Written by Matthew Cannata at 8:00 AM EST | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
The Miami Dolphins defense have been presented with many challenges so far this season and on Sunday, they’ll get another one as they face a dangerous Detroit Lions offense. However, they’re up to the challenge and they’re looking forward to taking the next step among the best defensive units of the NFL.
“I think the biggest thing, especially in this three-game winning streak that we’ve had, is the takeaways have just been huge,” Joe Philbin said. “We’ve had a relatively good pass rush since we’ve been here. Our scoring defense has been relatively good since we’ve been here. I think our takeaways, at least right now where we stand, have kind of been accelerated to the point where it’s hard to get four-a-game. I’m not suggesting that’s a sustainable number, but we’ve been able to take the ball away from some good teams. I think San Diego had five coming into the game and we were able to get four. That’s got to be a big part of what we do from here on out. I’d say that’s the one thing that is the difference.”
Jelani Jenkins said that the biggest difference in the defense the last few games is that all of the players are much more focused and are putting in a lot more work during the week.
“I think we just practice really hard, practice well. We have a great work ethic. I think we’re just playing resilient, focusing on the ball a lot more. (We’re) getting strips, getting takeaways. We practice it. It’s a big big aspect to our game and we realize that that’s one of the top priorities in every game – if you get takeaways, then more than likely you’re going to win the game. I think we’re just a really hungry group.”
The Dolphins have recovered nine fumbles so far this season and Philbin says that while there is an element of luck in recovering fumbles, it helps the players that they practice on an almost daily basis.
“You can’t always control every single bounce that the ball takes. Certainly, you want to work on it. You know that, inevitably in the course of a season, the ball’s going to be on the ground. As much as we want to coach against it, we want our offensive players to carry it the right way and never lose it. Sometimes, it happens. To the degree that you can control it, you want to just prepare your players for the proper way to recover a fumble. Even though sometimes you’re in a controlled setting when you practice and, as we all know, it’s not controlled when the ball’s out.
With two top defenses facing off against each other on Sunday, many are predicting a low scoring game. Does Philbin feel the same way about it?
“It’s hard to predict. Once you think you know everything about football, you find out you don’t. I think it should be a good football game. I think they’re a very good team. I think Coach (Jim) Caldwell and his staff have done a great job there. It should be a good game. It’ll be interesting.”