Three weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins had a 1-3 record and had plunged to 30th in the NFL Power Rankings. Despite the offseason addition of Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins through Week 5 ranked 24th in expected points added on defense and last in the NFL in run defense.
Coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle were fired. Dan Campbell replaced Philbin, and the Dolphins have won both games since. They have also risen to 13th in this week’s Power Rankings.
Looking at defensive efficiency (a measure of a unit’s per-play contribution to a team’s scoring margin, scaled from 0 to 100), the Dolphins had three games among their first four of less than 35 – when 50 is average.
The Dolphins have simplified their defense in recent weeks, and that has allowed the highly touted and highly paid defensive line to thrive. The Dolphins have blitzed on 13 percent of opponent dropbacks the last two weeks after doing so 35 percent of the time in their first four games. How has it affected the defense?
Pass rush: The Dolphins have 10 sacks the last two weeks after they recorded just one in their first four games. Cameron Wake has a league-best 6.0 sacks the last two weeks (zero in the first four games), and Suh has 2.0.
Rush defense: The Dolphins have allowed 3.1 yards per rush and 67.0 rush yards per game the last two weeks (both fifth in the NFL). They allowed 4.4 yards per rush and a league-worst 160.5 rush yards per game the first four weeks.
In both games since the coaching change, the Dolphins’ defensive efficiency has exceeded 85.
Looking at expected points added (which quantifies a unit’s contribution to the team’s scoring margin), the Dolphins’ defense has added more than nine points per game to the team’s scoring margin in the last two weeks. That ranks third in the NFL in the last two weeks, behind the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Rams.
Why it might not matter
The Dolphins play the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Tom Brady is 12-1 in his career against the Dolphins at home. The loss was in Week 17 of 2005, when Brady threw eight passes and was replaced by then-rookie Matt Cassel.
Brady is 8-0 in his career playing on Thursday, and he’s 12-1 in his last 13 home prime-time games.