Steelers 15 (4-2)
Dolphins 30 (2-4)
Adversity is said to reveal character. In the NFL, this weight room wall quote is amplified tenfold and Adam Gase’s team responded with a resounding ass whooping. On Sunday, the Dolphins out coached the Steelers and dominated in all three phases.
Frankly, the Steelers were lucky this wasn’t a 30-point massacre. The illegal formation flag on the negated touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Dominique Jones was a phantom call and cost the Dolphins four points. Another short blocked field goal and general red-zone ineptitude saw a Dolphins offense amass just 30 points despite nearly 500 yards of offense.
I have been clamoring for a new brand of football in Miami recently as I continue to long for the Ricky Williams years. Coach Gase answered my requests today by lining up heavy personnel and taking advantage of his healthy offensive line.
This was an attitude/statement game for the Dolphins. There was a juice amongst the players that simply wasn’t there for the first month of the season. While that may be an indictment on the coaching staff through five games, it’s absolutely deserving of credit for this performance.
Mike Pouncey brought some fire, Jay Ajayi provided some serious juice, and the Dolphins offense complimented itself throughout the game.
I thought this line was built with four tackles incapable of getting push in the ground game – what happened to that? This very blogger even told you this group couldn’t run block. What the hell do I know? I just re-watched the game and the Dolphins front hasn’t controlled the line of scrimmage like that since the wildcat year.
Laremy Tunsil was absolutely sensational. He got a lot of pulling work, he was asked to get to the second level on multiple plays and he succeed at everything he did Sunday. While Ajayi was picking up chunks of yardage (don’t worry, we’ll get to him) Tunsil was latching onto linebackers and freeing up the second level for the Dolphins back. We were told he was a finesse player that’s better suited for pass protection, but he was Jaime Nails-esque yesterday.
Jermon Bushrod had a stellar day in this regard as well. Jermon Bushrod had a stellar day in this regard as well. The Dolphins beat the living hell out of the Steelers in the interior of the line and Branden Albert was great at left tackle as well. Ja’Wuan James continues to have his struggles but, as a group, Tannehill was hit just two times in this game and was never sacked.
Miami found its identity in this game. When Ryan Tannehill is able to play off of a strong ground game, he’s a terrific quarterback. The dividends of a clean pocket and getting Ryan going on bootlegs and working on the move is precisely how the fifth year quarterback finds his rhythm and plays his best.
The two deep throws to Jarvis Landry and MarQuies Gray were vintage Tannehill – beautiful strikes. His accuracy was on point this game only furthering the frustration of Dolphins fans and the peaks and valleys continue with Sunday’s strong outing.
He had another impressive play to Gray as he converted a 3rd and 2 on a play action boot with three levels of throws available as Tannehill moved towards the sideline. It looked like a running lane was there for a short gain and a first down which, at the time, probably would’ve iced the game. However, Tannehill kept working and found Gray for 19 yards – a terrific piece of quarterbacking.
Jarvis Landry provided the “Juice” amongst the receivers today picking up two crucial first downs on third down, the long pass reception and a nice catch and run on the Dolphins first possession. Devante Parker dropped a touchdown on that first drive and Kenny Stills continues to play himself out of snaps.
Don’t believe me? Gray, Jones and Dion Sims were on the field a lot (snap counts to come later in the week) as the Dolphins went with a variety of heavy packages to keep the Steelers base defense on the field and work the play action game.
Coach Gase mentioned that he wanted to identify a work-horse back that could take 80% of the load. Well the search is over, for now. Jay Ajayi’s 204 rushing yards were the fifth highest total in Dolphins history and brought back nostalgia for this extreme Ricky Williams fan.
Ajayi was decisive, he ran with intensity and got stronger as the game went along. Continuing to drop his head and chew up extra yardage against the Steelers front finally paid off for him on an impressive 62 yard touchdown run where he accelerated past a safety. Did you know he had that kind of speed? I didn’t.
Defensively, I’m pretty sure there were imposters in Byron Maxwell, Mario Williams and Andre Branch jerseys today. Maxwell had four pass break-ups and was up to the task of taking the best receiver in football (Antonio Brown) in single man coverage multiple times.
Branch was fantastic rushing the passer and Mario Williams motor got a recharge yesterday. The run defense had its struggles but getting two takeaways in the passing game and holding Roethlisberger under 100 passing yards prior to that garbage time touchdown is worth noting.
Cameron Wake factored into the game with a half sack and numerous other pressures on Roethlisberger. Jason Jones had an egregious penalty just before the long Darius Heyward-Bey touchdown run but had his moments as a pass rusher as well.
Reshad Jones’ interception was a fantastic individual effort, but he needed it to make up for his attempted tackled on the aforementioned Heyward-Bey touchdown. I’ve never seen Reshad fail to wrap up like that and he got destroyed.
His running-mate, Isa Abdul-Quddus, had an interception and played a hell of a game. The Steelers explosive offense never got behind the Miami defense and all the secondary members played a part in that.
Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain each had fine days despite some late game big plays to Eli Rodgers and Cobi Hamilton.
Michael Thomas continues to play well on special teams and the Dolphins punt unit is playing as well as any group in football.
A lot of teams this year are digging out of holes and responding in big ways. The Redskins and Bills have both rattled off four wins after two losses to open the season and we all remember the Chiefs 10 consecutive wins after starting 1-5.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but this was a desperate team needing a win in the worst way. Emphatically putting a stamp on the game by nearly doubling an elite team’s yardage total is a great start to the rest of the season.
The schedule really softens for the Dolphins following this win. Two more home games with the Bills and Jets with a bye week sandwiched between the divisional contests before a west coast trip to Los Angeles and San Diego is a favorable run. After that, games with San Francisco, Baltimore and a struggling Arizona team means anything can happen.
All of that is irrelevant if the Dolphins don’t uncover some consistency and bring this type of effort each and every week. Hopefully taking out the trash last week (cutting Turner, Thomas and Douglass) was the kick in the ass this team needed.
A strong running game keeps the defense on the field for fewer plays, it sets up the passing game and it allows you to squeeze out victories at the end of games. This type of game is precisely the type of football that Ryan Tannehill is going to succeed at.
Here’s to a big Dolphins win and the hope that power football has returned to South Florida.
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