It may have been ugly. It may have been boring. Heck, it may have been many things, but one thing that the Week 1 matchup against the Buffalo Bills wasn’t, was a loss.
The Miami Dolphins just barely avoided catastrophy against Buffalo, but with the help of their shut-down defense, they pulled out the victory in Buffalo, a place where the team has not won at since 2003.
In a game where the outcome was decided by defensive stands, Miami pulled through. Yes, Miami won a defensive battle. Was it not the Miami defense that was one of the main worries coming into the season? Newly acquired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan showed how big of an impact he can have on this team today, by commanding the Dolphins defense to holding the Bills offense to only 166 total yards!
The story of the game was the Fins D, which only allowed the Bills high powered run game to 50 yards on the ground.
But an even bigger and better succes story for the team was the pass defense, and the pass rush. The Fins got to Bills quarterback Trent Edwards three times, with Karlos Dansby, Cameron Wake and rookie Koa Misi all registering sacks.
With the Dolphins getting an consistent pass rush on the quarterback, it allowed the cornerbacks to go out and do their thing. Jason Allen, getting his first start as a cornerback in which he actually earned it, had a great game, in limiting Bills star receiver Lee Evans to only 34 yards on 4 catches. Evans was taken out of the game for the most part until the end of the 3rd quarter/start of 4th quarter.
While the score shows 15-10, the final should most likely be 13-3. The Bills gave up an intentional safety when they were backed deep in their own territory to try an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff.
The Dolphins also gave up a 31 yard touchdown pass to receiver Roscoe Parrish on which the defense trotted out three safeties to play center field. On the coverage, Tyrone Culver stepped up into coverage, instead of dropping back, and Parrish ran right by him to catch the pass over the top, for the Bills only touchdown of the game.
The Dolphins lone touchdown came on a 1 yard run by running back Ronnie Brown after a 20 yard reception by tight end Anthony Fasano set up the scoring play.
Here are some of the observations I made during the game:
- The offensive scheme was a major disappointment for me. It seemed as bland and vanilla as the pre-season, and when the Dolphins tried to mix it up with the Wildcat, everyone knew what was coming, and how to defend it. The receivers were always covered in the second half, forcing quarterback Chad Henne to check down on seemingly every single pass he made. Despite the Bills very good secondary, the Fins were unable to run the ball as well as they should against an inconsistent run defense. Henne also underthrew receiver Brandon Marshall that would have resulted in a long touchdown hookup, but because the ball was short, and Marshall had to stop and turn around to try and catch the ball, he dropped it.
- Marshall was a beast, recording 8 catches for 53 yards. Most of his catches were in the first half though, and all throughout the second half, Marshall was covered like a blanket, but thus opened things up for slot receiver Davone Bess, who registered 6 grabs for 51 yards. The Dolphins other starting receiver, Brian Hartline, did not record any catches today, and was a non factor in the game, which is disappointing considering he helped the team so much last year.
- The offensive line was giving Henne all day to throw the ball for the most part, there were only a couple of times where the pocket collasped, causing Henne to get sacked three times on the day. The run blocking was simply average, and opened some lanes for the backs to scamper through a couple of times, but the line clearly needs to work on their cohesiveness together.
- The Dolphins only committed three penalties for 15 yards in the game. I mentioned in my keys to the game that limiting the mental mistakes and the penalties would be a huge factor in determing the winner.
- I was very impressed with the new starters in the secondary, Chris Clemons and Jason Allen. Clemons was all over the field, and registered 5 tackles, and 2 tackles for loss. He was everywhere for the Fins, and rarely did you see anyone throw into Clemons’ coverage or hear that Clemons made a mistake. He had an astounding game for a first year starter, and if he keeps this up, there will be no chance of rookie Reshad Jones, or Tyrone Culver taking his job. Allen also impressed me today. He covered Lee Evans like a glove, and also had 6 tackles, and was a key contributor on special teams. Allen is perhaps our best special teams player, and if he keeps his play in coverage up, he should be on the team for a very long time. Allen dropped almost a sure pick-6 though in the game, which would have put the game on ice in the final minutes of the game. It was because of the play of Allen that former starter Sean Smith was one of two players to not see any playing time during the game. Allen’s performance in the game almost ensures his starting spot during the next couple of games.
- No longer is it the case that the defense is the problem with the Dolphins. It is still the offense, even after acquiring star Brandon Marshall, the Fins are still having problems finishing drives. It all comes down to offensive playcalling, and that is something that disappointed me in the game. The receivers were running the same types of routes over and over, and it only took the Bills a half to figure out what Miami was doing. They will need to switch it up and make some changes before the Minnesota game next Sunday.
A win is a win, and while it was an ugly one, the Dolphins are now 1-0, and will travel to Minnesota next weekend with a winning record, and not a sense of urgency to get their first win.
They started out the season the right way, whether it be a bad win or not, the Dolphins do not care about style points, they just want to start off on the right track.