Monday, September 20, 2010

The Morning After: Dolphins 14, Vikings 10

Minnesota Vikings fans look despondent during loss on 09/19/10 to Miami Dolphins (photo courtesy of
Holy crap was that a great game -- hard fought from start to finish.

Miami's first play from scrimmage was nice. A 46 yard toss down-field from Chad Henne to Brandon Marshall. A few nice runs later, and the Dolphins faced 1st-and-Goal. Minnesota's D held strong for a few plays but, on 3rd Down, Henne finally punched one right into the hands of Brian Hartline.

That first drive looked so good, I never would have suspected Miami's offense would be shut out for the rest of the game.

So, the Dolphins took an early lead (as I suspected they might) and spent rest of the game daring Brett Favre to do his worst. He literally did.

The Vikings sustained several lengthy drives but Miami's defense kicked into overdrive each time they were pinned back in their own Red Zone.

The Dolphin defense was outstanding really. They forced four turnovers and allowed Minnesota to score only once. And even that touchdown was ¡Qué mala suerte! as it only happened because Ricky Williams fumbled on his own goal-line.

It was a classic "bend but don't break" defensive effort.

In the second quarter, Zombie Favre threw a nice pass to Percy Harvin at the one yard-line. It should have been a completion and probably should have tied the game at seven. But Harvin bobbled it, thank the Gods, and Vontae Davis secured the Dolphin defense's first interception of the season. (There would be more.)

V.D. made a great play but, three feet from their own goal-line, Miami's offense wasn't in the clear. In hostile territory and against a tenacious Viking front line, Ronnie Brown took the hand-off in his own end zone and exploded through a gap in the line of scrimmage. What might have been a safety was instead a 51 yard gain thanks to Brown's quickness and the offensive line's power.

Vontae Davis intercepts a pass bobbled by Percy Harvin on 09/19/10 (courtesy of

Franchise LT Jake Long manhandled Jared Allen the entire game; the rest of the big fellas on Miami's o-line gave one heck of an effort too.

They really deserve props for beating down one of the best defensive fronts in front of their own crowd. I don't even remember a false start penalty called against them which is surprising considering the hostility of the Metrodome. Henne had plenty of time in the pocket (though he was sacked twice) and the line opened up some big holes for Dolphin rushers early.

It was a bi-polar day for Miami's rushing attack, dominant early on but pathetic in the second half. The first fumble, by Williams, was easily converted into a touchdown by Adrian Peterson. Brown fumbled with only a few minutes left to play and it nearly cost the Dolphins the game. (Lousaka Polite was unstoppable, of course, but what's new?)

When Minnesota recovered that second fumble, I really thought the game was over. As a Dolphin fan, I'm so used to melt downs in the 4th Quarter (see the Indianapolis and New Orleans games in 2010 and the Houston and first NYJ game in 2009), It seemed a foregone conclusion that our Defense would buckle after that momentum killing turnover.

Boy was it good to be wrong! I was instead treated to an absolutely delightful goal-line stand. It was 1st-and-Goal from the four yard-line. The Vikings had four chances to score the game winning touchdown from just a few yards out but couldn't seem to convert. Everyone knew Peterson was going to run it in on 4th-and-Goal but the world found out what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable Karlos Dansby, who crushed Peterson at the point of impact and forced a turnover on downs ("number twenty-one" assisted on the tackle). Yeah, Dansby looks to be worth every dollar.

Miami's entire defense looks stellar so far this season. I don't know whether to credit the new schemes of Mike Nolan or the new personnel of Jeff Ireland but this group of guys is playing a different (and better) style of ball than they have in past years. Maybe Coach Sparano is a better, skinnier motivator these days. The defense is physical as Hell -- the front line beat the crap out of the Favre, Peterson, and the Vikings big men -- but they seem quicker too.

The secondary dropped some sure-fire interceptions against Buffalo in Week One but they must have bought some new gloves. Second-year CB Davis is playing at a Pro Bowl level and Jason Allen has magically morphed into an ass-kicking ball-hawk. (Yes, that Jason Allen.)

Sean Smith even looked good in his limited appearances yesterday. That got me thinking (uh-oh), what if Smith didn't regress during training camp? What if Allen has just stepped up his game that much under Mike Nolan's tutelage? It's almost impossible to fathom after what we've seen from him in the past but Allen's performance yesterday cannot be denied. He picked off Hall of Famer Brett Favre three time (one was called back by an unrelated penalty) and was, by a wide margin, the game's most valuable player. After all these years of struggling, it's great to see Allen finding his groove.

The whole defense is refreshing, really. It's such a nice change of pace to count the linebacking corps as an asset for instead of a detriment. Cameron Wake continues his inprobable, but now inevitable, rise to stardom; he was fierce all afternoon, most notably when he stripped Favre in the end zone (Koa Misi recovered for the Dolphins first defensive TD in awhile).

Vikings' stud RB Peterson rushed for 145 yards and made some spectacular plays but he's a top two back in the league and won't ever be shut down entirely. He got his stats but the Dolphin defense stopped him in the crucial situations.

Special teams was solid; Brandon Fields was back to his old form.

I'm less enthusiastic about how Miami's offense performed, but they have faced some pretty stiff competition this season (and it doesn't look to get easier against the Jets this Sunday night).

Certainly the fumbles have to stop. It's a miracle the Vikings didn't capitalize on both of them, but you can bet the next team will.

The play-calling was, again, solid in the first half and lackluster in the second. I know everyone was terrified to run the ball and fumble again late in that fourth quarter, but it was difficult to watch the Dolphins try to unsuccessfully run out the clock out on those last few drives. Zombie Favre looked like shit, thankfully, so we could dodge a few more of those bullets than usual.

Henne was efficient (9/14, 114 yards, TD) and that was enough. It wasn't his fault the coaches never felt the need to take off his leash.

The Dolphins are undefeated and sit alone atop the AFC East but we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. They have a murderer's row of a schedule; their next three opponents (Jets, Patriots, @Packers) all made the playoffs in 2009.

Game Ball: Jason Allen. 7 tackles, 4 assists, and two INTs.
Honorable mention: Adrian Peterson, Jake Long, Vontae Davis.

Game Goat: Brett Favre. 22/36, 325 yards, 3 INTs, 1 fumble lost.
Honorable mention: Ricky Williams, Percy Harvin.

Quote of the Game: “Number twenty-one (Vontae Davis), I felt like, was one of the best corners in this league, especially that no one knows about. Number 32 (Jason Allen) is more physical and kind of a safety-type guy. I thought a back-shoulder throw against him with Bernard (Berrian) would be a right play. But just in general, twenty-one I was less apt to challenge.” ~ Brett "Zombie" Favre

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