First Time For Everything: Report Card from Miami’s 44-26 Win over Houston

Complete domination. The Miami Dolphins came out swinging in the first half, exploiting the Texans’ first-half struggles en route to a 41-0 halftime lead. The Dolphins played unbelievable football against Houston, scoring more points than they had in a game since Thanksgiving of 2003. 

The team looked effective on both sides of the ball, and appears to have taken on the personality of their new head coach. Dan Campbell was the main attraction in Miami this weekend, and he was able to lead his team to their second consecutive blowout victory. Chants rung out for Campbell in the stadium, and the players waved their towels to bait the fans into continuing the gesture for the team’s new leader. The Dolphins played an outstanding game of football, and the player grades will reflect that.

Ryan Tannehill: A

18/19- 282 yards, 4 TDs, 158.3 Passer Rating

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(Photo: Miami Herald)

While he did not make as many outstanding plays as he did last week, Ryan Tannehill was efficient. The stat line (which shows four touchdowns) could be a bit deceiving, as most of the plays were made after the catch. He did however throw just one incomplete pass, and he spread the ball around so that his receivers could make plays. Tannehill demonstrated mastery of the offense, and he had figured out some keys to the Texans’ defense.

The day was not filled with highlights for Ryan Tannehill, but he did post a perfect 158.3 passer rating, and takes home the NFL record for most consecutive completions. He played efficient football, and did exactly what he had to for Miami to notch a win.

Running Backs: A+

Lamar Miller: 14 carries, 175 yards, 1 TD & 3 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD

Jonas Gray: 12 carries, 48 yards

(Photo: Sun Sentinel)

(Photo: Sun Sentinel)

What happens when you give running backs carries early and allow them to establish a rhythm? Yup, that.

The Dolphins’ running game allowed them to open up passing options, and kept the offense rolling early. Lamar Miller carried the ball 14 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, and Jonas Gray provided a punch in short yardage situations. There is really nothing to complain about, as the Dolphins’ running game showed for a second consecutive week that they are fully capable of succeeding when given the opportunity to do so.

Receivers/TEs: A+

Jarvis Landry: 5 catches, 83 yards, 2 TDs

Rishard Matthews: 3 catches, 75 yards, 1 TD

(Photo: Sun Sentinel)

(Photo: Sun Sentinel)

The Dolphins needed to jump out to an early lead to force the Texans’ lackluster offense into uncomfortable situations. Who helped the team score plentifully early on? The receivers.

Rishard Matthews and Jarvis Landry made two of the game’s biggest plays in the first half, taking short/medium passes and making defenders miss en-route to big touchdowns. Landry also recorded another touchdown, and kept the chains moving by fighting for multiple first downs. The development of Rishard Matthews has been a welcome event in Miami, as the receiver has developed great chemistry with Tannehill and is willing to fight for every pass.

The tight ends did not make many plays, but they also weren’t targeted heavily. Their presence was felt when blocking the Texans’ star defensive players, as they made their mark on the game in ways that won’t show up on a box score.

The receivers played outstanding football, and Landry, Matthews, and Lamar Miller (out of the backfield) each notched first half receptions of over 50-yards.

Offensive Line: A-

In the first half of this game, the Dolphins’ offensive line played their best football of this season. Seriously, who were they? Where did they come from? Who are these five players we traded for last week? The second half was less impressive, but really the game was over by the end of the first quarter.

JJ Watt made a few plays, but his impact was generally minimal. He abused Ja’Wuan James on a few plays, but adding blockers to chip Watt slowed him down. The Dolphins’ line handled the Texans’ powerful defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, and prevented Jadeveon Clowney from having much of an impact (until it was too late).

But back to the point: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND CAN THEY SHOW UP EVERY SUNDAY?

Defensive Line: A+

Ndamukong Suh: 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL

Cameron Wake: 2 sacks

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That game was not suitable for children. The Miami Dolphins’ defensive line did things to the Texans that I do not believe the youth of America should see. Unless the youth of America wants to see badass football.

Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, and Earl Mitchell all had a part in the team’s domination of the Texans up front. It seemed that they were in the backfield on every play in the first half, and Houston wasn’t able to generate any rushing attack. When you have to ask Brian Hoyer to throw the ball 49 times, you’re going to have a rough day.

Cameron Wake showed that last week was not an anomaly, and Suh recorded two sacks (for the first time on the Dolphins). There are no complaints on that side of the ball from me, and I really don’t think you’ll hear anything negative about it from anyone else either. Unless they’re Texans fans. Then direct them to the scoreboard.

Linebackers: A-

Koa Misi & Jelani Jenkins: 1 TFL

This unit finally seems to have it figured out: run behind the big guys. Misi, Jenkins, and Sheppard were able to exploit the Texans due to their preoccupation with the Dolphins’ defensive line. You can’t block everyone, and the linebackers are learning how to capitalize on the success of our interior linemen.

We only got to see one half from the starting linebacker group, but what they showed us was exactly what they had to. They were able to manage the game, and avoid being exploited. Nobody is asking them to be the 2012 49ers linebacking corps. They played solid football, and understood their roles. The play of the linebackers went a long way towards stopping the Texans’ running attack, which was the key to shutting down their offense in the first half.

Defensive Backs: A+

Reshad Jones: 1 INT (Pick-Six), 1 TFL

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Reshad. The. God.

Dan Campbell said Reshad Jones is a beast, and he was most certainly not wrong. We all knew before this season that Jones had the potential to be a top-flight safety, but he appears to have put the pieces of the puzzle together this year. He is an elite tackler, constantly making big plays in the running game. He is also dominant in coverage, as demonstrated by the inability of DeAndre Hopkins to make plays deep. Oh yeah, and he has a couple of pick-sixes since the bye-week too.

The DBs job today was to shut down DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans really don’t have anyone else catching the ball. That being said, the combination of Brent Grimes shadowing him and Reshad Jones playing over the top made it very difficult for Houston to feed the ball to their top option. Today’s performance was very good from all defensive backs, but it is another example of Dan Campbell and his staff putting players in a position to succeed in their specific rolls. Hell of a game for the boys in pass defense.

Special Teams: B+

If they gave out an award for Special Teams Rookie of the Year, it would go to Matt Darr. He has been outstanding, and one of the keys to being able to play strong defense is having a punter who can flip the field position. Darr has done just that, and has been exceptional for Miami.

Andrew Franks hit a long field goal from 50+, but missed a PAT. The kick return coverage was also not outstanding early, which is the only reason this unit didn’t receive an A.

Why doesn’t it matter? 41-0 in the first half, that’s why.

Coaching: MARRY ME

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God bless Dan Campbell. God bless Lou Anarumo. God Bless everyone on that Dolphins sideline.

The Miami Dolphins have undergone a complete transformation in a matter of weeks. This is what we knew this team should have looked like before the season began, and in Week Seven we finally saw everything come together. Campbell’s attitude has helped this team grow into a physically dominant unit, and he has truly won over everyone in that locker room.

Mixing things up is good, and Campbell’s team is evidence of that. He and Anarumo have transformed that defense, and his fingerprint on the offense is clear for anyone to see. We knew that Dan Campbell would come in with a different mentality than we have seen from a Dolphins’ coach in many years, and the only question was whether he would be able to get the team to take on his attitude.

Well, I think we now have the answer to that question.

Overall Grade: *screams to heavens* *yells exuberantly* *cries*

(aka A+)

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That was one of the most amazing first half efforts I have ever seen from a football team. The Dolphins’ defense completely shut down the Texans, and the offense was able to capitalize on early opportunities.

Heading into a Thursday night showdown with the Patriots, it is a huge advantage to be able to only play one half of football. Dan Campbell clearly knew this, and was able to keep the mileage count low for his players heading into a very difficult game. We really can just disregard the second half, as there was not a point in which the starting lineups were on the field in full. The best thing about the third and fourth quarters? No major injuries.

The Miami Dolphins played their most complete game of football since the San Diego matchup last season. Even then, this game felt different. There was a sense of confidence, and the team wanted to go to war. Houston was not ready for the Dolphins’ attitude, and the team was clearly a surprise to everyone (including the fans). We expected improvement, but what we saw today was nothing short of spectacular.

Dan Campbell made a substantial change to Sun Life Stadium. In the tunnel, signs now hang that read, “Lead. Compete. Dominate. Finish. Win.”

I think we can all safely check each of those objectives off of our list for this week.

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