It's been a lot of fun to be a Miami Dolphins fan over the last three weeks, watching this team grind out victories and make game-changing plays when they needed it most! The big question now is are they up to the challenge of going on the road again and winning on the big stage? Here are some of the things I'll be looking for when the Dolphins match up against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.
1) Continue To Bend But Don't Break - The Dolphins' defense has been awesome in the first three games not just because of the numbers, but the way they've been able to keep opposing offenses out of the end zone. They have only allowed five touchdowns in three football games and zero in the fourth quarter! This trend needs to continue if they want to leave New Orleans with a victory. Through three weeks, 28 of 48 games have been decided by seven points or less and quarterback Drew Brees will push the tempo and the passing game when his offense hits the red zone. That will be just one of the challenges facing the Dolphins this week.
2) Keep Scoring Touchdowns - It's been really nice to watch this offense find there way into the end zone in 2013. Eight touchdowns and six field goals averaging, 24.7 points per game has led to the undefeated start. The maturity of quarterback
3) Don't Let Jimmy Graham Beat U - This key is quite obvious, but needs to be addressed on Monday night. Tight end Jimmy Graham has been targeted 38 times so far in three football games and it's no secret that Drew Brees funnels the pass offense through his favorite target. Graham has the size at 6'7, 265 pounds to bully his way through linebackers and nickel or dime coverage, and the soft hands to catch the football in tight coverage. I'm not sure what defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has in his scheme to slow down Graham, but the key will be to limit his production in the red zone. The University of Miami product will get his catches and yards, but keeping him out of the end zone just might be the difference between winning and losing.
4) Win The Fourth Quarter Again - Anytime you match up with an elite quarterback, crunch time is where they shine the brightest and that means making plays in the fourth quarter. So far this season, the Dolphins have made game changing plays on both sides of the football down the stretch to close out victories. The Dolphins offense has been terrific late in games scoring 17 points and only allowing a field goal in the fourth quarter, but the Saints have been equally impressive. New Orleans has scored 20 points in that quarter and only allowed a touchdown, so making plays and preventing scoring chances could keep one of these teams perfect heading to week five!
5) Limit The Negative Plays - This is one of Joe Philbin's keys to any victory, especially in the running game and when it comes to winning the turnover margin. Both the Dolphins and the Saints are plus two in this department and Miami needs to stay in the positive to win this game. Against Cleveland, the Dolphins had trouble getting any consistency running the ball because of the penetration in the offensive backfield. The Saints are allowing an average of 111 yards on the ground, and Miami must not allow this Rob Ryan defense to stop the run and then pin there ears back pressuring the pocket. Sacks have been a problem (14 in three games) and if running backs