Monday, October 1, 2012

Dolphins-Cardinals Game Observations

Another week, another heartbreaking loss for the Miami Dolphins.

Just like Week's 3's game against the Jets, Week 4's matchup with Arizona featured a Dolphins team that outplayed its opponent only to fall in overtime.

It's crazy to think that in a game where Ryan Tannehill set a franchise rookie record with 431 passing yards, Brian Hartline broke Chris Chambers' single-game mark with 253 receiving yards, and Cameron Wake set a personal best with four sacks, the Dolphins ended up losing.

While the Dolphins could easily be 3-1 with just a few less turnovers and some timely "finishing" of games, they sit at 1-3 and at the bottom of the AFC East a quarter into the season.

The Dolphins will remain on the road in Week 5 as they travel to Cincinnati to face the 3-1 Bengals. Until then, here are my thought on their tough Week 4 loss to the Cardinals.


Offense
  • It's hard to be anything but ecstatic with the way Ryan Tannehill played yesterday. He finally got a chance to air it out and he certainly didn't disappoint. He had a few bad throws, including one that should have been intercepted but it the ground in the defender's hands, but his actual interceptions were really the result of a receiver slipping and some blitz-pickup issues. I absolutely loved his command of the offense yesterday and although the team is 1-3, this is exactly the kind of optimism I wanted to get out of his play this season.
  • Surprisingly, the Dolphins' running game didn't get going as much as it has the past few weeks, taking a backseat to the passing attack. The good news is that Reggie Bush looked solid and came out of the game healthy, so I'd expect him to resume a bigger load going forward.
  • I thought Jorvorskie Lane had a great game all-around, not only with his touchdown but also as a lead blocker. Quite a find for the Dolphins.
  • I've always been a big Brian Hartline fan, but a performance like this is still stunning. Hartline did a great job yesterday and seems to have an incredible rapport with Tannehill despite missing the whole preseason. He and Tannehill did a great job taking advantage of the weaker points of Arizona's secondary. Although his slip and fall that resulted in an interception was unfortunate, that kind of thing happens and it doesn't take away from the good things he did. Then you throw in the always-reliable Davone Bess, and it's clear to see why Tannehill targets these two so often.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Legedu Naanee has gone from a non-contributing ghost to a game-killer. He spent the first three games playing sparingly on offense and not catching a pass, only to hook up with Tannehill on a deep ball late in the game yesterday and fumble it with no contact. I know the guy is guaranteed his $700,000 salary, but I can't stand the fact that he's still in Miami and they might as well move on now.
  • The offensive line continues to be solid, although it needs to handle blitzers well. I also thought Jake Long had a pretty rough first half and he's still not playing at the elite level to which we've become accustomed. I would hope that this is because he may not be 100 percent, but it's certainly something to watch going forward. I continue to be very pleased with how Mike Pouncey is playing and he looks more and more like a great center everyday.

Defense
  • As one would expect given the Dolphins' quality defensive line and the Cardinals' offensive line woes, Miami dominated this game upfront. Cameron Wake continued to get held on a regular basis, but that didn't stop him from getting four sacks after being shut out the past three games. The team overall did a very nice job stuffing the run and  getting consistent pressure on Kevin Kolb.
  • The linebackers had a pretty solid game as well, and had a fairly easy time given the lack of Arizona's running game and receiving threats in the middle of the field. Karlos Dansby needs to shut his mouth, but he at least made some plays in this one and actually got one of the Dolphins' many sacks.
  • It's hard to find much to complain about in Sean Smith's performance this week. He did allow the game-tying touchdown late, but he was matched up on Larry Fitzgerald all day and basically shut him down from any big plays. Not only that, but he made two very nice plays on interceptions and tackled well. I can't say I was nearly as happy with how Richard Marshall and Nolan Carroll played, especially considering the constant pressure Kolb had to deal with. 

Special Teams

  • Another missed kick for Dan Carpenter has fans up in arms, but I'm not ready to move on. We're still looking at a small sample here and Carpenter has been reliable for years, so I see no reason to let him go with his salary guaranteed for the season. Now if he continues to struggle, I certainly look to go younger and cheaper next year, but moving on yet is a little quick.
  • Brandon Fields had another strong day, aided by Patrick Peterson consistently doing stupid things like bobbling punts and fair-catching the ball at the three-yard line.


Conclusion

It's unfortunate to think how easily the Dolphins could be 3-1 or 2-2 right now, but sitting where we are was not unexpected given the Dolphins' holes. At the very least, it is nice to see guys like Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hartline, Mike Pouncey, Cameron Wake and Sean Smith playing well, as that's really all we could hope for going into the 2012 season.

The Dolphins did a lot of good things in this game, including but not limited to a strong passing attack, a good pass rush and sound tackling, which are all things the team had been lacking in previous weeks.

There are still roster holes and there is still work to be done, however. The Dolphins have to avoid untimely turnovers, they have to get more consistent in all facets and head coach Joe Philbin absolutely has to avoid crucial coaching mistakes.