On a day where the Dolphins donned the 1966 retro jerseys, the NFL’s lone undefeated team (Minnesota) went down and the Dolphins ran for 256 yards. A lot of folks long for the classic uniforms, but this millennial is more privy to power football returning to Miami.
Jay Ajayi became the fourth player in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in back to back weeks as he has accumulated 418 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries (8.1 yards per carry) over that two game stretch.
The Dolphins offensive line, finally healthy, has been playing a punishing brand of football. With Dion Sims inactive and only two tight ends healthy and dressed for the game, the Dolphins continued to attempt to develop its identity as a power running team.
And they did.
Sam Young, who was brought back after the offensive line purge two weeks ago, played in some unbalanced lines and the experiment was just barely short of a train wreck. He had a one-on-one assignment in max protection where he simply whiffed his block, allowed a sack and didn’t see any more snaps the rest of the night.
Travis, why are you talking negatives after the team’s most impressive win in recent memory? Perhaps I’m buttering you up for the absolute fluff job I’m about to give this team.
It was said that Jay Ajayi offered to take his offensive line to dinner following last week’s game and Mike Pouncey told him to wait until we actually accomplish something. I want to give the offensive line it’s due, but I’d be remised if I didn’t start with the NFL’s new star back.
There’s something about dreadlocks in the Miami backfield that makes for an exciting offense. Jay Ajayi had some huge holes, but let’s not cut his effort short, he ran with a physical, bruising attitude that led to over 100 yards after contact and a galvanizing impact on his team.
Even with the statistical dominance, Ajayi’s most impressive play may have been a blitz pick up on the Kenny Stills touchdown. He was left one-on-one in the middle of the formation and he kept Ryan Tannehill’s line of sight clear to deliver a great ball.
It would seem fitting that Ajayi hit a big block after the performance his line gave in this game. I want to highlight one player, but that would be an injustice to the other four, so I’m going to give them all one sentence.
Laremy Tunsil looks like the best first round draft pick this team has made since Richmond Webb.
Jermon Bushrod’s two game performance has been as impressive as Ajayi’s.
Branden Albert is currently one of the best left tackles in football.
Ja’Wuan James moved across the line (left guard) and kicked ass in this game.
Mike Pouncey truly is the glue to this offensive line.
The offensive scheme has switched to more man concepts where the Dolphins use their elite athleticism to bully opposing defenses. Pouncey’s ability to get depth on his reach blocks in sensational. There were two snaps where he came across his man and shoved him off the ball at the mesh point just in time, opening a huge gap for Ajayi.
I’m only 28 years old, so I’m not qualified to say this is the best two game stretch of guard play the Dolphins have ever had, but it’s the best I’ve ever seen.
Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown have been as good as it gets at linebacker this year and the Dolphins completely neutralized both. The bulk of Ajayi’s yardage came running the football in the A gaps.
Tunsil eliminates defenders from plays frequently. Jay Ajayi’s TD run was yet another sensational block from our rookie first rounder.
The 53 yard run from the shadow of our own goal post was all Jay Ajayi. Two tacklers sandwich Ajayi and he stays squared up, keeps his balance and sprints off to the races. We’ve got something special in this kid.
Damien Williams had a really ugly run following the big Ajayi run where he had 5 or 6 yards up the middle but chose to bounce it outside and was brought down at the line of scrimmage.
However, he followed it up with a tremendous touchdown run carrying Bills defenders five yards into the end-zone.
Arian Foster can leave now. That third down drop would’ve been the play that sunk the Dolphins boat with a previous regime. Luckily the Dolphins offense was resilient and scored twice more in the final 8 minutes of the game.
The pass protection was great today as well and Tannehill made the most of it. His decision making wasn’t fantastic, and his accuracy waivered at times, but his clutch play on third downs and in the fourth quarter will be what is remembered from this game. Two huge third down throws on the first series of the game and before the Damien Williams touchdown run.
The game plan changes so much when the running game is going. Tannehill’s ability to work off of play-action is fantastic.
Six minutes to go, trailing by three with a 3rd and 7 from the Buffalo 46, Tannehill threw a perfect ball to Landry as the pressure caved in and Tannehill rolled to his right. Nickell Robey-Coleman’s coverage was tight and the ball placement could not have been better.
He had a better feel for the rush in this game using his legs to create, not only on designed runs, but to escape the pocket, which is where he is deadliest. He also stepped up to gain positive yardage on two plays that otherwise would’ve been big sacks.
He missed three throws that can’t happen (first drive to Williams, dump off to MarQuies Gray and the long ball to Stills that was underthrown.)
But the most annoying part of this game involving Ryan Tannehill actually didn’t involve the embattled quarterback. That god awful sideline reporter that emphasized the phantom “Y” in Ryan “TANNEYHILL’s” name three times before the first snap was mind-numbing.
Back to Kenny Stills, he was the best wide out in this game. Two third down conversions on the first drive and, of course, the long touchdown where he adjusted to the designed underthrown ball. He should have, however, came back to the ball on the earlier long attempt and drawn an easy interference call.
The rule is dumb, but Jarvis Landry needs to cut this penalty bull shit out. That’s his third unsportsmanlike penalty and even after he got the one, he was still chirping and running his mouth
That said, the energy and emotion he brings is infectious. When he starts slipping tackles and gaining big chunks, it galvanizes this offense.
Now, to the coaching and scheming.
I have some issues and some raves regarding Adam Gase. The second field goal drive (near the end of the second quarter) the third down play call was an ultra-conservative dump off that had zero shot at getting to the end-zone. It was designed that way too as you see the other receivers blocking down field.
His first half play calling lacked imagination and the sequence to end the half was disheartening as the Dolphins sat on a time out and about 30 seconds.
But the second half adjustments were impressive. This team clearly plays hard an inspired for the coach and his fiery mentality resonates with the team. Vance Joseph deserves some credit for altering some of his looks on the perimeter and getting better play from his linebackers.
Jakeem Grant’s presence on his one offensive snap held the Buffalo defense with the fake jet sweep and went misdirection to Damien Williams for the go-ahead touchdown. That’s the kind of impact his speed can have.
In cut routes are Ryan Tannehill’s bread and butter. Watching him throw them to Devante Parker, Stills and Landry is clinical at times.
The size of Adam Gase’s balls on the play call on the Stills touchdown cannot be measures. This time, Stills works back to the ball and it paid off as the defenders crossed each other up. Great call, great throw, great effort by Stills.
There’s a reason the Dolphins have dominated the fourth quarter the last two weeks and it’s because Ajayi leaned on the opposing defense like a heavyweight fighter and they finally caved in, in the final 15 minutes.
Vance Joseph had some exotic looks that confused Taylor. A particular 3rd down stop in the fourth quarter where Jelani Jenkins stunted in front of Kiko Alonso on a blitz, Alonso dropped back and Cam Wake stood up and fell back into coverage taking away Taylor’s first read. Promptly, Suh blows up the play with a sack.
The defense handled the rollouts so well all game. They cut the field in half flooding bodies to account for the outlet as well as the quarterback run and Tyrod Taylor mostly had to throw the ball away on these plays or reverse his field.
This defense is good when its fresh and that’s what they’re getting with these lengthy drives on offense.
The linebackers played their best game today with a collective effort. It started with Alonso as he was exceptional throwing his body into holes and making the backs redirect and stop their momentum.
Jenkins played as a sub package player and acquitted himself well and Neville Hewitt and Donald Butler both had solid days playing the run.
The third and one run stuff to open the second half was impressive, statement style football. Leon Orr stacked up some bodies, Donald Butler blew up the lane and the Dolphins refused to give an inch.
Cameron Wake and Andre Branch were mostly unblockable. Jordan Mills struggled with Cam Wake two years ago when he was with the Bears, and he struggled from the third snap of the game today. Branch was consistently beating Cyrus Kouandijo from the right side of the defensive line.
Suh had another awesome game. It took him a while to get going but he controlled the center of that Buffalo front in the running game and provided an interior rush that allowed the ends to explode off the snap and shut down the corners.
Mario Williams turned it on in the second half like he was playing his former team or something. On back to back plays on a key series in the fourth quarter, he had a 10-yard tackle for loss and a QB pressure essentially ruining the drive by himself.
This defensive line was simply dominant. Everyone – Wake, Branch, Williams, Suh, Jason Jones, all made big plays against a quarterback that is incredibly difficult to corral.
Tony Lippett is getting better every game. He’s learning the position, how to wall off a route and press it into the boundary and he plays the ball, not his man.
Bryon Maxwell was roasted on the Marquis Goodwin touchdown, but it looked like he wanted safety help from Michael Thomas that never got there. Both players, aside from this play, had good games, though.
Isa Abdul-Quddus had another exceptional game. His pass break-up late in the fourth quarter was textbook and led to the game-clinching touchdown.
Crowd noise was tremendous. What a difference from two weeks ago when they booed this team off the field and what a testament to the stadium remodel.
Special teams were woeful today. The Kenyan Drake hold where Miami had to re-kick cost them 53 yards, then there was the blocked punt and two other penalties – Darren Rizi is lucky to still have a job.
And I wish Jakeem Grant would just take a knee on kickoffs. Starting drives at the 17 opposed to the 25 may not seem like much, but it makes a difference.
It was so much more fun to write the last two weeks than it has been previously. The Dolphins are developing an identity and the national media will talk about this game, because of Ajayi, all week.
The Dolphins are back home in two weeks to face the Jets and the schedule really softens up from here. The Jets are 2-5 and then the Chargers, Rams and Ravens are all 3-4 with a home date with the 1-6 49ers sandwiched in that slate – this team has a shot.
We will be debuting The Phinalysis podcast this week with yours truly and defensive guru, Kevin Dern discussing film study. The Perfectville Podcast fellas are back with another episode and almost doctor Will Merring will be giving us an update on Reshad Jones’ shoulder.
You can follow me on Twitter @Travis_Writes
You can also contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the two-week celebration, Dol-fans. We all deserve it!