Miami Dolphins: Why’d It Take So Long to Become Good?

Miami Dolphins celebrate with head coach Dan Campbell after his first coaching victory.-Shot by Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins stepped off the plane in Nashville, Tennessee and there was no jet lag to speak of.

Like their owner Stephen Ross and their head coach Dan Campbell said in the post-game speech to his locker room, “The sleeping giant is finally awake.” After winning a road game 38-10, it’s safe to say the giant should never be sleeping again.

On the Dolphins opening drive of the game against the Tennessee Titans, they accomplished a goal that they couldn’t during the entire four games of the Joe Philbin Era this year, they played physical. The biggest concept that head coach Dan Campbell was preaching during his first two weeks as a head coach was physicality and his players backed up all of his talk with the play on the field.

The Dolphins opened up the game by running the football and smashing it down the throats of the Titans and there was nothing they could do to stop it. Lamar Miller had the best game of the season and finished with 119 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown. In his last four games, Miller combined for only 131 rushing yards. The improvement was leaps and bounds greater than anything we’ve seen in Miami.

It was also surprising to see offensive coordinator Bill Lazor bring out all of the tricks out of the bag because the Dolphins were keeping a very underrated Titans defense on their heels. We got to see an awesome reverse to Jarvis Landry that led to an opening touchdown drive, something that we’ve rarely seen this season. With that opening drive alone it was easy to see that this team had a complete overhaul during their last two weeks and the result was a first quarter lead.

After the Dolphins got the running game established early, they didn’t stay one dimensional. Furthermore, offensively the Dolphins helped their season by getting their quarterback Ryan Tannehill involved into the game. Tannehill normally plays well when the offense gives him enough time to roll out, or when the coach calls designated plays for him to run in open space. On Sunday against the Titans both variables occurred and Tannehill looked like the quarterback Dolphins fans were excited about.

There was a bootleg play for Tannehill early in the game, as well as a lot of scrambling opportunities that he took advantage of. When Tannehill gets into space he’s got the size as well as the speed to do damage once he gets into the second level. With the balanced attack on offense, Tannehill by far had the best game of the year even though he threw two interceptions. Tannehill finished with a 75.9 completion rating going 22-of-29, 265 yards and two touchdowns.

Remember that defense that was much maligned during the first quarter of the year? Yeah, well that defense too looked like it back at the All-Pro Super Bowl level many people expected during the preseason. The Dolphins gave rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota the worst game of his NFL career. The way that they did it was getting a push on the line and collapsing the pocket around Mariota, thus taking away his comfort in the process and watching him throw two interceptions in the process.

The star on the defense was none other than defensive end Cameron Wake.

The 33-year-old physical wonder has been plagued by a hamstring injury since the beginning of the year. However, thanks to the Dolphins early bye week Wake got an extra week of rest to help his ailing injury. Now Wake might not be at 100 percent health, but the way that he performed on Sunday was one on his best games of his career. Wake got to Mariota numerous times and ended up leaving the field with five sacks in the process. In addition, Wake wasn’t the only person who got to Mariota. Olivier Vernon also got a sack on Mariota and he also had a hit on Mariota’s knee and left the rookie hobbling for the rest of the entire game. Even though this is only one game, the Dolphins should enjoy this win because this week there’s much to look forward to.

The Dolphins have to play against the Houston Texans, a franchise that they’ve never defeated. In fact, the Dolphins have a 0-7 against the Texans. Next week is yet another test, this one’s topic is on consistency.

D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey.

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