Turnovers and defense will be the keys to the Miami Dolphins beating the Cleveland Browns. Two games into the season and the Dolphins have created one turnover. The Cleveland Browns have the potential to be explosive and it is up to the Miami defense to make them one-dimensional.
The lack of turnovers is an indication the Miami defense is not making the kind of hits that dislodge the football. It is also an indication the defense is not getting enough pressure on the QB to force him into making bad decisions that result in interceptions. Defenses feed off big plays, the kind of plays that give the offense a short field and momentum.
Pressure starts from the front seven and so far this season they have not stepped up. The Dolphins have only four sacks and have not been applying the type pressure needed to make opposing QBs uncomfortable in the pocket. Two of the best offenses in the NFL have attacked the Dolphins and the in-game adjustments have been a step behind at recognizing personnel packages in relation to play calling. In other words, our pass defense has been on the field against running personnel and our run defense in passing situations.
Cleveland presents less of a challenge in the passing game than New England or Houston but with Peyton Hillis the Browns running game has the potential to dominate. Miami must take Cleveland out of its running game early and force them to become one-dimensional throwing the ball. This will only came from making devastating hits that jar the football loose. So far this season Miami has played a passive defense, not using blitzes or stunts to disrupt the offense. Mike Nolan has placed so much emphasis on not giving up big plays that QBs have had enough time to do just that.
It is time for the Miami defense to pin back its ears and come after the Cleveland Browns. The strategies so far have not worked, doing the same thing and expecting different results not only defines insanity, but ignorance as well. Attacking defenses may be more prone to giving up big plays but they are also more prone to making them. There so much pressure on the Dolphins to win, the only option is to sellout now because Sparano may not get many more opportunities.
This is a pivotal game for the Dolphins. In only week three, it seems early to proclaim this as a make or break game, but starting 0 and 3 virtually eliminates Miami’s chances of making the playoffs. For the Dolphins, this is a must win game. The Miami offense has shown the ability to move the ball and its troubles in the redzone will end this week. That places the onus for this game, and perhaps the entire season, on the shoulders of the defense.
The players’ only, meeting this week was not a slight on the coaching staff, as some have suggested. Without being behind those closed doors, the summation here is, the veteran leaders in the locker room told the players, “it’s do or die time for the Dolphins.” Getting rid of vocal players like Channing Crowder may promote the Parcells’ philosophy of media silence, but it also removes those guys from the locker room.
The players’ only meeting gave rise to new leadership among the Dolphin players and it would be very interesting to know who those players are and what they said. If Chad Henne is ever to move from average to good, it will start by the team believing he is the leader an NFL QB must be. Dolphin fans will know unequivocally whether this team has the heart and soul to compete or will lay down in 2011. The soul may be on the offense but the heart must come from the defense and that unit must come out with reckless abandon to bring home a victory.
The Dolphin season is not over… The team will prove it with a break out, defining win against the Browns.