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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins got a wake up call in Baltimore Sunday

Christopher Fischer

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Photo courtesy of Chris Fischer!

(Our Chris Fischer worked Dolphins-Ravens sideline for CBS TV Sunday)

A coin flip was the closest battle the Dolphins lost on Sunday in 38-6 Baltimore beat down. Joe Flacco put a death grip on the game from the opening flip and never relinquished until his backup was called in to action in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens carved holes in Miami’s zone coverage defensive scheme from the onset. Flacco connected on 12 of 15 on the opening two drives, injecting juice in to a rabid bird fan base at M&T Bank Stadium. Already struggling in the first quarter with a negative a twenty-four-point differential, the Dolphins allowed back-to-back touchdown drives.

“We felt the big thing they were going to do was get the ball out quick and we had to tackle the catch, and we didn’t do that,” said Fins coach Adam Gase. “They were able to runaway from us.”

The Ravens executed their defensive game plan to the letter, as they contained QB Ryan Tannehill in the pocket, and held RB Jay Ajayi in check. Unlike other number one ranked defenses (against the run) Ajayi has faced in the past couple weeks, the Ravens closed gaps and were successful at gang tackling.

“We had nothing that really jumped started us, we just couldn’t make any plays,” said Gase.

There was a glimpse of hope in the second quarter until Tannehill tossed a ball in to the end zone, ending in a tremendous interception by S Lardarius Webb.

Trailing 24-0 at the half, I asked Gase going in to the locker room “what did his passing attack need to do get going?” He replied, “I like what were doing offensively, were getting past the fifty (yard line) we just need to sustain drives.“

While Miami was able to get points on the board in the second half sparking the thought of a comeback, he Ravens quickly ripped it away with another interception.

“The way the front seven brought the pressure, it made it so much easier for the back end to get the turnovers today,” said Webb.

Defensively Miami could do little to get pressure on Flacco. During his post game interview, the only speck of a grass stain on his number five jersey came from a high snap. Despite running back Terrence West finding the paint to put the game out of hand in the fourth quarter, the Ravens rushing attack was practically nonexistent. Flacco utilized the linebacker mismatches on his favorite target Dennis Pitta for two scores (Pitta’s first two touchdowns of the season)

“Our offensive line played lights out, and it starts up front,” said Pitta. “When (Flacco) has time he can be a dangerous quarterback.”

So, gone is the Dolphins six-game winning streak, and controlling their own playoff destiny as the sixth seed. A blowout loss is still a loss, even if its the fifth defeat out of the six games to the Ravens. Who just may happen to be the team the Dolphins end up seeing in the playoffs. If they can rebound from this shellacking.

QUICK SLANT TAKEAWAYS:
The Dolphins pass rush was ineffective. When I asked Flacco on the field post game (see above), if they even touched him, he said, “You know, I don’t know.” A quarterback should now if defensive pressure got to him, that response was a prideful response to the job the Ravens offensive line did.

While linebacker/DE Terrell Suggs compared RB Jay Ajayi to Ezekiel Elliott as a fierce runner, The Dolphins’ British back couldn’t be utilized effectively as Adam Gase’s offense was forced to throw the ball to get back in to the game. Ajayi’s 61 yards rushing on 12 carries was good enough for 5.1 yards per carry. But for the fourth straight game he was held under the century mark in total yards.

I talked to C Mike Pouncey prior to the game, he said the hip injury is healing, and that he should be making his return soon.

From the “Did You Know” file: Gase got his start in coaching thanks to Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees? Pees was recruiting Gase’s high school teammate when he met Gase. Gase talked to Pees about going in to coaching.

When Gase arrived on campus at Michigan State, Pees who worked under Nick Saban then, put Gase to work as a student assistant working on self scouting reports. Pees said of the 100 or so student assistants Gase stood out.

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins grabbing RB Frank Gore looking smarter and smarter

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins were right about Frank Gore.

And the risk they took in signing the 35 year-old as a free agent in March and making him a prominent part of their run game, paid off in their dramatic 31 – 28 win over the Chicago Bears in overtime Sunday.

Gore gouged the Bears for 101 yards on 15 carries and ran stronger and harder as the game wore into the extra session.

His 32 yard run help set up the potential winning touchdown, only to have fellow running back Kenyan Drake cough up the fumble at the goal line to keep the Bears alive.

Still, when Chicago missed their field goal and the Dolphins had new life, Gore was again out there pounding on the Bears defense, as Miami eventually lined up and kicked the game winning field goal with rookie Jason Sanders.

The Colts elected not to resign the the 14-year veteran this past March. And, Gore’s desire to come back home, where he grew up and starred for the Hurricanes made the marriage with the Fins a natural one.

Still, the Dolphins could have elected to go get another back in free agency, but did not. They did draft Arizona State Kalen Ballage in the fourth round and have hopes that he will mature into an every-down back.

For now, Gore is not only a mentor to Drake and sharing the load, but he actually delivered when the Dolphins were desperate and Drake’s confidence was shaken.

Gore was limping at the end of overtime after taking a shot on one of his runs late, and who knows how much more he can give Miami as this season wears on at 35 years of age?

However, you cannot disagree that the Dolphins took a calculated risk and it’s already paying off to have Frank Gore in their backfield.

As the saying goes, there’s no substitute for experience, and Miami’s backfield has it with #21.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins continue trend of winning wild home games

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Say this for Dolphin fans buying tickets at Hard Rock Stadium: they have gotten their money’s worth and then some, on crazy plays and drama. Oh, and Sunday was no exception, as Miami needed every second of five periods to triumph 31-28.

By the time rookie kicker Jason Sanders (above) booted through his game winning field goal, as time expired in overtime, it had to feel more like Fins fans had been on a three hour roller coaster ride against the Bears Sunday.

After all, Miami controlled the first half and led Chicago 7-0 at the break. This after the Bears in their last game, two weeks ago against the Bucs, set a franchise reord with 38 first half points in a blowout win.

However, in the third quarter Chicago capitalized on backup QB Brock Osweiler’s interceptions and scored three touchdowns-all in less than two minutes off the clock each time.

You couldn’t blame fans for thinking “here we go again” as Miami was staring at a third straight bad loss.

Still, the Fins dealt with a circus 7 hour twice weather delayed game with the Titans that opened the season with a victory. Then two weeks later, beat the Raiders with plays that included a flipped “jet sweep” TD to speedy Jakeem Grant and eventually, a clinching score from Albert Wilson for a long catch and run TD.

Sunday was “Deja Vu” for Wilson and the big play: a replica catch and run by Wilson that tied the game late:

75 yards on the scamper by Wilson tied the game and set into motion a wild “bonus period” of football, too.

A period that had the dramatic low of Kenyan Drake fumbling on the one yard line going in for the game winning TD-only to have Chicago recover and move into winning field goal range.

Only, wouldn’t you know it, former Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey, who left for the Windy City and big bucks, misfired wide right for the win to give Miami life, again.

Drake redeemed himself, along with Osweiler, with a 15 yard catch and run of his own into Bears territory to set up Sanders winning boot. And once it went through, the third year back went to his knees and then face on the ground with tears in his eyes, relieved that Miami had won 31-28.

 

It hasn’t been pretty in all cases, but it also hasn’t been boring.

And Fins fans can’t complain about being 4-2 at this stage, when they won only six games all last year. Most of all, when Miami plays at home, big plays and wild endings have been the norm.

And if you stay until the end, you are rewarded.

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Miami Dolphins

Gameday- Suddenly struggling Dolphins host Bears

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

What: Dolphins (3-2) vs. Bears (3-1)

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens

Spread: Bears by 4 points (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)

Can the Dolphins, who were once 3-0, stop their sudden slide of two awful road losses? Will the Bears, off their bye week, be ready to deal them another defeat? Here’s what we are watching:

Is there a psychological crisis in Miami?

The Dolphins responded off of their blowout loss in New England playing good football for two and a half quarters in Cincinnati last week. However, leading 17 – 0, Miami proceeded to melt down, including giving up too easy defensive scores deep in their own territory as part of a Bengals 27-17 win.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was under duress, had two of those giveaways get returned for the scores, and has to take better care of the ball in this match-up with the Bears.

Tannehill participated fully in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was listed as limited/questionable for the game today.

And there is now doubt as to whether he can make the throws or complete the game:

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, who is covering the game, reported later Sunday morning that Tannehill is “doubtful to start” as the shoulder worsened Friday and Saturday.

Osweiler has started 25  games previously in Houston and Denver (seven last year) over the last three seasons. It will also be interesting to see if David Fales or rookie Luke Falk will the be the active “third QB” today in this scenario.

Will Trubisky continue his roll?

When last we saw Chicago second-year quarterback, he was torching the Tampa Bay secondary for five first-half touchdown passes and six of them overall in a 45 – 10 victory

The Bears, have had the week off, have good weapons in the backfield in running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, but it’s trubisky play that will help them sustain some drives.

Trubisky has to stay away from turnovers, as well. The Dolphins secondary has more interceptions than any other unit in the NFL.

Get Khalil Mack blocked

It seems simple enough, yet through the first four games of the Season, no one has been able to get in front of the All-Pro pass-rusher acquired from the Raiders on the eve of the season.

Mack has five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown in his first four games for Chicago. There was good news late in the week for the Dolphins when left tackle Laremy Tunsil cleared concussion protocol and will be able to block Mac some one-on-one when he lines up on right defensive end.

That will be a match-up to zero in on as the game unfolds.

The rest of the time? You might have to have two or three people try to engage Mack, but you’ve got to contain him or it will be a tough day for the offense.

 

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