By: Hussam Patel
A possible trap game which turned out to be another standout defensive performance. Now 6-3 and in the thick of the AFC Playoff race the Dolphins are poised to attempt to run the table with upcoming games against:
The Dolphins are poised to possibly win the AFC East over the Buffalo Bills with a pivotal season finale that could determine the division winner as well as seeding for the playoffs.
*insert Jim Mora voice* - PLAYOFFS??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? PLAYOFFS???
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Dolphins fans. Yes, it’s good to be optimistic, and hopeful. Miami has adapted this culture Brain Flores has ingrained into this team, his staff, and most importantly us as writers and avid fans should also buy into this culture.
Yes, we were all enraged over Chan Gailey calling 3 straight run plays, again with the conservative play calling, again with the 3 and out, and again with giving the ball back to Justin Herbert to score. Can I tell you something that might seem a bit of a shocker to you?
Sure, Chan Gailey is the coordinator, but Brian Flores is the man that calls everything. He’s the head coach for a reason. Flores and Gailey do not need to or want to put everything onto Tua’s shoulders.
This is reminiscent, dare I say, to when Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 came off the bench and had Jerome Bettis and a great defense going 15-1 but losing to the Patriots in the playoffs. And how about recently, with MVP candidate Russell Wilson. Back in 2012, his rookie year, he had a great defense and potent running game and won a game in the playoffs, losing to the Falcons in the NFC Divisional round.
Obviously, the Dolphins don’t have a great rushing attack yet (key word attack, reinforcements are coming in the draft) but they do have a really good Defense and a very special, Special Teams unit.
Per Football Outsiders, Miami is 2nd in special teams DVOA. Jakeem Grant has 84 more punt return yards than the second-place returner, Jason Sanders' 20 made FGs are tied for 2nd-most and Matt Haack is 8th in net punting average and fifth in punts downed inside the 20. There was a shock among us all, Jason Sanders, Captain Kick, Colonel Sanders, Mr. Perfect or whatever you want to call him, missed the first field goal this season in the 4th quarter of the Chargers game.
Call it commentators curse or an unexpected mishap- it was bewildering to see him miss-telling us Sanders is almost automatic in FGs. We saw Jakeem Grant have fun in the return game, one or two more missed tackled and he could have had a pair of return touchdowns. Might I say Andrew Van Ginkel continues to impress, blocking a mishandled Chargers punt to have the Dolphins up early following a Salvon Ahmed score after the big play. AVG also is playing tremendous linebacker for Miami.
The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the deadliest teams when they play the deep ball. Their longest play was a 30-yard pass in garbage time. This secondary is holding down the fort. I said it in last week’s article-Bobby McCain is doing one heck of a job "quarterbacking" the deep end of the field. Where would the dolphins be without Xavien Howard and Byron Jones locking down opponents best WRs? Allowing Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Zach Sieler, and Kyle Van Noy to feast against offensive linemen. Per PFF: Miami held Justin Herbert to an 86.3 passer, 187 passing yards and 5.84 yards per attempt.
And let’s not forget about the development of Rookie defensive linemen, Raekwon Davis. He did well against this Chargers O-line and Kalen Ballage (yes, I know, I predicted Ballage to do well this game). He graded out a whopping 90.8 grade in the run game. Also, what a day for Nik Needham, he’s quietly becoming one of the best Slot Corners in the AFC. Against his bud Keenan Allen, who trained with him this summer, only caught the ball once for 11 yards while Needham covered. Needham also had a sack, three run stops. and a pass defended on Allen.
Tua naysayers can say whatever they want. Remember when national media was pounding the Dolphins for benching Fitzpatrick and Starting Tua with this O-line? How Tua wouldn’t be able to stand while the pocket collapses? Tua wouldn’t be able to get the ball out fast?
The rookie is 3-0 on the season, 5-0 in the TD to interception ratio. Tua is putting the ball in right places and making sound decisions with while playing efficiently with Gailey's play-calling. This Dolphins team is special, a turnaround from a historically low point differential to a +69-point differential this season.
I, like any Dolphins fan who was frustrated with the conservative play calling by Chan Gailey, wanted to see Tua and the offense light up the scoreboard with creative plays. They don’t need to do that- they are winning the first half of games and defending the score in the second half, not yet giving up a fourth quarter lead this season. The key is to protect the lead at all costs, playing safe so far has worked. Lightem up on Chan Gailey, Dolphins fans. Look what happened to the Bills against the Cardinals last Sunday. We do not want the Dolphins to blow a lead and suddenly alarms blare.
Flores and company know exactly what they are doing. Put your trust into them. I know the players have, I know the staff has, I know management has. Trust this process.
Please welcome Hussam Patel to PhinManiacs and please give him a follow on Twitter @AirXAlpha1721