Any offensive coordinator preparing for the Miami Dolphins will now have the numbers 21 and 24 – cornerbacks
Not only have the two veteran starters combined for six of Miami’s 11 interceptions, including two of the three against the Cincinnati Bengals in Thursday night’s 22-20 overtime win, but their tight coverage has forced opposing quarterbacks to routinely go to their second and third reads. Those precious extra few seconds have allowed Miami’s pass rushers to get sacks and pressures.
But make no mistake, for a team that had issues with taking the ball away last season, what Grimes and Patterson are doing on that front is a welcome improvement. Grimes returned his interception of an Andy Dalton pass 94 yards for his first career touchdown and Patterson picked off his team-leading and career-high fourth pass in that game. Considering he missed four games with a groin injury, that number is even more impressive and fits with his, Grimes’ and the entire defense’s mentality going forward.
“We’re just trying to get turnovers and that’s always the goal,” said Patterson, who had two interceptions in the season-opening victory at Cleveland and one on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady before Thursday. “Obviously, it doesn’t always work out like and you always have a vision of how you want a game to go and sometimes it doesn’t work out like that, but (Thursday) we were able to get turnovers and it worked out well.”
For Grimes, he’s had a keen a keen sense of timing when it comes to his interceptions, with his first one of the season coming in the fourth quarter at Indianapolis in Week 2 with the Dolphins clinging to a 24-20 lead. He was covering perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne in the end zone when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw it in his direction and he timed his break perfectly to pick it off for a touchback that helped seal the win.
Grimes’ interception of Dalton early in the third quarter Thursday night dramatically turned the tide of the game at that point as the Bengals were driving for a tying touchdown trailing 10-3. Once again he read what wide receiver Marvin Jones was trying to do on the out route and anticipated the throw, stealing it from Jones and taking off in the other direction for the touchdown that made it a 17-3 lead for Miami. Those two plays were reminiscent of Grimes’ Pro Bowl season for the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 when he had five interceptions, but his explanation for what he did on the touchdown is rather simple and modest.
“We were in the red zone and we were in zero coverage,” Grimes said. “I just made a play on the ball. He ran an out, I broke on it, played what I saw, just came up and made a play on the ball and ran. That’s pretty much it.”
Easier said than done, but apparently not to these two corners. Grimes and Patterson expect to make those game-changing plays each and every time they step onto the field and their confidence bleeds over to the rest of the defense, not just the secondary.
Head Coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle had the confidence in Patterson coming into training camp after seeing him in limited action late last season to peg him as the starter opposite of Grimes, one of the team’s free agent acquisitions. The fact that Patterson picked up right where he left off in the season opener once he was cleared to play does not surprise the head coach.
“He’s been very instinctual,” Philbin said of Patterson. “The thing I think is he’s put himself into position in terms of reading the routes based on what coverage he’s in. He’s very good at the top of the route. He transitions very well. He can plant and break on a ball. You’ve seen some of that on some of those interceptions. He’s certainly made a difference when he’s out there.”
Now Miami’s next opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 11th, won’t be happy to know that.