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Dolphins Defense Finally Performs, Leads Charge Against Patriots

Dolphins Defense Finally Performs JC Ruiz via Flickr


Dolphins Defense Finally Performs, Leads Charge Against Patriots

A limping Miami Dolphins team hosted the New England Patriots led by MVP frontrunner Tom Brady Monday night. This team has seen a 4-2 record turn into 5-7 and countless starters lost for the season to injury. Somehow, they bounced back beating the Patriots in dominating fashion, 27-20. The Dolphins defense finally performs, and the entire team feasted on it all night long. Tom Brady’s offense did not convert a single third down the entire game, the first time in 26 years a defense can say that to the Patriots.

Jay Cutler put up 263 yards passing along with three touchdowns and had one of his best games of the season by far. Kenyan Drake is running so well people are forgetting who Jay Ajayi is. In addition to recording his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, Drake also caught five passes for 79 yards. It has some people wondering just how high this team’s ceiling is.

Defensive Domination

Even though the Patriots put up 20 points, it was a very hard-fought 20. Miami has now allowed just one first down and 23 total defensive points in the past two weeks. After the Denver game, it was easy to brush away talk of Miami’s defense improving. However, after shutting down Tom Brady for a solid three and a half quarters, things look different. Despite being ravaged by injuries, this defense held them to 248 total yards. The Dolphins defense finally performs and puts pressure on an outstanding Patriots offense. Tom Brady threw a rare two interceptions and posted his worst passer rating since 2013.

If you told anyone two weeks ago that the Dolphins would dismantle the New England offense, they probably would have laughed. I definitely would have. The front seven in Miami has lacked effort and physicality all season. However, they played fast and physical all night long.

As a result of the Dolphins forcing third and longs, the Patriots only ran ten rushing plays all night. Two weeks ago, the Patriots ran for 196 yards in a dominating win. In their rematch, Miami only allowed 25 yards rushing and owned the line of scrimmage. Also, two sacks and multiple quarterback pressures kept Brady on his toes all night long. He couldn’t get any rhythm going, and the Dolphins defensive front is a big reason why.

“Two weeks ago they were a lot more physical than us . . . we wanted to play to the whistle and impose our will.” -Ndamukong Suh

Secondary Plays Physical

Xavien Howard showed his true potential on Monday night against Brandin Cooks. After intercepting Tom Brady twice, we saw what the Dolphins management did when they drafted him. Howard was there to deny Cooks every time Brady targeted him. Only ten defensive backs can say they intercepted the great Tom Brady twice in one game. Also, Howard now has three huge interceptions in two games. Cooks finished with one catch, which didn’t come against the sophomore phenom. A big reason for only allowing 233 passing yards on 43 attempts is Howard’s versatility in the secondary. Taking away the most prominent deep threat on the field forces a Gronk-less offense to improvise.

On the back-end, T.J. McDonald had a great game taking away Brady’s drop-offs in the flat, and over the middle late. Since he and Reshad Jones play best in the box, it is no surprise Matt Burke schemes them to take away the underneath routes. Whether it was crossing routes, comebacks, or curls, the linebackers and safeties flew to cover them. As a result, forcing the deep pass made Brady uncomfortable. Making him uncomfortable is the one constant ingredient in every Patriots loss with Brady at the helm.

Bottom Line

Despite showing enormous growth on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, Miami still has a lot of work to do. The Dolphins defense finally performs and explodes. Maybe Tom Brady had an off night, and perhaps these are the real Miami Dolphins. Playoff hopes are very much still alive, even though sitting at 6-7 means there is a long way to go. If the Dolphins can win out, 9-7 may be good enough for a wild-card spot. Fortunately, Miami does own a tiebreaker over the Chargers, Titans, and play the Chiefs in two weeks. With some help, things can break the Dolphins’ way and spark a playoff berth.

Smokin’ Jay Cutler is looking like the quarterback Adam Gase said he would be. Somehow, Miami’s defense is getting better every single week — despite playing 13 games in a row with no bye week. The bottom line is that the players and coaches in Miami will decide whether they get in the playoffs or not. Win out, and they are probably in. Will Adam Gase lead a second straight injury ridden team to the playoffs? We sure will find out.