Miami Dolphin Heroics Decide Outcome in Detroit

Miami Dolphin Coach Joe Philbin has a reminder for his squad as bold predictions from bandwagon jumping media seep into his player’s psyche. Four consecutive losses followed a three game winning streak to open the 2013 season. Should it not be enough to quell bulging heads, perhaps the two humbling defeats that ended 2013 following another three game winning streak will do the trick.

The misleading headline heading to Detroit is Lion QB Matthew versus Miami QB Ryan Tannehill…

Two of the NFL’s best defenses will decide the outcome. Detroit leads the NFL in points allowed (126) and Miami is 3rd at (151). Detroit is 2nd in rushing yards allowed per game and Miami is 2nd in passing yards allowed per game. Detroit’s offense is 9th in passing yards per game and Miami’s offense is 4th in rushing yards per game. Both teams are riding 3 game winning streaks.

The Detroit defense shuts down what Miami does best and the Miami defense shuts down what Detroit does best. The Lions are coming off a bye week expecting the return of ailing receiver Calvin Johnson and former Dolphin Reggie Bush. Miami’s best running back Lamar Miller is nursing a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder.

On paper, the game seems evenly matched and has the makings of a slugfest.

The quarterbacks in this contest are heading in separate directions as Stafford’s decline finds him ranked 22nd and Tannehill’s rise ranks him at 17th. Statistics point to game plans featuring the Lions challenging Miami’s run defense and the Dolphins going aerial to test Detroit’s secondary.

For fans capable of sorting fantasy numbers from true QB play, Matthew Stafford’s stats are a little misleading. As evidenced in 2013, when Stafford ranked 3rd in the NFL with 4650 yards, while his 84.2 QB rating was marginal at best.
Reggie Bush tried to toughen his game between the tackles in Miami, leading to nagging injuries. The injury bug continues to plague Bush in Detroit and the Lions are more apt to use Joique Bell between the tackles with Bush working the edges and the passing game.

Numbers indicate a Detroit team prone to abandon the running game in favor of airing it out. These tendencies create an opportunity for the Dolphin defense to use their front-seven effectively taking away the run and pressuring the QB without blitzing. It does not bode well for Detroit that Matthew Stafford is second in league with 24 sacks and Miami ranks 5th with 25 sacks.

The Detroit offense is similar to San Diego but uses more one-back and empty backfield formations. The lack of motion allows Stafford to read static defenses, meaning Miami must disguise coverage schemes while pressuring from a four-man front. Like most QBs, Stafford will make mistakes when the defense eliminates his first option, forcing him to hold the ball and scan the field. The large, fast Detroit receiving crops could present trouble for Miami’s smallish secondary.

Detroit has the advantage of playing at home, but the indoor stadium negates any effect cold weather could have on the Dolphins. In a game that looks surprisingly even, emotion will rue the day. For Miami, the AFC’s 9th seeded team, every game has playoff implications and three game winning streaks quickly dissolve into what-have-you-done-for-me-lately with a loss in Detroit.

Entering the second half of the season, a Dolphins team playing consistently in all three phases is a formidable opponent. It doesn’t coronate the Dolphins as an elite squad or even a playoff team. Each week presents a new challenge for an evolving Miami football team.

Detroit is 6-2 and is the NFC’s version of Miami, a mid-season darling that never seems to finish the deal.
Savoring victories does little for the Lions or the Dolphins hopes of progressing into December and January. Beating the next opponent must be the primary focus.

The keys to the game will be keeping Matthew Stafford from getting comfortable in the pocket and allowing time to find second or third options. On the Miami offensive side, running the ball will be tough against the stout Detroit defensive line, leaving the ball in Ryan Tannehill’s hands to make plays in the passing game. Statistically, these are two of the best defenses in the NFL and the game could come down to the last possession of a low scoring contest.

It’s another challenge for a Dolphin team not known to fare well in contests won on last second heroics. Practicing late game hysteria is impossible at game speed and experiences like Green Bay this year will prepare Miami for better a outcome.

This will be a closely contested football game and the team with the most want-to at the end could decide the winner.