphins run-defense was surprisingly bad. The Dolphins had allowed only 180 rushing yards the first two games of the season. They gave up 146 yards on Sunday.

No doubt the absence of run-stopper Paul Soliai had an effect on the situation. I texted David Canter, Soliai's agent during the game and suggested his player's price was going up because the team really missed him.

"Nah, don't bet on that," Canter texted back.

We'll see. I would be surprised if Soliai plays against the Saints, with the only reason to have hope being that it's a Monday night game thus giving the player an extra day to recover from his knee injury.

----------

Tannehill has reached the all important 2-1 ratio of TDs to INTs for the season. He has four TDs and 2 INTs.

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I don't often talk to John Denney despite the fact he's the longest-tenured Dolphins player. Truth is there are 53 guys on the roster and I simply don't get around to all of them.

But in his 131st consecutive game played for Miami, Denney came away with a big fumble recovery on a punt. It was impressive because when he dove into the pile, an Atlanta player had the ball in his grasp and Denney somehow took it away.

"There was some wrestling going on down there," Denney said. "But all that matters is when the refs get to the bottom of the pile, you're the one with a majority of the ball."

----------

I have no update on Cameron Wake's knee injury. He wasn't too eager to discuss it after the game and said he didn't even remember how it happened other than the fact someone rolled him up.

----------

Michael Egnew caught his first career pass. It gained eight yards.

----------

I could see Richie Incognito biting his tongue when he was asked about the poor pass protection of Tannehill.

"We don't know until we watch the tape," he began, which is always a bridge from I hate this line of questioning. "There's a lot of different factors to pass protection. It's more than just the offensive line. So we have to watch the tape to figure out what's going on."

Well, what's going on is the line got beat, for sure. Incognito and left tackle Jonathan Martin failed to recognize and react properly on a stunt that led to one of Osi Umenyiora's two sacks.

But there were other folks responsible as well. Running back Daniel Thomas got beat for a sack. Tight end Dion Sims got beat for a sack.

And, yes, sometimes Tannehill holds the football waaaay too long. Has to clean that up.

----------

Yes, Sunday's comeback victory was impressive. But you know what else impressed me about the Dolphins this day?

The Colts.

Consider that Indianapolis went to San Francisco and carved up the 49ers. Consider that it wasn't even close. And when you consider that in the context of Miami beating the Colts in Indianapolis a week ago, you should be impressed also.

What everyone is saying about Dolphins victory

If you're wondering what I think about the Dolphins beating of Atlanta and remaining in the ranks of the undefeated, here it is in all its glorious prose. I give it to you straight -- good and bad -- and, yes, there is a twist in that combination.

If you're wondering what everyone else is thinking about the Dolphins victory over Atlanta, here it is:

Joe Philbin

OPENING STATEMENT: Obviously it was a hotly contested football game. Atlanta is a very good football team. We knew that going in. [Falcons Head Coach] Mike Smith and his staff do a great, great job. We made enough plays to win the game. It certainly wasn’t classic or text book. We told the guys at halftime that the team that had the most faith and confidence in one another had the best chance to win. We made some plays when we had to. At the end of the first half, those three points were big. The last drive was huge.

(On their work with the two-minute drill) – “It was a huge drive. We had to have it there. There was no other alternative. We had to use our two time outs. It was at that point in the game. We had to step up and make plays. I thought our protection was better on that drive. The quarterback [Ryan Tannehill] threw the ball well. We caught the ball well on that drive and we were able to get the ball in the end zone. That, and I think those three points at the end of the half were huge. We knew that Matt Ryan [QB] does a great, great job in the two minute. He had tremendous protection a year ago in the two-minute offense so the clock was in our favor in those two scenarios."

(On what today’s win says about the team) – “We’ve got a bunch of hard working guys in there that are high character individuals. They’ve been very professional and hopefully we can continue to get better, to improve.”

(On the run defense) – “We close out the half and the game very, very well. Obviously we didn’t start the game well. We deferred to them 80 yards to score a touchdown. We started the second half and gave them the ball at the 14-yard line. There’s a bunch of things to work on. Our run defense is not where it needs to be. They controlled the whole tempo of the football game, which was one of the things we really felt going in was going to be important."

(On their performance despite injuries) – “We talked last night that we may have to get contributions from guys who are sitting in these chairs who don’t necessarily think they’re going to have a big role in the football game. That’s exactly what happened. Guys stepped up, guys like [Jason] Trusnik [LB], [Jonathan] Freeney [LB], and [Dion] Jordan [DE] played more, [Vaughn] Martin [DE] played more, [Derrick] Shelby [DE] played more on the defensive side of the ball. Those guys did a nice job."

(On the play of TE Dion Sims) – “Mike [Sherman, offensive coordinator] and the staff really deserve a lot of the credit. I want to say it was 42 or 43 seconds left [:43] somewhere around there. We had great field position. I thought it was a good move by Atlanta to call time out there to save some clock for themselves. It was kind of an action pass. We figured if it wasn’t good we’d still have a down or two to get a good play off."

(On the play of QB Ryan Tannehill during the last drive) – “He was kind of getting grabbed and held and it was a make up for the sack-fumble he had on the first play of the second half."

(On protecting the quarterback) – “He had five sacks. It’s getting repetitive, you’re probably tired of hearing me say it, but the starting point in any passing game is protection. It’s tough for any defense to cover guys all across the field – it’s 53⅓  yards wide, I believe, and 120 yards long when you count the end zones – and if you can’t protect the quarterback, or if you get pressure on the quarterback, you help your pass coverage a lot and we have to do better."

(On grading the pass protection) – “How we did on the last drive? [Overall.] Not very good. Not good. You want me to give a grade scale? A, B, C, D…it just wasn’t very good. The last grade was a B-plus."

(On the play of QB Ryan Tannehill so far this season) – “It’s important. We talk all the time about how quarterbacks have to make great decisions. They have to throw the ball accurately and they have to make plays at critical times in the game. Obviously, that drive, as I mentioned before, we had to have points on that drive, and he was able to do that. Just as the gentleman who just exited [Chairman of the Board and Managing General Partner Stephen Ross] just said, you can’t do it by yourself. We caught the ball well, we gave him good protection, and he had a chance to do his job."

(On playing before 70,660 in attendance) – “The crowd was outstanding. They were a huge part of the win. We’re going to need them every single week. They were fantastic. I think it was a thrill for our guys to play in front of a crowd like that."

(On the play of the defense) – “The guys stepped up and made plays. One of the things that we had mentioned to the ball club all week was that we wanted to do a better job of building momentum and building off of one another. If the offense gets a score, let’s get a three-and-out or a takeaway. That was a great example at the end. We needed it at the end and came up with a play. You never know what can happen offensively. A guy breaks a tackle and takes it to the house…we were able to, last week, stop a team on downs, and this week get a takeaway. That’s good stuff."

(On RB Lamar Miller’s late incomplete pass) – “We got right back to work. Mike [Sherman] just sent in another good play and off we went."

(On the team’s performance today) – “Like I said, we had a lot of confidence in those guys. They demonstrated that they love to play the game, they love to compete. They’re a team. It was a good step again in the right direction."

Tyson Clabo

(How would you describe Ryan Tannehill in that last drive) – “Flatline.  He was calm. You could tell that he expected to go down and score a touchdown.   There was no panic; nothing. He just said lets go down and score a touchdown and we did.  I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind.  Then we started moving the ball, there were big plays all over the place, it was pretty special."

(On the Atlanta Falcons) – “Good football team.   I’m sure they’ll go on and have success the rest of the season, but today, I’ll take the win."

(On if it reminded him of some of the old games with the Falcon’s, hanging in there and then pulling out the game at the end) – “Well I knew that we had to play well in the fourth quarter to beat those guys. They’re so good late and so we controlled the ball, I think we took it with over four minutes and they didn’t get it back until there was like 40 seconds left or something like that.  That was key I think, because you don’t’ want him to have time to do what he does really well.  It’s special."

Charles Clay

(On this win being a team win without anyone giving up) “There’s no doubt about it. I mean the guys did a good job sticking together. I mean even at the beginning of that last drive guys were upbeat in the huddle saying: ‘C’mon this is what great teams are made of and if you want to take the next step you got to score a touchdown.’"

(On whether there was any one play that turned the game around) “I can’t think of just one play. The guys did a great job the whole time. I mean, it was multiple times, it was an exciting game. We knew it was going to be that way coming in playing a tough Atlanta team."

(On his catch on the last drive) “I mean, it was a great move. That’s about pretty much all I can say about it. It’s a little seam route and Ryan (Tannehill) placed it in a perfect spot where I can make a play on it and no one else can."

(On the confidence of the team) “Well, I mean, this team has been working together for so long now we knew at the end of the game that if we came together, we knew that if we just played together then we can win that game."

(On how it feels to see the tight end being so involved on the last drive) “It’s big. Especially for Dion (Sims) seeing him finally get his catch."

(On Sims’ one-handed catch) “Yeah. He’s got to do it in style."

(On his catch in the fourth quarter) “I thought I was down. You know, when I got up and I heard everybody screaming, you kind of get worried, but I figured I was down."

(On whether he was the primary receiver or second or third look-off on his catch on the last drive) “It’s all based on coverage. On that play I would like to say that I was secondary, but like I said (Ryan) Tannehill did a great job with his eyes and he made a great throw."

John Denney

(On his 131st consecutive game for the Dolphins which broke Jason Taylor’s franchise record for consecutive starts) “It’s always nice and I’m more excited about the win right now. I’m more excited about being 3-0. It hasn’t happened a whole lot in my career and I’m excited to where the team is headed."

(On his fumble recovery) “It all happens real quick. I mean there was some wrestling going on down there. But what matters is when the refs finally get to the bottom of the pile that you’re the one with the majority of the ball."

(On whether he has ever recovered a fumble before) “I have once before in a regular season game and another time in a preseason game."

(On what it was like to watch Ryan Tannehill on the last drive of the game) “It’s great. It’s great to see when your quarterback has got that confidence and then he believes in himself that he can go down the field when we need it and score."

(On rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis being calm, cool and collected) “He is solid. I mean you’re getting your bang for your buck out of him for sure."

(On where this environment ranks for him) “Oh, this has got to be tops as far as the energy right now, it’s as high as I’ve ever seen it."

(On whether this is the best moment he has had as a Dolphin) “Yeah, we’ve been to the playoffs once. Right now because it’s the moment, absolutely I’d say it’s the greatest time because it’s now. We’re doing well now. We’re not living off the past. We’re making the most of the present and hopefully we can snowball that into the future."

(On what is special about this team, overcoming three turnovers and still coming out ahead) “I think because we’ve seen ourselves do it before, I think we will build that confidence to know that it is possible. We’re not heads down, giving up. We recognize the fact that we’ve done this before, we’re not out of this. There is plenty of time on the clock and we’re capable of turning it around."

Brent Grimes

(On the week leading up to the game) – “It was emotional. It was a crazy game, it came down to the home stretch and it was a great win. To win a game against a team who has been good in this league for a while now, that’s big. It was our home opener, we’re 3-0; it was just a big win. It didn’t mean that much just because it was the Atlanta Falcons."

(On QB Ryan Tannehill on the last drive) – “If you heard me on the sideline, I said I know we’re going to score. It just had that feeling. He moved the ball down the field and made some big throws, the team made some big catches and we got going."

(On whether it was a big win) – “I knew we have a lot of potential on this team and we’re doing some good things out there and we just want to keep it going. We’re only 3-0, we have a lot of positives, but we have a lot of work to do."

(On the DE Cameron Wake’s injury) – “We just know everybody is going to give their best effort. You never want anybody to go down, but you know it’s bound to happen in this game. You have to have people step up and we did that, everybody was talking on the sideline. We were all picking guys up telling each other to keep it going. We made a bunch of stops when we had to."

(On the feeling at halftime) – “We knew that this was the kind of game we were in for, so we didn’t panic; we knew we had to make adjustments and we had to get back to doing our fundamentals and play football how we know how to play. Then things started going our way in the second half."

(On whether this win says something about the team) – “I already knew it about my team. We got in here on April 15 and all the guys are all in. That’s what we are. We make plays when we have to and nobody doubted it.”

Brian Hartline

(On QB Ryan Tannehill’s composure on the last drive of the game) – “It was a good step. He stepped back there and put together a Ryan Tannehill kind of moment."

(On beating a championship level team) – “It was good. It was definitely a step forward. I guess high expectations usually bring out the best in you."

(On the team being 3-0 for the first time in 12 years) – “We have a special team. We have a lot of talent. We continue to progress and come together as a team on an individual basis. Offense, defense, and special teams all compliment each other. The sky’s the limit."

(On his touchdown catch) – “I had an opportunity, I saw the coverage and I knew I had an opportunity on the ball. Of course the only spot where the sun was left in the stadium decided to find the football and I couldn’t see it, so I decided to catch the black dot and it worked out pretty well. It was definitely hard to locate."

Richie Incognito

(On if it was all business in the huddle on the final drive of the game) – “All business, we were prepared to be in that situation and I think guys stuck together, it was a gutsy win and it was awesome to go down the field and get seven points."

(On if he was surprised by the play call on first and goal from the one yard line) – “You know, we have had a lot of success against our defense running that play. Obviously we do a lot of different scenarios on the goal line and we get competitive reps against the first team defense and we always have success with that play, it’s hard to defend. You have play action upfront, the tight end leaking out the back and they had it covered but he had his back turned and Dion (Sims) went up and made a play."

(On what went right on the final drive) – “We were able to pick up chunks of yards, instead of two yards and a cloud of dust, we were able to pick up six, seven, eight (yards) and consistently move the chains, keeping third down manageable and really leave our whole playbook to be called, we left ourselves some options moving the ball down the field."

Don Jones

(On if he thought Harry Douglas would be returning the punt where he tackled Douglas for the fumble after he waved off his team) – “Actually I didn’t see him wave it off because I was fighting all the way down the field trying to get my defender off. I finally found him. I looked up, and he was right where I was. I tackled him, and I looked up and he was on my shoulder. I decided to go on and dunk him. So it turned out to a pretty good play that a better team could get out and get a win."

(On if he felt the energy changing on the sideline after the play where he forced the fumble) – “Yes, most definitely. I think they gave us a lot more hope. I think it got the offense rolling a little more. Then after that, we came out and finished the game well and finished the game like Coach (Joe) Philbin had been talking about all week. We finished it out pretty good."

(On if he felt like Harry Douglas didn’t see him coming) – “He glanced at me bug-eyed. I don’t think he knew I was coming at him that fast. As soon as I got the chance, I just dived at him and caught him in my shoulders. I scooped him up and threw him down. It was a big play."

(On if he knew the ball had popped out) – “No sir, I was just so happy I was running to the sidelines celebrating. Then I looked and everyone was pointing back and I was like, ‘We just got the turnover.’  It was a big play I really needed. I just need to keep improving and listening to my coaches every week."

(On how it impacts his confidence making a big play) – “My confidence went through the roof. Now I feel like I could go down there and do that all the time, which I know I’m capable of. I just got to keep on working and keep on working, keep on getting coached up every week and after that everything will be good."

(On if he feels like he’s on the team because of special teams) – “Oh yes, most definitely. If it wasn’t for special teams I probably wouldn’t have made the 53 (man roster). I would probably be on practice squad.”

Dion Jordan

(On how it felt to get this win) – “It wasn’t just one guy, it was myself, OV (Olivier Vernon) made big plays, (Derrick) Shelby had to come in and make plays, (Randy) Starks played a lot, it’s just everybody as a collective unit.  We work out butt off throughout the week so we can play well on Sunday’s.  I’m just thankful that we prepared the way we did so that we can come out here and play well."

(On with all the injuries today, it was a next man up scenario, was it a good team effort) – “Oh yes, it’s the NFL and you never can predict what happens and that’s why guys have to prepare like they’re going to play on Sunday.  In our case on the defensive side of the ball guys had to step up, fortunately we prepared well enough and we made plays."

(On how he can explain this team, after it looks like they’re out of a game, and they keep winning) – “We have a lot of faith in each other, that’s all it is.  We work really hard throughout the week and it’s a grind, but we understand  on Sunday’s it’s going to pay off  in this league.  These last few games it’s been down to the wire, pretty much and we’ve played against some good teams.  Thankfully we stuck together and came out big, 2 weeks in a row."

Jonathan Martin

(On how rare it is to win a game when the winning team gives up five sacks and the losing team does not give up any) – “It just shows our ability to execute in the clutch. We got the ball back with just enough time to get down the field and it showed us how together we are as a team."

Mike Pouncey

(On what the 4th quarter drive says about Ryan Tannehill) – “He’s a monster, he’s taken the next step and everyone can tell he’s been playing well for us all season. The way he conducts himself in practice, you can tell its going to relate to the game, and so he’s playing well for us. It was a total team win; we couldn’t have done anything without our defense and kicking game."

(On what was said by Tannehill in the huddle on the last drive) – “He told us on the last drive, it doesn’t matter what you have done up to this point, the only things that matters is the last drive of the game and we went down and scored a touchdown. It just goes to show his leadership and his will to win the game, and we did it."

(On where he would rank today’s atmosphere) – “Number one, it’s the best I have ever seen this stadium. The fans were into it, they helped us out a lot. When the fans are into it hurts the other team. They were all juiced up, and so were we on the sidelines."

Mike Wallace

(Think Ryan did a good job spreading the ball)- “He did a pretty good job spreading the ball, getting it to everyone. He is doing the things a quarterback needs to do to take that next step."

(Tannehill’s poise down the stretch)- “He is just showing us everything we see in practice. He does this everyday. He makes plays. We making strides, he going down the right path to be a great quarterback."

(On Ryan being sacked five times, your team not recording a sack)- “No, but we have a team that overcomes it. It was a team win, everyone contributed. Big play by Don (Jones), turned the game around. Donny got the hit that caused the fumble and (John) Denney recovered it. We won in all three phases of the game to win it."

(On being outplayed, nothing going your way, but still finding a way to win the game)- “You think we got outplayed, I feel like we played the best. First half maybe, I will give you that, but the 2nd half, that’s where it really counts. It’s a team, everyone contributed in all three phases of the game."

(On the Special Teams tackle by Don Jones which caused a fumble)- “Biggest play of the whole game, we were driving but we had to punt the ball, but we got the ball back and scored on the drive."

(Never quitting on the game)- “60 minutes in the game, I’ve seen so much crazy stuff happen in the  football game, teams comeback down from 20,21, 28 points. Until the last second goes off on the clock you just need to have faith and believe you can win."

Falcons coach Mike Smith

(Opening remarks) –This was a game that we had a ton of opportunities to have chances to win the game. We just didn’t make the plays when they were presented to us. We’ve got to be a lot more efficient the red zone. We cannot leave out of there without scoring touchdowns. We’ve got to get the ball in the end zone. I thought that we played well in spurts. We’re not going to win whole lot of games in the National Football League when you lose the turnover battle, which we did today. But we’re going to keep working to make the improvements that we need to make as a football team."

(On the Dolphins’ game-winning drive) – “Obviously we did not get enough pressure. We didn’t play tight-enough coverage. And they made the plays and we didn’t. You’ve got to make those plays at the end of the ballgame."

(On when he felt the game was getting away from the Falcons) – “The game got away when (the Dolphins) went ahead, there, at the end when we had two timeouts and we’re in a situation where we have to score a touchdown. And when it really got away from us was on that last interception. Our guys fought to the very last play."

(On deciding to attempt a field goal late in the game based on the spot of the ball) – “I thought it was too far (to go for the first down). If it was going to be a half a yard or less, we had determined we would go for it. When they brought the chains out it was a good yard, yard and a half. And that’s very difficult in those situations to know until they unwind and bring the chains out it was definitely more than one yard."

(On the performance of the Falcons’ second-string players) – “Ee had a lot of guys that played … it was good to see those young guys step up. It’ll be interesting to watch the film. Paul Worrilow got a number of snaps in the ballgame today. (Joplo) Bartu continued to play … so, those guys, we knew would be able to step up and go out and compete. And I thought that they did a nice job standing on the sideline. We just didn’t get the outcome that we wanted today."

(On if he felt like the Falcons played well enough to win) – “The scoreboard says that we didn’t. There’s certain indicators in a football game that have a more high probability for winning. For losing. When you lose the turnover battle, the way we lost the turnover battle today, that’s probably the biggest one. Then our red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball wasn’t as efficient as we needed it to be. Those are probably two of the biggest indicators of whether you’re going to win the game or not."

(On if despite the loss, if he was happy with his team’s performance) - “Again, we didn’t win the ballgame. I liked the effort. I liked the resolve that we showed in terms of running the football. We wanted to run the football. We came in and I thought we did it. I thought that both Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers did a very good job. The offensive line controlled the defensive front. I thought that we applied pressure on the quarterback; we had five sacks on our side. And again, you look at the indicators that I had mentioned and that’s really the difference in the ballgame. The red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball for the Falcons and losing the turnover battle."

September 22, 2013

Dolphins 'got a damn good football team'

If you didn't watch the game and merely started reading the box score, you'd be depressed.

Matt Ryan wasn't sacked.

Ryan Tannehill was sacked five times.

The Dolphins rushed for 90 yards.

The Falcons rushed for 146 yards.

The Falcons also won the turnover margin and time of possession.

Guess what?

Dolphins 27. Falcons 23.

It was a great come-from-behind victory. It was a game that led to a Gatorade shower in the locker room. And afterward, owner Stephen Ross left that very locker room and announced, "We got a damn good football team."

Now, my instincts are to suggest he slow his roll. But you know what?

Give it to him. And the Dolphins. This was a very fine win.

Really was.

Wake out of game with knee injury

The Dolphins and Falcons are locked in something of a shootout and perhaps one reason is the Dolphins have been without defensive end Cameron Wake for most of the first half.

Wake, Miami's sack leader, injured his knee on the Falcons first possession of the game. He tried to return the second possession but had to leave again and even went into the tunnel that leads to the locker room and X-ray machine at Sun Life Stadium.

The Dolphins officially have Wake as questionable to return.

The team initially substituted Vaughn Martin in for Wake. Then left end Olivier Vernon moved to right end while Derrick Shelby came in at left end.

The most effective substitution, however, was when Dion Jordan came in the game at Wake's spot. Although coaches are concerned about Jordan's run-stopping, he was allowed to play several early downs and even made a key third down stop on a run at Miami's own 3 yard line.

That stop forced the Falcons, who have 15 first downs, to settle for a field goal instead of score a TD.

Wake, meanwhile, has been prowling the Miami sideline trying to stay loose and obviously hoping to return in the second half.