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Andy Cohen: Take This Team Seriously

Posted Oct 14, 2012

With a 3-3 record and a bye things are looking bright for the Dolphins.

Another win. Another important step forward for this football team. Another nice day for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Yes, these Dolphins are quickly figuring out how to do things the right way and the result is two straight wins and a 3-3 record heading into the bye.

Getting pretty interesting, don’t you think?

Suddenly, a 1-3 start and two straight overtime losses seem like so long ago. The Dolphins keep proving they are legit. Sunday against the Rams only substantiated that.

Dolphins 17, Rams 14: You know what I liked most about this win? The Dolphins came out flat. Weren’t stopping much on defense. Weren’t moving much on offense. Penalties. Botched tackles. You name it, they weren’t doing it.

On other Dolphins teams in other years, this is a sign of a nightmare day. But this is not like other Dolphins teams. Not recent teams, anyway. This team regained its poise, found its mojo. Even after getting outgained 294-100 in the first half, the Dolphins led 10-6 and expanded on that with an impressive scoring drive to start the third quarter.

You can evaluate all you want why they started so slowly, but that isn’t the story today. The story is that this team showed a high level of maturity and a great deal of determination to come back from such a sluggish start.

Still….

It wasn’t over until a 66-yard field goal attempt by St. Louis sailed wide at the final whistle. Sixty-six yards? Are you kidding me? But this day belonged to the Dolphins and as they danced off the field you saw a mixture of relief and satisfaction.

Mostly, you saw a team starting to really enjoy its latest run of success.

Leading it all was Tannehill. So poised for a rookie. So in control of everything around him. Tannehill’s two touchdown passes were impressive, but more impressive is zero interceptions once again. That’s two straight games without a turnover for Tannehill. That’s what you call progress. That’s what you call a young player growing up in a hurry.

If Tannehill can continue to improve at this rate, the Dolphins will be a factor in every game they play. They need to get better running the ball. They need more big plays on offense; they could use more turnovers. The Rams dominated the stat sheet. But enough good things are happening to give them a real shot in every game they play. That’s what you call progress.

I was concerned about this Rams’ team. They are young and talented and they are coming off a big win over Arizona. But with the Dolphins playing defense this well and with Tannehill mixing in his share of important plays, they are proving to be very difficult to beat.

So many players stepping up. So many difference-makers.

How fitting on a day where Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas entered the team’s prestigious Honor Roll that the defense would put on another impressive show. Leading the way, as usual, was Cameron Wake. All the guy does is make plays. He has become as good at rushing the passer as any player in the league, and that’s a powerful statement.

But this defense is far more than one player. Was that rookie Olivier Vernon coming up with the big sack of the game just before that wild 66-yard attempt? Wasn’t that Vernon being helped off the field in the first half with a bum ankle? Players stepping up everywhere. That’s the formula for these Dolphins.

The front seven on defense continues to dominate, the secondary continues to improve. Kevin Burnett. Karlos Dansby. Randy Starks. Paul Soliai. Sean Smith. The list goes on and on. The Dolphins have now given up two touchdowns in the last two games. There is nothing fluky about that.

Nor is there anything fluky about a 3-3 record. Let’s stop making the case that they could have been 5-1 if not for those overtime losses. They lost those games and you can’t have that back. Judge this team by the record it has compiled and know that, if things continue like this, they have a chance to be one of the league’s real feel good stories.

Guiding it all is Joe Philbin. Just as I have come to the conclusion that Tannehill is the real deal at quarterback, I have come to a similar conclusion with Philbin. He is a good coach. The right coach for this franchise. Highly organized. Very creative. Filled with ideas. And surrounding himself with a quality coaching staff. What more can you ask for?

How about a fake punt in the closing minutes to give the Dolphins more precious minutes to hold on to the ball? This was a gutsy call. Fail and they are handing St. Louis a game-tying field goal attempt at the very least. But this head coach doesn’t mind taking chances. The direct snap went to safety Chris Clemons. He gained three yards for a first down. Can’t remember the last time the Dolphins were so bold at such an important moment in a game.

Yes, another important step for a team making giant strides. The Dolphins are 3-3, and at this precise moment there is so much to like.
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