What a way to get the nasty taste of two bitter defeats out of our mouths. I won’t go as far as to say the Dolphins saved their season, but 3-2 is drastically better than 2-3 in this division and conference.
Unfortunately, things haven’t got much easier for the Dolphins, as the Jets and Patriots continue to win and the schedule isn’t about to get softer any time soon. But they still have a pulse and now have two very impressive road wins under their belt.
Before yesterday the Dolphins really hadn’t played a full game with a solid offensive and defensive performance. In the first two road wins, Mike Nolan’s defense was fantastic, but the offense was lackluster. In the Jets game, Chad Henne and the passing attack was brilliant but the running game and defense cost the Dolphins at home. I don’t think I even need to mention the New England game two weeks ago.
Yesterday against the Packers, though, the offense put together their most balanced attack of the season as Henne threw for 231 yards and Ronnie and Ricky combined for 137 yards. Take away the interception, turnover on downs, and the settling for field goals, and that was the offensive formula this team needs to employ week in and week out to be successful.
Dan Henning has been getting his fair share of criticism this year, and rightfully so, but outside of that mind boggling Hartline reverse, he called a pretty flawless game. And how about the way Henne bounced back after the three picks he threw against the Pats?
Yes, we’ve already talked about the interception, which was the wrong read, but credit the defender for making a great jump on the ball and completing the difficult catch. Take away that pass, and there wasn’t much to complain about.
Henne fit some passes into some very tight windows; throws that only quarterbacks with elite arm strength can make. The touchdown pass to Bess between two defenders was a great example, as was that perfectly placed ball to Marshall along the sideline between the corner and safety in zone coverage.
Henne may not be ready to emerge as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks yet, but he’s surely earned the right to keep his job and has proven to be good enough to at least be a solid starter for years to come.
Defensively, the Dolphins finally stopped the bleeding a bit against the run by holding Green Bay to under four yards per carry. Albeit the Packers don’t exactly have a dominate running attack, and they were still able to gash Miami’s front seven on a few plays, but it was a solid, encouraging effort.
Yes, Aaron Rodgers got his yards- when doesn’t he? But outside of that deep connection with Jennings, the secondary bent but didn’t break when the Dolphins needed a stop the most. It was a little disappointing to see Vontae give up that big touchdown, but that’s going to happen every now and then when he’s all alone on an island like that.
Make no mistake, this kid is a player. Maybe he hasn’t arrived at the elite shutdown status quite yet, but he’s well on his way. Despite the big play, he continued to show how physical he is on some key tackles there in the fourth quarter that nearly preserved the lead.
When Vontae and the secondary needed to make a play to get off the field, it was the pass rush, and in particular Cameron Wake who answered the call. Wake was simply a beast all game long. Each of his three sacks played a huge role in keeping the Packers off the board more than they were, and without them the Dolphins probably don’t win that game.
I have praised Wake before, but I think it’s officially time to cement him as one of the league’s elite pass rushers. If he isn’t a household name now, he will be by years end. Not to say that he’s arrived yet as a complete outside linebacker, he’s still got some work to do setting the edge, but from a pass rushing standpoint the Dolphins have been blessed with one of the best in the business.
That finally brings me to special-teams. It wasn’t pretty at times again, but progress was made. The tipped punt and the holding call near the end of the first-half on Carpenter’s field goal were the negatives. But Carpenter showed great composure by calmly nailing that 53-yarder at the end of the half and the game winning kick in overtime. The kickoff coverage was also much better, as the first and second lines of defense were staying in their lanes and flying to the football.
Nolan Carroll also caught my eye. I think the Dolphins have found their kickoff returner. He very nearly broke off a couple big returns yesterday, and he hits the hole so much harder than the other guys who have gotten opportunities. Still a lot to correct, though, on the special-teams side of things, but they appear to be headed in the right direction.
Overall, just a great team win for a group of guys who have had to battle a little adversity here in the last three weeks and who desperately needed to right the ship. It’s no time to relax, though, perhaps the best team in football awaits next week when the Steelers come to town.
Fab Five Fins
Cameron Wake: The obvious choice, Wake made a few of the biggest plays of the game by getting to Rodgers for three sacks.
Brandon Marshall: Pretty disappointed to see Marshall not get that second foot down towards the end of the half, but 10 grabs for 127 yards was more than enough production to open up the offense.
Chad Henne: The interception in the redzone was pretty frustrating considering the Dolphins were on the verge of adding to a 7-3 lead, but overall Henne had a great bounce back performance from the debacle two weeks ago with 231 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Dan Carpenter: Like I said yesterday, I don’t usually go out of my way to compliment kickers, but Carpenter surely deserves some recognition for one of the most outstanding performances I have seen in recent memory from a Dolphins kicker.
Jason Allen: Jason Allen also had a nice little bounce back performance of his own. After a rough two game home stand, Allen wasn’t picked on two heavily by Rodgers and made one of the key plays of the game by picking him off along the sideline.
A big congratulations to Davone Bess for the two-year contract extension yesterday. The deal reportedly makes him the highest paid slot receiver in the league. Great job by Jeff Ireland for getting this thing out of the way, and good for Davone Bess who deserves every penny.