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      by Published on 12-15-2013 05:12 PM
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      DOLPHINS KNOCK OFF PATRIOTS TO IMPROVE TO 8-6



      The losing streak to New England is over. A three game winning streak and a chance at the postseason. A statement win in a division that has been dominated by New England for the past decade. All true story lines after the Miami Dolphins defeated the Patriots 24-20 on a hot Sunday in December.

      Playing perhaps the franchise's biggest game since the 2008 season, the Dolphins showed the Patriots and the entire NFL that they are real and a threat to be taken serious. With today's win the team improved to 8-6 and currently hold a half game lead for the final wildcard over the Baltimore Ravens (Baltimore plays the Detroit Lions tomorrow night on Monday Night Football).

      The Dolphins erased a 10-0 deficit the Patriots built in the first half and outscored New England 24-10 the rest of the way. Ryan Tannehill continues to grow and show that he is a legitimate franchise quarterback as he completed 25 of 37 passes for 312 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Tannehill's 39 yard strike to Mike Wallace in the final minute of the first half was the momentum changer the Dolphins needed for the rest of the game. Tannehill in the fourth quarter connected on a two yard touchdown pass to Daniel Thomas and a 14 yard touchdown to Marcus Thigpen. The pass to Thigpen proved to be the game winning score.

      The Dolphins defense bended in the final minute of the game as Tom Brady led the Patriots 66 yards to the Dolphins 14. However, newly acquired cornerback Michael Thomas made the play of the game picking off Brady in the endzone to seal the victory.

      The 8-6 Dolphins will surely be watching the Ravens big game tomorrow night against the Lions as they continue to make a bid for the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins travel to Buffalo next week to take on the Bills and will wrap up regular season play the following week at home against the New York Jets.

      TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE FINHEAVEN FORUMS!
      by Published on 12-08-2013 11:21 PM     Number of Views: 2007 

      Positives

      * First of all, what a quality win that was. On the road, in the cold, in the snow, in a tough road environment versus playoff competition. It was a gutsy, gutsy win.
      * Props to Daniel Thomas. Many thought DT was done for the year. First, he showed toughness by simply returning to the lineup, but it was his contributions that were huge today. On a day that tough, straight ahead running was needed, Thomas answered the call. He had 105 yards on 16 carries and TD. The biggest run of the day was a 55 yarder that set up the eventual game winning TD in the 4th quarter.
      * The running game churned out a total of 181 yards. Very impressive.
      * Charles Clay. Stud performance. 98 yards on 7 receptions and 2 TD's. His game winner, he busted through tackles to hit pay dirt. There were some other receptions in which he juked defenders to gain extra yards. Clay was a weapon today.
      * Ryan Tannehill has excellent today. He was 20-33 for 200 yards, 3 TD's and 1 interception. He was also effective with his legs. A 48 yard read option helped get the offense going early. 56 rushing yards total Tannehill.
      * The pass protection was great. Considering the opponent and its scheme, the line gave up only two sacks.
      * Mike Pouncey was athletic and got out in front on multiple runs.
      * Brian Hartline's TD catch. A vintage Hartline toe tap.
      * Rush defense. The defense held Pittsburgh and the talented La'Veon Bell to 84 yards.
      * Cameron Wake with a strip, sack. It set up the team's first TD.
      * Olivier Vernon had big tackle on Ben Roethlisberger on 4th down. It was a big tackle. O.V. also garnered another sack to his team leading total.
      * Nolan Carroll was tough in coverage. He had some big passes defensed. None other were bigger than a late PD on a 3rd down in the 4th. The Fins eventually got the ball after a Steelers punt and RT led the offense to a go ahead score.
      * Brent Grimes was up to his usual self today. He had nice coverage during the game.
      * Miami coverage's units were dynamite today. The weather conditions were brutal to cover kicks and yet they were up to the task. Don Jones had a great open field tackle. Marlon Moore had a big stick. Both kicks and punts were covered very well.
      * Jimmy Wilson blocked a punt (technically the punt went one yard so it is a deflection). It was a good aggressive play.
      * Mike Sherman's play calling was good today. He took use of the read option (perhaps could have done more). I like how they took multiple shots deep. He stayed with the run as well. Good day for Sherm.
      * Kevin Coyle used Dion Jordan in some different looks. One that caught my eye is on a passing down, Jordan was inside at DT. Upon the snap, he busted out into coverage.
      * Good challenge by Joe Philbin on the Hartline TD catch.
      * Joe Philbin had his team ready to go and mentally prepared for the cold. It is always tough to play two road games in a row. However, Philbin ultimately had his team up to the task.
      * The team did not quit after the Troy Polamalu's pick six.
      * The offense scored a TD off of a TO created by the defense.
      * 34 points in a win. Miami was the last team in the league to accomplish the 30 point barrier.
      * The team snapped its skid of not scoring a TD in the 4th quarter.

      Negatives

      * The game management by Joe Philbin at the end of the 1st half was awful. First, he let time tick down and did not stop the clock as the Steelers went to punt. Jimmy Wilson then went on to block the punt. For some reason, on 4th and 2, Philbin elected a 53 yard field goal...at a stadium in which nobody kicks long FG's successfully...let alone during a snow event. The kick was run back as Dolphins fans heart's jumped a beat thinking of Alabama/Auburn. The right call, with multiple timeouts, would have been to go for it and see if a closer FG could have been accomplished.
      * The defense let up on the last play. Some players were not set, some looked like they thought the Steelers could not possibly score and looked for someone else to make the play. Fortunately, Brown stepped out of bounds. Both Reshard Jones and Chris Clemons took horrible angles to the ball carrier. This team must literally finish each game.
      * 3rd down offense. The offense was only 5 of 13.
      * 3rd down defense. The Steelers hit on 50% of 3rd downs (8-16). There were also way too many 3rd and long's yielded.
      * 1 to 1 Turnover differential. For the Dolphins to win down the stretch, they have to get this stat on the "plus" side. At the very least today, the Dolphins were even and that was enough to win today.
      * Ryan Tannehill's pick six.
      * The defense gave up a TD after Miami went up ten points. In under three minutes, the Fins were up ten and were down four points.
      * The defense gave up a TD after Hartline's TD.
      * The defense had no answer for Jerricho Cotchery and Antonio Brown.
      * Holding penalties on Mike Pouncey and Lamar Miller on the same drive.
      * Part of the issues on defense is Kevin Coyle's schemes get figured out and there is no "second" adjustment from him.
      * While I liked the read option looks, RT had a few chances to keep the ball for yards. Whether he read it wrong or was told to hand the ball off, more yards could have been earned with the QB keeping the ball. QB's can get injured in this spot, so I totally understand not wanting to expose the QB.

      Overall Assessment

      * Huge win. On the road, in the cold, in the snow, at a tough road venue, against an experienced team still in that is still in the mix...just a big, big win.
      * This win effectively ends the season for the Steelers. The Fins and Ravens are essentially pitted against each other going down the stretch.
      * Ben Roethlisberger is an excellent QB. He is talented and tough.
      * Scoring 34 points on a Dick LeBeau defense is an accomplishment. Props to the players and offensive coaching staff. Regardless of the aging players on the Pittsburgh defense, it still is coached well and has smarts and pride. Nice accomplishment by the offense.
      * Miami overcame adversity today...awesome to see. However, there are other times they cannot handle success. Being up and losing leads is too common this season. It is up to the coaching staff to get this team to improve in understanding the momentum swings of a game.
      * I still think that Mike Tomlin should have been suspended today. The act he pulled on Thanksgiving is disgusting and has no part in the game.
      * The Steelers are dirty. Cameron Heyward threw two Dolphins to the ground. Ryan Clark was head hunting all game. After Big Ben was stopped short of the 1st down, a linemen leveled Koa Misi well after the play.
      * I never want to hear Steelers fans complain about not getting calls. They get calls all the time.
      * What is the exact concussion protocol? How does Ike Taylor get knocked cold and re-enter the game a few plays later? I am confused.
      * How many of us thought of Nick Saban at the end of the 1st half?
      * With the win the Jason Laconfora's and Louis Riddick's of the world can save the "Dolphins made a mistake by signing Mike Wallace" stories or the writing pieces that talk about how the Steelers "don't make personnel mistakes". Maybe they did or maybe they didn't, but at the end of the day they are 5-8 and Mike Wallace's team is 7-6.
      * Here is hoping that Sun Life is packed to the last row and is a loud, inhospitable building for the Patriots.
      * While we will all talk playoff scenarios and that is proper, in my opinion the season was first about making progress. I questioned a few weeks ago if progress had been this year. However, I can say over the last two weeks, progress has been made. That is outstanding to see. There are still three crucial weeks to go to make the final assessment of how much this team has improved this year.
      by Published on 11-25-2013 04:57 PM     Number of Views: 5351 

      Positives

      * The defensive line controlled the Panthers for most of the day. They got good pressure on Cam Newton. They only came away with two sacks, but they pressured Newton into some bad decisions.
      * Credit has to Kevin Coyle for his defense scheme vs. the Panthers. The way he spied Newton and rushed Dion Jordan more was outstanding. The defense missed in some areas, but they did enough to win the game.
      * Nolan Carroll had a great game. Many people were discussing the fact that he and Ted Ginn were squaring off. Carroll got the most of the battle with 4 PD's and an interception.
      * Olivier Vernon was active. He had sack. He just missed another. He also ran down Newton and stopped him just short of a 1st down.
      * Cam Wake was tough today as was Randy Starks with his initial penetration.
      * Props to the defense after the offense turned the ball over on the first series. They forced the offense to a FG attempt that was blocked.
      * Ryan Tannehill was up against a strong defense. He did well considering. 310 yards, 1 TD and 1 Int. The Cover 2 could have gave him issues, but he looked off of receivers and made some plays. He also created with his legs...he was the team's leading rusher.
      * Mike Wallace. While some plays might have been left on the field, Wallace was pretty much the offense. He had 127 yards on 5 catches and a TD. 25.4 yards per catch.
      * Brian Hartline was solid with his route running. 78 yards on 5 catches.
      * Lamar Miller was solid as a pass receiver today. Turned out to be a good outlet.
      * Overall the pass protection was good. It helped that Carolina's best pass rusher was out, but so was Mike Pouncey and Richie Incognito. They gave up three sacks and one coming at the end of the game. Pleasantly surprised.
      * It was good to see Mike Sherman moving the pocket and allowing some action to develop down field.
      * Dion Jordan got credit for a blocked FG attempt in the 1st quarter.
      * Caleb Sturgis returned to his preseason form on his kickoffs. He boomed them routinely out of the back of the end zone.
      * Punter Brandon Fields was able to keep the Panthers off of a short field.
      * Joe Philbin was outstanding with his challenges today. The challenge stating that Newton was shy of a first down forced a punt. A second half challenge kept a drive alive for the offense in attempt to run out the clock.

      Negatives

      * No points in the 2nd half
      * 7 straight games and no TD's in the 4th quarter
      * FG's in the Red Zone. 0-2 in the red area.
      * The defense did a terrible job finishing the 1st half. They allowed the Panthers to get into FG range and steal 3 points.
      * Right out of the half, Carolina drives for a TD, cutting the lead to 3.
      * The 4 minute drill to try to ice the game ended up failing. Incomplete passes, penalties and bad running led to the Fins having to punt the ball with enough time for the Panthers to come back
      * 4th and 10, Carolina goes for it and Newton hits Steve Smith for a first down. The Panthers drove for the game winning TD later on.
      * Poor tackling on the Mike Tolbert run.
      * Reshad Jones personal foul on Newton on the final drive.
      * Turnover differential was 1 to 1. Not good enough against a team with supposed better talent. For the Fins to win, they must win the TO battle.
      * Ryan Tannehill had a tipped interception on the first drive of the game.
      * RT was inaccurate on balls to Wallace (overthrow) and a loft to Charles Clay over the top of the Panthers D.
      * RT took as sack (on a drive near the end of the 3rd/beginning of 4th) that got the team off schedule. It was a 3 step drop. The ball needed to come out.
      * Mike Wallace dropping a desperation heavy on the next to last play of the game that would have won the game for the Fins.
      * Rishard Matthews was bad today. Albeit he got leveled in the end zone, he did not hold on to perfect pass that would have been a TD. He was not alert on a pass that whizzed by his head in the Red Zone. Tough game for Matthews.
      * Negative runs in the run game. They took the team off of schedule.
      * Miami's top two RB's had a grand total of 16 yards.
      * The offense was 4-16 on 3rd down.
      * Ted Ginn long punt return.
      * Brandon Fields sailed his last punt in the end zone setting up the Panthers at the 20.
      * Terrible clock management by Joe Philbin. I sincerely believe that he though the Panthers were going to settle for 3 and wanted time on offense to win it. All it did was give the Panthers more time, organization and reason to score a TD. Miami ended up having no timeouts with just over 40 seconds remaining. Philbin should have kept his timeouts unless they got in close to the end zone. Perhaps they would have been forced to kick a field goal based on the time of the game if he had let the clock run.
      * I disliked the call of attempting a 52 yarder in the 4th quarter. The kick was not close. I would have gone for it and not yielded the field position. It was very questionable decision and brutal miss.
      * The flag pick up on Luke Kuechly's hit on Matthews at the end of the half was awful. It would have set up a goal to go situation and a possible TD. The Panthers probably do not get a chance to tack on 3 points if the Miami drive was extended. Terrible job by the referees.
      * Fox was very late with replays for the viewer that ended up being changed on the field. Shabby broadcast.

      Overall Assessment

      * The Miami Dolphins under Joe Philbin are mentally weak and lack a killer instinct. Whether it was finishing in the Red Zone, finishing the half, trying to end the game on a 4 minute drill or trying to stop the Panthers from converting a 4th and 10, Miami consistently does not come through. Teams reflect their head coach on the field. Joe Philbin is not getting it done as the HC.
      * What goes on at half time to have the Dolphins come out and be bad for the 2nd half? That is squarely on the coaching staff and the HC.
      * No points in the 2nd half and no TD's in the 4th quarter for 7 straight games. Who is responsible for that?
      * With that said, I was impressed that the team did not seem to be affected by the Ted Wells investigation. The team seemed focused and that is a credit to the staff and players.
      * Even though the defense let up 3 right before the half and the eventual game winning TD late, I cannot blame them for the loss. The offense needed to do just a bit more and could not.
      * I feel for Sam Brenner. He was doing okay and looks like he got hurt bad. Tough break.
      * Danny Watkins was inactive today? What is happening with him?
      * Getting Mike Pouncey back is a must for the month of December
      * Marcus Thigpen is really becoming ineffective as a kick and punt returner.
      * The Panthers got a gutsy win after two huge wins versus the 49ers and Patriots. That was an example of being mentally tough, people.
      * Cam Newton did not have his best stuff today, but found a way to win.
      * Kuechly is one lucky MLB. That was a penalty last week on Monday Night and should have been penalized again on the hit on Matthews.
      * With all of this being said...and I am so frustrated, this game does not mean as much as the next two, starting next week in New York. EVERYTHING Miami wants to accomplish is still ahead of them. With gobs of 5-6 teams kicking around, it is about surviving and advancing. It is about garnering tie breakers versus teams around them. Obviously, a win would have helped the overall record today. However, it does not change the fact that Miami is still in the wild card hunt with the other teams. It is time for the Joe Philbin to give proper direction of this team and for the leaders of the team to start making game altering plays. It is STILL in front of the Dolphins...and it starts next week versus the New York Jets.