The Miami Dolphins won their third straight game on Sunday, defeating the Buffalo Bills 35-8. Sunday’s game was not only the 3rd straight victory for the Dolphins, but it was the 3rd straight game that they won by 11 points or more. In their last 3 games, the Dolphins have outscored opponents 86-20. That means the Dolphins average margin of victory is 22 points….This BEGS the question: How could the Dolphins look so good in the last 3 games, yet start the season 0-7? We’ve come up with a number of factors that could lead a reasonable person to understand why. Here are some of the possibilities, followed by a poll to see what you think is the leading factor.
Tough 1st half Schedule
The Dolphins played 4 of their first 7 games on the road and 2 of their 3 home games were against teams that lead their divisions (Houston/New England). Their other home game was against Tim Tebow and his bag of magic tricks. The Dolphins schedule for the first 7 games was not impossible, but it was not very easy either. A good team doesn’t lose 7 straight game no matter who they are playing. BUT, we can see that as the schedule has lightened up (Chiefs, Redskins, Injury-Depleted Bills), the Dolphins have played better football.
There is no denying that the Lockout had an effect on the Dolphins early in the season. The Dolphins were bitten by the injury bug early and often in 2011. It was clear that the lack of a full offseason lead to many lingering injuries (Vontae Davis and Daniel Thomas – hamstring; Karlos Dansby – groin). We also learned that some players came in to camp over weight, specifically Karlos Dansby (25 lbs over weight). The flaw in this theory is that other teams/players had the same amount of time to prepare for the season. Why were other teams able to avoid a slow start?
Another effect of the Lockout was the limited time that new coaches/coordinators had to install their offense/defense. Brian Daboll’s offense has looked great the last few weeks. He’s mixing up his play calling and showing glimpses of innovation. Again though, why haven’t other teams struggled with new coaches? The 49ers have an entirely new coaching staff and are 9-1…no slow start for them. The Lockout also doesn’t explain why Mike Nolan’s defense looked so terrible early in the season. The Dolphins defense returned 9 of 11 starters…so there was some continuity on that unit.
May, just maybe, the Dolphins players read too much about how good they were going to be this year. Many experts thought they would be on the fringes of the playoffs (they’re not close right now)…..many thought they’d have a top 5 defense (currently 16th)…..many thought Chad Henne would finally deliver on the potential he had shown in the past (his inconsistency continued). Omar Kelly has said numerous times that the Dolphins have been very confident, bordering on arrogance, even during the 7 game losing streak. I put this more on the defense…maybe they bought into their own hype a little bit too much. Could this be the major factor in their slow start?
Before Chad Henne’s injury, he was having a typical Chad Henne season. I would argue that he looked better this year than he has in the past, but he still ended up throwing 4 TDs and 4 INTs. He had a great first game, throwing for 400 yards against New England…but as the season has played out, we see just how bad New England’s secondary has been. The Dolphins were 0-4 with Henne as the starter (although the San Diego game, Chad’s time was very limited).
By contrast, Matt Moore is 3-3 as the Dolphins starter. He has played 2 very good games out of the 7 he’s played in. Maybe its the continued work with Daboll’s offense, or maybe Moore is just a better QB than Henne. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again….I do not think Matt Moore is the Dolphins franchise QB of the future. I think the Dolphins should draft a QB early in the 2012 draft and keep Moore on the roster. BUT, could an improvement of the QB play have been the biggest factor in the Dolphins turnaround? After all, Moore had the Dolphins in position to win the Broncos game, until the defense collapsed and special teams gave up the onside kick….He also lead the Dolphins to a 14-3 lead against the Giants and had them ahead in the 4th quarter.
This one goes right to the Dolphins main man, Tony Sparano. Following back to back 7-9 seasons, Sparano knew that he had to get the Dolphins into the playoffs this season…or he’d be out of a job. The team came out flat and fell to 0-7 on the season. Yes, the players appear to love Sparano, but then why did they play so poorly through the first 7 games? Could it simply be that Sparano isn’t a good enough Head Coach in the NFL? It will probably take the Dolphins winning another 5-6 games for this to even be debatable. What’s more likely is that the Dolphins will be looking to bring in a new head coach, as early as the 1st week of January. Good coaches don’t allow talented football teams to start 0-7, do they?