The Sleeping Giant: Report Card for the Miami Dolphins’ 38-10 Win over the Titans
What a difference a coaching change can make. The Miami Dolphins dominated the Tennessee Titans in today’s game, showing immense motivation and a desire to produce a different result than what we had become used to in so far in 2015. The team was able to establish a ground game and pass rush, which made it possible for both the offense and defense to control the game at the line of scrimmage. The Dolphins had one sack before this game. They had six today alone. The Dolphins had scored zero rushing touchdowns before they arrived in Tennessee. They had two today.
Yes, credit for today’s game has to fall on Dan Campbell and his staff. They were able to turn the team around, and actually make adjustments needed to produce a victory. While the coaches did plenty to help the cause, it was a dominant outing by the players that helped the Miami Dolphins secure a victory that infuses some semblance of hope into the 2015 season.
Ryan Tannehill: B+
22/29, 266 Yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Tannehill played very well situationally, and made exceptional plays when the team needed him to do so. Late in the game when the Dolphins needed to seal the deal, Tannehill led the team on an long drive culminating in a touchdown to Dion Sims. He also was able to help the team sustain drives early, as the running game bought him time to go through his progressions and deliver throws.
There were some moments in which Tannehill appeared to lose communication with receivers, most notably on an interception intended for Jordan Cameron. This grade would have been an A had he cut out the two interceptions, but I’m not concerned about it. He relied on a strong running game and the presence of play action passes to allow him time to throw. Today Ryan Tannehill was given a chance to succeed, and he did just that.
Running Backs: A
Lamar Miller: 19 carries, 113 Yds, TD
Jonas Gray: 7 carries, 24 yards
Wow, what a novel concept. When you actually let running backs carry the ball early they can establish rhythm.
Dan Campbell wanted to instill toughness in this team, and they showed that in the run game. The team was able to keep long drives alive, and managed to produce plays in short yardage situations. The offensive line was nothing special, but Lamar Miller, Damien Williams, and Jonas Gray all managed to power through contact for short gains and chunk yardage. Miller took advantage of good blocking on multiple occasions for big gains, but it was the determination of the runners that allowed the offense to finally find itself.
Establishing the run allows your team to burn clock. Then, it allows you to use play action to generate time for your quarterback. The Dolphins were able to do both of those things due to Dan Campbell and the offensive staff’s decision to work to establish the ground game. What a difference it made.
Jarvis Landry: 3 Rec, 42 yards/2 rushes, 24 yds, TD
Rishard Matthews: 6 Rec, 84 Yds
Dion Sims & Jordan Cameron: 7 rec, 66 yds, 2 TDs
The Juice was loose. Rishard Matthews played with great toughness. The tight ends made plays in the red zone. Kenny Stills even got involved. So there are no complaints from me when it comes to the receivers in today’s game.
The reason this grade is not an A+ is the few miscommunications that led to one turnover, and the dropped pass by Jordan Cameron that ended up being intercepted. Overall, the wide receivers and tight ends were key to the Dolphins’ victory. We knew that Sims and Cameron would be highly involved given Dan Campbell’s background, and they used them to produce in red zone situations. Cameron and Sims each caught a touchdown, and there were tight end blocking sets and multiple formations used to get them involved throughout the afternoon.
Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews were also utilized brilliantly in this game. Landry was able to run the ball effectively, and Rishard Matthews has developed a knack for holding onto the ball through contact. The team even got Kenny Stills involved, sending a pass deep his way early in the key second half drive that sealed the game. The Miami Dolphins have had an abundance of weapons in the passing game all season, and we finally got to see what it looks like to have them utilized in a way that maximizes their ability to make plays.
Offensive Line: B-
The success of the offense as a whole would lead one to believe that this unit had a great game. They really did nothing special, and just managed to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. There were still several holding calls, and even on the positive plays there was often substantial pressure.
The running game finally got going against Tennessee, but it was more thanks to the backs’ willingness to push through contact than it was thanks to any amazing blocking. On some plays there were holes that opened up allowing Miller to produce big gains, but for most of the day it was tough yardage. Even when the passing game was succeeding, Tannehill was under duress. The difference is that the run game allowed for the use of play action to buy Tannehill time and make the offensive line’s job easier. I fully expect to see Dallas Thomas benched before the end of the season as well, with Jamil Douglas getting reps at his natural position of left guard.
The offensive line was not stellar, but they did what they had to do, and played well enough for us to get the win.
Defensive Line: A
Cameron Wake: 4 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
This is what we expected to see earlier in the season. The Dolphins had plenty of pass rush against the Titans, thanks to a rejuvenated Cameron Wake. It could be due to the extra week of rest, or it could be due to a change in scheme, but either way he was dominant this weekend. Wake recorded four sacks, and forced two fumbles. He was making plays all over the field, and bailed out the offense following turnovers, preventing Tennessee from scoring. He is your MVP from today’s game.
Ndamukong Suh was more involved today, and drew resources when blocked. There is a reason that Tennessee was unable to generate a ground game. The defense was swarming, and the interior linemen had plenty to do with that. Olivier Vernon also played well, but needs to work on improving the mindless penalties he picks up. However as a whole, this defensive line was able to pick themselves up, and show that Dan Campbell was exactly correct when he said that he was going to awaken the sleeping beast.
If individuals were receiving grades in this piece, Jelani Jenkins would have gotten an A. He played very well, and made a few very nice plays in the backfield. Jenkins how shown plenty of improvement as a third-year player.
Koa Misi and Kelvin Sheppard played better than they had so far this season, but it was still not outstanding. Sheppard still manages to embarrass himself a few times each week, and Misi remains a slightly above average linebacker. It’s impossible to complain too much following the result of today’s game, but it is still clear that linebacker is a weak link on the defense.
So, let’s just ignore the other two guys and focus on Jelani Jenkins. Because he is very good at football.
Defensive Backs: A-
Brent Grimes: 1 INT
Reshad Jones: 1 INT, TD
Bend, but do not break. The Dolphins’ pass defense gave up plenty of plays against the Titans, but was also able to make enough of their own to shut down the offense. Whenever it seemed like Tennessee was developing rhythm, or threatening to score, there was a big play made to stop the drive. The team gave up yards through the air early in drives, but locked down when need be, which is really all that matters.
Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones both made critical plays in this game, each with an interception. Jones actually made plays all day, showing that he plans to continue his quest for a Pro Bowl berth this season. His interception return for a touchdown helped Miami seal the game, and he was clearly a huge part of the defensive dominance today. Grimes appeared to not be 100%, but he was able to make a play when it mattered, shutting off a late Titans’ drive.
Overall it was a very strong day for the defensive backs. Despite injuries and early yards given up, the team was able to clamp down when they had to, take advantage of the stellar play up front, and hold down the Titans’ passing game.
Special Teams: A
When the offense and defense play this well, it really makes life easy for special teams players. Not too many punts, not too many field goals, and a whole lot of kickoffs. The Dolphins’ special teams unit played well today, and there were no real gaffes (except for a block in the back on a big Jarvis Landry return, but the game was sealed by then).
Dolphins fans, rejoice. The scary skeleton man named Joe is not here to hurt you anymore.
Dan Campbell took the two weeks he was given to prepare this team for battle and did the most with them. He instilled toughness, and motivated his players to go out and dominate against the Titans. The coaches called run plays early, and took advantage of the success on the ground with play action passes to get the game started in the air.
The defense generated pass rush, which took pressure off of the corners, and allowed for the team to make the opposition’s offense one-dimensional. Wow, isn’t it awesome when your team actually follows through on the fundamentals and wins games?
While the players obviously had an excellent day, this win was thanks to the team’s coaching. They were motivated, and they played hard for Dan Campbell. The team was electric, and gave Campbell the infamous Gatorade bath before they left the field, victorious in his first game as head coach.
We can’t ask for much more than that. The Miami Dolphins dominated on offense and defense, and the team appeared to make any necessary adjustments required to win. They dominated from the first snap all of the way until the last.
There is no doubting that Dan Campbell has improved this team, but we need to be patient. This team has a tough stretch of games coming up, and will need to play their best football if they want to get back in to the playoff hunt. While it will be an uphill battle, if the team can perform like they did today, then they will have a very good chance to win against any opponent they face.
It is not fair to hold the Dolphins to this standard going forward. However it is clear that Dan Campbell is hell bent on producing a team that can compete each week, and will work to dominate physically in each matchup.
The most important takeaway from today’s game? Wins feel good. This felt great.