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Opponent preview: How the Miami Dolphins put together a win streak

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A team many believe to be one of the worst in league history has a...gulp...win streak coming into their second game against Buffalo. Let’s see what happened

The Miami Dolphins are so bad they actively screwed up their own tank by winning two games in a row. With back-to-back victories over the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts the Dolphins are displaying a level of competence no one saw coming. So then, what in the world?


Play 1

We’ll start with the Dolphins’ second victory against the Colts because it’s easier to explain. A Miami fumble on their opening drive gave the ball to the Colts near mid-field. Indianapolis marched down and Brian Hoyer threw this touchdown to Eric Ebron. Uh, wait. No he didn’t. A miracle interception by Steven Parker gave the ball back to Miami and left the Colts with zilch. Miami put together a respectable drive to come away with a field goal. Colts driving, prevented precious points.

Play 2

The two teams traded scoreless possessions back and forth until late in the second quarter. Brian Hoyer was looking for Ebron again and overthrew the ball, and Bobby McCain was in great position to scoop it up. McCain’s slide allowed him to get up and move the ball all the way to the Indianapolis 12. From there, Miami was able to score their only touchdown of the game.

Play 3

With 13 points, Miami is leading by a single point after hitting a field goal moments before this play. Zach Pascal has a step or three on Nik Needham and Hoyer is locked in. Needham catches up and Miami has the ball back in field goal range. A few running plays later they take the points to go up by four.

If it weren’t for the interceptions this game is almost certainly a different outcome. Despite extra possessions they only moved the ball 229 yards. Of those, 70 came on the ground on 26 attempts for a wretched 2.7 yards per carry. The passing game didn’t fare much better with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 169 yards on 33 attempts, with one interception and zero touchdowns.

Play 4

The Dolphins took care of the Jets primarily thanks to about one quarter of Fitzmagic. Starting at 2:05 left in the first quarter at their own 39-yard line, Miami moved the ball in large part thanks to two catches by Preston Williams. This is the second one, good for 26 yards. As Buffalo Bills fans likely remember, Fitzpatrick has no qualms about throwing to a covered receiver and giving him a shot. He does so here and Williams delivers. Williams has about 5” over Darryl Roberts and uses his larger frame and longer arms to help him out. However, if Roberts had looked for the ball it’s probably batted away.

Play 5

Guess who. It’s Preston Williams again at the beginning of the second quarter. There’s a good chance this is a touchdown even if the defense remembered Williams existed, but the Jets sure made this one easy. Following this touchdown the Jets nailed a 22-yard play then imploded. A negative play was followed by two penalties resulting in a 3rd-and-27 attempt. As expected they didn’t convert.

Play 6

Miami got the ball back at their own 16 and moved the ball right back down the field. While this drive was more methodical than the last, it was helped by two chunk plays by Mike Gesicki. Here’s the second of those. Gesicki finds a soft spot in the coverage and nobody on the Jets reacts in time. This 12-yard catch was a huge conversion for the Dolphins.

Play 7

Just like we saw with the long catch by Williams, Fitzpatrick lobs the ball toward DeVante Parker and trusts he’ll come down with it. He does and it’s another seven points for the ‘Fins. Following this touchdown, the Jets avoided a three-and-out situation simply due to the fact that a play had to be redone thanks to a penalty on New York.

Play 8

We’re STILL in the second quarter and Miami has possession at midfield thanks to the Jets’ inability to move the ball and a meh punt. The Dolphins don’t do much special except for this play. Gesicki isn’t forgotten about this time, but the coverage (James Burgess) reacts slowly and gets burnt. Burgess catches up to make the tackle but it’s 34 yards too late.

Play 9

And if you’re wondering who capped this one off, we have Preston Williams again. This touchdown happened with just under two minutes to go in the second quarter, marking the third touchdown in about 15 minutes of play. Williams was a critical part of the offense and Bills fans might remember Williams as the Dolphins’ best weapon against Bufalo, with 6 catches (8 targets) for 82 yards.


Summary

The story against the Indianapolis Colts is very straightforward. One miracle interception prevented a Colts score and led to a Dolphins field goal. One bad throw and one bad decision/good play by the defense led to two more interceptions and ten more points for the Dolphins. In a game decided by four, those turnovers gave Miami the win.

Against the Jets, the Dolphins were bottled up for 45 minutes. In the clips above covering the other 15 they moved the ball 201 yards and put up 21 points. For the rest of the game it was 115 yards and five points. The Jets repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with penalties (4 for 40 yards), forgot to cover the Dolphins’ biggest weapons several times, and lost a few contested catches when defensive backs failed to look for the ball.

Ultimately, the two wins shouldn’t make Miami any more scary to face than last time. Though it could happen, there’s no reason to think Buffalo’s secondary will allow that many big plays against Miami. A multiple turnover day is also a possibility, though recent history suggests this, too, is unlikely.

And oh yeah, that Preston Williams guy who was doing so much damage for the Dolphins was hurt against the Jets and is now on injured reserve. That’s never something to gloat over, but it’s a major loss for an already struggling team. Add in a suspension to starting running back Mark Walton and Bills fans should sleep a little easier.