Here are five notes and observations I have on the team this week:
It’s curious why Miami abandoned the running game in the second half. The Dolphins jumped out to a 17-3 lead at intermission behind a strong rushing attacked that gained 103 yards in the first half. Miami called 22 running plays in the first half, but only nine in the second. The Dolphins averaged 5.0 yards per carry throughout a close and competitive game. Therefore, there was no reason to completely abandon the run.
Ignoring the running game made Miami’s offense predictable and one-dimensional in the third and fourth quarters. That is the primary reason the Patriots registered all six sacks against Miami in the second half. Miami panicked and became pass-heavy after quickly blowing a 14-point halftime lead. Without the threat of the run, New England’s pass-rushers were able to pin their ears back and come after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami struggled picking up New England’s various blitzes.
The Dolphins’ run defense has been a major disappointment. For years, this has been a strength Miami has counted on consistently. I thought the Dolphins had the potential to be a top-five run defense with a deep defensive line and free-agent additions at linebacker. However, they are 19th against the run and allowing 109.9 yards per game. Miami’s front seven wears down late in games. The Patriots had 111 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against Miami’s defense in the second half alone.
Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon wouldn’t say after the game whether he was trying to recover the fourth-quarter fumble or bat the ball forward. After watching the replay a few times, it’s hard to tell because Vernon’s falling motion and sticking his arm out happened fast. The officials made the determination that Vernon batted the football forward intentionally, and it was a huge call against Miami that helped New England close out the game. The Patriots scored a touchdown four plays later.
Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick continues to increase his value. He had arguably his best game this season with four tackles and a pair of sacks against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Odrick has done everything asked of him while making the switch from defensive end to defensive tackle. Odrick also switched representation a few weeks ago, which could be an indication that he is looking to get a raise in the offseason. Miami will have some interesting decisions to make with Odrick looking to get paid and fellow defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks both unrestricted free agents in 2014.