Dolphins hobble to late win over Titans 16-10

Game Recap: Miami Gardens, FL

Not your average home game (four weeks later), but just your average Miami Dolphins slow start to the regular season. Dating back to 2013, the Dolphins have started 3-1, 2-2, 1-3, and now 2-2.

As the Dolphins geared up for their home fans for the first time this season due to hurricane Irma, they were able to struggle offensively if not for a key red zone producing drive with a go-ahead score on a Jay Cutler to Jarvis Landry touchdown score with 4:56 to play in the 4th quarter. With Dolphins red zone threat DeVante Parker out with an ankle injury, Landry had to pick up the slack.

Cutler stood in the pocket on a three step drop and found Jarvis Landry (1TD, 5 catches, 44 yards) on a hitch route at the front of the goal line in traffic.

After the touchdown, kicker Cody Parkey missed a makable extra point and put the pressure on the Miami defense.

In fact, defensive coordinator Matt Burke put the onus on his defense to stop the run and shut down the Titans on the ground.

The Dolphins managed to shut down another team’s rushing attack, this time 69 yards with 58 yards run by DeMarco Murray.

Burke’s defense supported by line backer Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, and safety Reshad Jones had six tackles each.

However, it was Jones who set the tone early as Matt Cassel was crushed by a bone jarring hit by Alonso, as the ball fluttered into the air allowing Jones to pick up the fumble and scoop it and score.

Jones heads up play pushed the Dolphins to their first ever half time lead this season 10-3.

The Titans tied it later in the game at 10, but even the Titans were limited to sure tackling and coverage by the Dolphins corners limiting signal caller Matt Cassel to 141 yards and 21/32 passing, but a paltry 4.4 yards per pass.

Later this week, the Dolphins defense will look even better based on ProFootball Focus grading. I’d expect the Dolphins to be highly ranked as a front seven and with 6 sacks today, this Dolphins defense played their best game of the season. Look for names such as Reshad Jones, Kiko Alonso, and Lawrence Timmons to jump off the page.

Rookie contributions:

Getting a rookie contribution today by DE Charles Harris was phenomenal-one sack-to close out the game and a near sack on the final play of the game as Cassel looked overmatched and stepped up to throw. In addition, Harris provided that spark to the defense with two QB hurries. Little by little, Harris is starting to flash with his inside move, lean, and ability to shed the block, barreling his way to the QB. It seems his sessions learning from both Cam Wake and William Hayes is paying off.

Last week Rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley held the Saints Drew Brees to 32 yards after being targeted 7 Times.

Next up for Miami:

Next week, the Dolphins face Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are having a good start at 3-1 and they’ve put their bad luck in the Super Bowl from last season behind them and a good run game and passing attack. Not to mention, a Dan Quinn led defense is finding key ways to beat teams for 60 minutes.

Jay Cutler v. Matt Moore:

The Miami Dolphins beat writers are like vultures circling and their prey appears to be the play of quarterback Jay Cutler and head coach Adam Gase. Cutler has been all over the place since week 3(game 2 of the season) with numerous delay of game penalties, poor execution, and 10 sacks taken. With today’s final offensive scoring drive Cutler looked better than last week by evading tackles and sacks-using his feet to buy time and find Jarvis Landry and Julius Jones. Still, Dolphins beat writers are right to criticize that Gase’s explosive offense could be better suited with a spark of enthusiasm off the bench.

Gase has responded to the media criticism by saying that “QB is far down the list” of problems with this team. Perhaps Gase might take a measured approach with Cutler.

At this point, the Dolphins sit 2-2 and in the middle of the pack in the AFC playoff race.

Surely, the Dolphins are on the outside looking in, but this Dolphins front seven and ability to stop the run might be the best we’ve seen in some time.

Photo credit: AP

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