Dolphins Running On A Full Tank Again

Posted Nov 26, 2012

Ground game was lost but now it’s been found.

Sunday’s dominant performance in the run game by the Miami Dolphins was a return to the form they showed earlier in the season, and it’s their goal to keep it that way.

The 1-2 punch of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas combined with an opportunistic rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill led to Miami’s second best rushing performance of the season – 189 yards and two touchdowns on just 28 carries. The result was a dramatic 24-21 home win over the Seattle Seahawks that ended Miami’s three-game skid.

“As a team, as a Miami Dolphin offense, we want to be able to run the ball well,” said Bush, who led all rushers with 87 yards on 14 carries with a 21-yard touchdown run. “Obviously, it’s going to help Ryan out a lot, it’s going to help the receivers out a lot and we want to be able to have that balanced attack in games. Today I think was a perfect example of that and it was the reason we were successful. You saw with some of those play-action passes, there were receivers wide open. … So the running game really affected the defense and the flow of the game.”

Back in Weeks 2 and 3, the Dolphins rolled over the Oakland Raiders to the tune of 263 rushing yards and then added 185 more in an overtime loss to the New York Jets. Bush was injured on the last play of the first half in the Jets game and did not return and since then he had gained a total of 263 yards on the ground in seven games.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and Head Coach Joe Philbin stayed patient during that stretch and had confidence that the unit as a whole, starting with the offensive line, was going to make the necessary corrections and get the running game going again. Bush and Thomas both ran with a head of steam yesterday and got excellent blocking up front as well as from fullback Jorvorskie Lane and tight ends Charles Clay, Jeron Mastrud and Anthony Fasano.

“Everything that we do is predicated on the success of being able to run the football,” Sherman said. “You really want to be able to avoid as best you can the third-and-12, the third-and-10s, the second-and-12s and so forth. We were able to do that a number of times yesterday, even with 2 or 3-yard runs better than the some of the ones that we had maybe in weeks past. So it definitely got things going for us and it allowed us to do some things throwing the football.”

There was definitely a visible jump in the steps of the offensive linemen and that was never more evident than on Bush’s touchdown run when center Mike Pouncey pulled after the snap and got to the edge ahead of Bush to help create a running lane. It was a play the team has run before in practice and Sherman knew how effective it could be.

Still, Bush couldn’t stop gushing about the athleticism Pouncey showed and the speed combined with the strength to take out a linebacker. He felt confident once the play was called that it would yield a big result, and Philbin pointed out how much of a group effort was involved in the play overall.

“Mike and the staff did a great job and it was a well designed play and it was good execution,” he said. “When you watch the film there’s good execution. There are some guys on their team on the ground that aren’t able to pursue on a perimeter run, that’s always good, and there are guys on our ballclub square on their target, on their feet, Pouncey being one of them and Jake (Long) I believe being another on the same play. So there’s a lot of good fundamental football on that one play.”

Runs like that one, the 20-yarder up the middle by Thomas in the second quarter and another 22-yarder by Bush in the fourth quarter softened up Seattle’s defense in the middle of the field. That made it possible for wide receiver Davone Bess and Clay to exploit that area with resounding success.

Bess finished the day with a career-high 129 receiving yards on seven receptions and two of his biggest catches came on the game-winning drive that ended with Dan Carpenter’s 43-yard field goal. He hauled in a 19-yard strike from Tannehill on a crossing route on first down that moved the ball from Miami’s 10 to the 29 and then got underneath the safety two plays later for a 25-yard reception that put the offense in field goal range. He credited the balanced attack with opening things up for him all afternoon.

“That’s the only way that our offense is going to be successful. We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” said Bess, who is now tied with Brian Hartline for the most receptions (55) on the team. “We’ve got to be able to set up the play-action off the run. When we’re having a good day in both aspects of the game we are going to be a tough team to beat.”

Looking back at those earlier games when the running game was clicking, there is a clear correlation between that and Tannehill’s production through the air. He had a 15-yard scramble on that same drive just before his long pass to Bess and added a 19-yarder in the second half, so he was seeing the lanes being created by his offensive line just as well as Bush and Thomas.

Once the ground game was established, the big boys up front felt more confident in their pass protection as well and gave Tannehill a clean pocket for the majority of the game. It allowed him to pull off the first fourth-quarter comeback of his young career, which he admitted was made possible by the threat to run.

“It’s huge. We want to be a balanced team,” Tannehill said. “We don’t want to go out and throw it 50 times a game or run it the majority of the time either. So when you’re able to gain yards on the ground in crucial situations, it helps the offense just go.”

With the New England Patriots and their high-powered offense coming to Sun Life Stadium in six days, this type of balanced offense making a return could not have come at a better time for Miami.

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