The Miami Dolphins’ offense gets a lot of credit for the team’s 8-3 record this season, but the defense has made quiet strides in recent weeks. That could play a big role as we head into the last six weeks of the regular season.
The Dolphins allowed 15 points against the Houston Texans on Sunday and just 17 against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10.
In Miami’s 30-15 win over the Texans, the defense had three turnovers (two INTs, one fumble), scored a touchdown and had five sacks with seven quarterback hits.
“Yes, we played fast in the first half, everyone was having fun and playing physically,” said safety Eric Rowe. “That was our goal. Coming out and playing our ball standard and unfortunately it wasn’t the same story in the second half. But in the first half, towards the end of the season, that’s how we should play as a defence.”
Miami’s offense got off to a hot start on Sunday but also got plenty of help from defense. The Texans’ first three drives resulted in punts, and on their fourth possession, Andrew Van Ginkel returned an INT to the Texans 3-yard line and set up a touchdown in Miami.
Two drives later, Miami’s defense scored a touchdown of their own when Rowe fumbled Texas tight end Jordan Atkins, allowing cornerback Xavien Howard to snap the ball and score.
“It feels good. It reminded me of high school offense,” Howard said of his touchdown. “I’ve always wanted to touch the ball and get touchdowns.”
Though the Texans are hardly an elite competition, Cleveland’s offense ranked fifth in expected points added in Week 10. The Dolphins, who hold them to 17 points, are impressive despite Cleveland’s disappointing record this season.
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DOLPHINS DEFENSE READY FOR HARD STRETCHING
It’s important that Miami’s defense play better now. Miami’s next three games are all against the 49ers, Chargers and Bills, all of whom are in the NFL’s top 15 in points per game this season.
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Rowe believes the defense is starting to make strides as the schedule gets tougher.
“I mean, yeah, every week we’re just building blocks, and every week we see ourselves getting better and better,” Rowe said. “Of course you have to continue this trend.”
Miami’s next three opponents have a combined record of 21-12, and wins over the Bills and Chargers would greatly help the Dolphins in the AFC playoff picture.
DOLPHINS DEFENSE SHALL KEEP THE STANDARD
Newly acquired passrusher Bradley Chubb, who had a stripsack against the Texans, said he’s not used to playing in important games this late in the season.
“It feels great[to be a contender],” Chubb said. “I’ve probably never had that in my career, you know what I mean? I’ve been doing this for five years and I’ve never been in the conversation this late in the season. Having that, having the guys all fighting hard, all coming in with the right attitude every day all week is just something special, sure to see that.
While Miami’s defense has shown signs of improvement, the Dolphins still rank 19th in points allowed per game and 16th in yards allowed per game this season. Last season, the Miami defense ranked 16th in points per game.
However, they only allowed 12.1 points per game in the final nine weeks of the 2021 season. Linebacker Jerome Baker credits coach Mike McDaniel with helping the defense maintain the standard they set last season.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s a credit to McDaniel,” Baker said. “We have a standard and he always holds us to that standard. Whether we win or lose, we have a standard and he sticks to it no matter what it is. Even in practice we might have good practice for us but he comes in and (we) watch movies and if it’s not up to our standard he’ll attack us. So it’s just a credit to our coaching staff and the leaders we have on this team and we just have to keep it going.
Baker also knows how important the team’s win over the Texans can be to the team’s upcoming schedule.
“I mean, a win in this league means everything,” Baker said. “You know, we have a few away games. It just gives you the confidence and momentum and we just have to keep going.”
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