Alain Poupart: The Run Stops Here

Posted Dec 8, 2011

There are several reasons for the Dolphins’ strong showing since the start of November, and one that might get overlooked has been the work of the run defense.

The things that immediately jump out are the passing of quarterback Matt Moore, the running of Reggie Bush and the defense coming up with turnovers, highlighted by Kevin Burnett’s interception against Oakland that he returned 34 yards for a touchdown.

But the run defense has been just as important, even though it’s not as flashy.

Put simply, the Dolphins defense has shut down running games over the past five weeks to the point of making their opponents almost one-dimensional.

The latest example was the Oakland game. Sure, some will point to the fact the Raiders were without star running back Darren McFadden. But Michael Bush is a tremendous backup, and the Raiders still rushed for 191 yards against San Diego and 162 yards against Minnesota.

Both of those performances came on the road — and without McFadden.

Against the Dolphins, the Raiders got a whole lot of nothing on the ground. Bush was stuffed to the tune of 18 yards on 10 carries and his long gain on the day was a whopping 3 yards.

Bush shouldn’t feel too bad, though, because he’s had a lot of company over the past five weeks.

Kansas City’s Jackie Battle was held to 40 yards on 14 carries (less than 3 yards per attempt); Washington’s Ryan Torain managed 20 yards on his 10 carries (exactly 2 yards a pop); and Buffalo’s Fred Jackson, who had run effectively against just about every opponent this season, gained just 17 yards on seven carries before he went down with what turned out to be a season-ending leg injury.

Fact is, the only running back to have any kind of success against the Dolphins since the start of November was Dallas rookie sensation DeMarcus Murray, who gained 87 yards on the ground.

But then again, it took him 22 carries to get there, meaning he averaged less than 4 yards per attempt.

Only one back has reached 100 yards against the Dolphins this season — Houston’s Ben Tate, who gained 103 yards on 23 carries in Week 2.

The Dolphins also have been tough near the goal line, allowing only three rushing touchdowns all season and none since the Jets’ Mark Sanchez scored on a quarterback draw in Week 6.

New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Week 1 and San Diego’s Mike Tolbert in Week 4 are the only running backs to score rushing touchdowns against the Dolphins this season.

With the recent surge, the Dolphins have moved up to fifth in the league in rushing defense and sixth in yards per carry allowed.

A tough test awaits Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles come to Sun Life Stadium.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy will come into the game ranked second in the NFL with 1,134 rushing yards, only 3 fewer than Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew.

McCoy has five 100-yard rushing games this season, with a high of 185 in a recent Sunday night game against Dallas. He’s also averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

The Eagles running game also features the scrambling of quarterbacks Michael Vick, who is expected to return Sunday after missing three games with a rib injury, and Vince Young.

The focus, though, clearly will be on McCoy.

It shapes up as a battle between the unstoppable running back and the impenetrable run defense.

Something will have to give. Given their track record over the past five weeks, you have to like the Dolphins’ chances in this matchup.
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