Re-Focused – Dolphins @ Chiefs, Week 9

| November 8, 2011

As far as Miami is concerned, the proverbial elephant in the room has been sent packing, for one week at least. Amidst constant media chatter surrounding the Dolphins woes and the so-called “Suck for Luck” derby, Miami was able to quiet it’s critics and rest easy this week for the first time this season. Good thing too, because Vontae Davis’ benching for the entire game would have drawn even more media speculation about just how hard Miami was trying to win games had they lost the game.

In a league where the score often fails to reflect the overall course of the game, it’s hard to misconstrue 31-3. The performance was a rare one for Miami. Matt Moore became the first Dolphins quarterback to throw three touchdowns since 2008, Reggie Bush had another strong game after posting one last week and the three points they allowed were the fewest the Dolphins have given up since late in the 2008 season as well.

It was an impressive road victory over a team that was one of the hottest in the league after climbing out of a 0-3 hole. Not only did the Dolphins hold onto their lead this time, they scored 31 unanswered points and were able to make key defensive stops on fourth down. Miami may have caught the Chiefs in a bad spot here coming off the Monday night game against the Chargers, but performances like this will win games more often than not. Let’s take a look at some of those individual performances to see how Miami was able to get its first win, and where things went wrong for the Chiefs.

 

Dolphins – Three Performances of Note

Showing Moore effort

What a turnaround for Moore in this game! Prior to Week 9, Moore’s highest passing grade was +2.0, while against the Chiefs it was +6.5. Moore was incredibly accurate with 17 of his 22 throws caught —discounting, batted passes, throwaways  — with another two passes dropped, and did so without changing his aggressive approach. In fact, only two incompletions were from beyond ten yards and his 244 passing yards indicate a healthy 10.6 yards per attempt. Moore made the Chiefs pay for blitzing him, completing all five pass attempts against the blitz for 55 yards and two of his three touchdown passes. The former Panther didn’t feel any pressure all game and he responded with improved decision-making and remarkable accuracy. It’s too bad the Dolphins can’t have a perfect game in pass protection every game, because if this Moore was around every week, Chad Henne would have been long-forgotten by this point in the season.

 

Tight end make significant contributions

Anthony Fasano (+2.8) became the first Dolphins TE since 2008 to catch two touchdown passes in one game, when he caught them, and played a big role in the Dolphins win. After a disappointing first half of the season, Fasano turned in his best game of the year and made plays through the air and blocking in the run game. His second touchdown, at 9:55 in the second quarter, was the product of good play-design and execution as Moore rolls out to the right, freezing ILB Derrick Johnson up just long enough for the big TE to get behind him and stretch for the touchdown. Fasano is known more for his blocking than receiving skills, though, and he didn’t sacrifice the former for the latter in this game. He helped spring Bush (+2.2) for a touchdown in the third quarter with a key block on left OLB Tamba Hali (-2.4) on a reverse to his side.

 

Defensive standouts

Typically this spot would be reserved to discuss a poor performance or two, but when a previously winless team turns in a 31-3 road victory, it’s hard not to want to give credit rather than blame for once. In that spirit, let’s briefly look at a few standout defensive performances. DE Kendall Langford (+3.7) had his highest-graded output of the season thanks to five pressures of Matt Cassel. ILB Karlos Dansby (+2.7) was extremely active all over the field and finished with a sack, three tackles for loss, and a pair of tackles short of first-down yardage on third down, giving him a total of five defensive stops for the game. Kevin Burnett (+2.0) had his best game of the season for the second week in a row and is starting to look like the player Miami expected to get when they signed him. For those looking to find fault with the team’s first win, look to the secondary, where rookie CB Jimmy Wilson (-3.6) and veteran safety Yeremiah Bell (-1.1) combined for five penalties. Wilson’s penalties were pass interference calls he supplemented with a couple missed tackles. Bell was the victim of a poor unnecessary roughness call, but the other two were his own doing.

 

Chiefs: Three Performances of Note

Oh my, O’Connell

After seeing the contributions of Fasano and Clay up close and personal, have the Chiefs felt the loss of Tony Moeaki more sharply than now? It doesn’t help that their own TEs didn’t play too well in this one. Leonard Pope (-1.3) didn’t have a good game by any means, but the true offender was Jake O’Connell. O’Connell (-3.8) was graded negatively in every facet we grade players, and when you play 57 snaps and don’t perform well in any capacity, you’re likely to play a big part in a team’s loss and grace the virtual pages of our Re-focused articles, or worse, Khaled’s “Had a Bad Day” articles. Besides being a non-factor as a receiver, O’Connell allowed three pressures of Cassell in only 14 pass-block attempts and drew a holding penalty. The sting is that much more painful with Fasano’s big day on the other side.

 

Problems in Washington’s D, see

The Chiefs have suffered some bad performances at the safety position this year, but Donald Washington’s (-4.0) game against the Dolphins ranks up there. Washington didn’t record a tackle, but he did miss two, although one was erased through an unrelated penalty. The penalty was a stroke of luck for Washington, as his missed tackle of Bush allowed Bush to run free down the sideline for significant extra yardage all the way down near the five-yard line. He also bit on a play-fake that allowed Fasano to sneak into the back of the end zone for his first touchdown catch, uncontested. Additionally, Washington committed a costly unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit on Bush after he was stopped for a short gain that would have led to 3rd-and-6 at the Dolphins own eight-yard line. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the recipe for an all-around poor game.

 

Where’s the rush?

Again, normally this paragraph would serve to remind that it’s not all bad when a team loses and that there are strong performances in almost any defeat. In this game, though, it’s far more relevant to continue discussing the poor performances than to ignore them to discuss a performance that had far less impact on the game. The root of the problem for the Chiefs in this game was their inability to get any pressure whatsoever. It’s not uncommon for the Chiefs defense to struggle to get pressure outside of Tamba Hali (-2.4), but when Hali is shut down as he was, somebody else has to step up. They did not and Moore, a QB who typically struggles under pressure, was able to sling the ball around care-free. Hali actually had more penalties called against him than he did pressures, a feat that certainly doesn’t occur very often. Despite their inability to get any pressure in this game, the Chiefs only called five blitzes. That number will need to increase if the Chiefs continue to struggle to get to the opposing quarterback.

 

Game Notes

- Thanks mainly to their collective perfect game in pass protection, the entire Dolphins offensive line outside of right guard Vernon Carey (-0.6) graded in the green, marking the first time right tackle Marc Colombo has done so all season.

- In 16 drop-backs under pressure, Cassel took off running seven times, absorbed five sacks, and completed none of the four passes he actually got off.

- Bush’s strong game marked the first time he’s graded in the green in back-to-back games since weeks 2-3 of 2008 season.

 

PFF Game Ball

Quarterbacking a winless team to a victory takes enough grit to warrant consideration for this award regardless, but Matt Moore’s impressive display erases all doubt.

 

Follow us on Twitter: @ProFootbalFocus

 

 

 

Comments are closed.