The Miami Dolphins (3-1) return to Sun Life Stadium on Sunday to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens (2-2) off of a short week and a humbling loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. It just might be the perfect scenario for the Dolphins to capitalize on the Ravens, who fell to the Buffalo Bills on the road by a score of 23-20. Both teams not only lost on the road, but turnovers (four for Miami and five for Baltimore) played a pivotal part in the way the games played out. It should be a terrific game on Sunday afternoon and here are some of things that I'll be paying close attention to for a Dolphins victory.
1) Protect The Quarterback - It sounds very simple to say, but it's much harder to do out on the football field. So many variables play a part in executing pass protection and it's an area that the Miami offense needs to clean up in a hurry. I believe that the Dolphins would have protected quarterback
2) Play A Clean Game - Head coach Joe Philbin stressed the entire off-season about creating turnovers and winning the turnover margin. Sometimes that's the easiest way to victory and most of the time, it holds true. He knows that giving the football up and allowing the opposition to play on a short field is not sustainable for continued success in the NFL. But that is exactly where both of these teams are right now with the Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throwing five interceptions last Sunday, and Tannehill throwing three and fumbling once verses the Saints. The team that can clean up the turnovers and execute has the best chance to win on Sunday, so protecting the rock is paramount!
3) Focus On The Wide Receivers, Not The Tight End - This might come as welcome news for those responsible for locking down the opposing tight ends! The Ravens have lost some production since the departure of Dennis Pitta at tight end. Starter Ed Dickson has three catches for 25 yards and a long of 13 yards. Compare that to the string of tight ends that the Dolphins defense has faced starting with Cleveland's Jordan Cameron. He torched the Miami defense for nine catches for 108 yards and a score. Then came Indy's Colby Fleener who had four catches for 69 yards and a score, and last Monday Jimmy Graham exploded for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only four receptions. Miami did do a great job on future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez limiting him to four receptions for 24 yards. Baltimore's Torry Smith leads the team with 21 catches for 435 yards, but he's averaging over 100 yards pre contest and 20.7 yards per reception. Smith can provide the game-changing play and must be slowed down to limit Flacco and this offense. Also 6'5 rookie Marlon Brown has the size to be a target in the redzone and already has three touchdowns on the year. There's also a chance that wide out Jacoby Jones could make a return for Sunday's game. He hasn't practiced since the Denver loss in week one. Tight end Dallas Clark is a nice second option, but doesn't possess the speed and quickness that the Dolphins have seen thus far at the position.
4) Fast Start - The perfect way to begin the game against the Ravens is to score first and put the pressure directly on the Ravens. Playing on the road for two consecutive weeks is very difficult. Miami was able to build off of the momentum of the Cleveland game and gain some confidence heading into Indianapolis. Baltimore just went down to a team in Buffalo where they committed five turnovers, had six offensive penalties, and only attempted to run the football nine times. That just doesn't sound like a defending Super Bowl team offensively and the Dolphins must make it equally as hard for the Ravens to find a rhythm early in the game
5) Short Week, Perfect Spot - If ever there were a week where the Dolphins wanted to forget the last performance and move on with the season, this Sunday is it! I'm sure that team didn't spend much time going back through the tape against the Saints. It's time to move on and focus on the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. Sometimes the best way to get a loss out of your system is to have a game on a short week. Get healthy, make your corrections and install a new game plan against a different colored jersey. Remember that the loss against the Saints only counts for one loss. The mistake sometimes is that you can let that performance beat you again the next time out! I don't believe that will be the case and I'm looking for this team to respond.