Sunday, December 6, 2009

Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots: Random Observations

The Miami Dolphins rebounded from their tough loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 12 with a one-point, come-from-behind victory against the AFC East-leading New England Patriots in Week 13.

The Dolphins didn't get much pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and shied away from the running game that has made them so productive, but were still able to come away with the win.

At 6-6, the Dolphins are one game behind the Patriots in the AFC East. They are finished with games inside the division and will finish out the season with three game against AFC South opponents before closing the regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins-Patriots game:

Offense
  • The Dolphins gave Chad Henne the keys to the offense more than I've ever seen before, letting him throw 52 passes on the way to the most productive game of his career.
  • Henne wasn't always on-point and missed a handful of easy throws, but he still made a lot of great throws and came through when it counted. The Dolphins have a real quarterback for the first time since Dan Marino. (Not that there is much competition among the players since then.)
  • How many times is Pat White going to have to come in and do nothing before the team abandons that aspect of the offense? It's like wasting a down every time he enters the game, and it makes zero sense when Henne is moving the ball down the field and getting a rhythm going.
  • Ricky Williams ran hard and looked good, but the Patriots did a good job for the most part of stopping the run.
  • Lousaka Polite once again came through in short yardage, and would have had some good receptions if Henne hadn't missed him badly multiple times.
  • Davone Bess doesn't have great speed or moves, but he displayed good hands catching the ball and helping move the chains.
  • Brian Hartline was also quite impressive with a few good grabs, including a great falling toe-tap in the endzone for a score.
  • Ted Ginn, Jr. also came through when he was called upon, making a beautiful sideline catch in the first half and on a slant during the final scoring drive.
  • Though Joey Haynos was a non-factor, starting tight end Anthony Fasano caught the ball well when targeted and did a good job not going down easily while still protecting the ball.
  • Henne didn't get the flawless pass protection that Tom Brady did most of the game, but the Dolphins' offense line did an admirable job, especially given how many passes Henne attempted.
  • Nate Garner slid over to right guard and replaced Donald Thomas, performing well. I'm not sure if Thomas was benched or injured, as he has been a pretty solid player for the Dolphins all season.

Defense & Special Teams
  • The Dolphins' defensive line struggled against the run early but got things together. Their pass rush was pretty weak, as the Patriots' offensive line did their usual good job in protecting Brady.
  • Nose tackle Paul Soliai played much better than he did in his first game against the Patriots. He blew up a Patriots running play on fourth and short that led to a Joey Porter tackle and a turnover.
  • The outside linebacker didn't do much, spending most of the day getting shut down by the Patriots' offensive line and chasing Wes Welker from behind.
  • Cameron Wake, however, stepped up big on the team's last defensive play and forced the Tom Brady interception that sealed a Miami win. The team needs to see more of him down the stretch, because based on his flashes of ability as a rookie, I'm inclined to say he should have a very significant role in 2010.
  • Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele and Nathan Jones did a poor job of shadowing Welker all day. Crowder's game-sealing interception was big (and so was the wise decision to not try and return it) but most of the credit there goes to Wake's pressure.
  • Vontae Davis had his bad moments, but for the second straight game against New England came up with a beautiful interception one-on-one with Randy Moss.
  • Sean Smith had a very rough day, getting beat numerous times (though the Patriots didn't always capitalize) and being out-jumped and then run over on a long touchdown by Sam Aiken. Smith has more talent and better ball skills than he's displayed lately, so he might have hit the rookie wall.
  • Gibril Wilson was once again caught napping a handful of times and ended up having to chase guys down from behind. Hopefully he'll enjoy his last four games in a Dolphins uniform, and the fat bonus check he's received for one horrendous season.
  • Dan Carpenter still only has one miss all season and is playing like a Pro Bowler. It's nice to see him come through when the game is on the line too.
  • Erik Walden, Jason Allen, John Denney and Chris Clemons all made some nice special teams tackles. However, Walden also had a penalty that negated a Patriots roughing penalty that would have given Miami a first down.
  • It was a usual day for the Dolphins returners: Ted Ginn, Jr. didn't do much but had one very good return, and Davone Bess showed absolutely nothing.