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INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Taking The Ball Away

Posted Dec 13, 2013

The Dolphins have had at least one takeaway in every game this season, and that’s something no other team in the league can say.

To say there was an emphasis placed this summer on the Dolphins defense creating more takeaways would be putting it mildly. Whether it’s the reason can be debated, but the Dolphins certainly have accomplished that goal this season.

The Dolphins will head into Sunday’s showdown against the New England Patriots with 22 takeaways on the season, already their highest total since 2008 when they finished with 30 during their AFC East title run.

Here’s the best part: The Dolphins have had at least one takeaway in every game this season, and that’s something no other team in the league can say. Until this past weekend, the Carolina Panthers also held that distinction, but they were shut out in the takeaway department in their lopsided loss at New Orleans on Sunday night.

Arizona, Kansas City, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington also each have at least one takeaway in 12 different games this season, but the Dolphins stand alone as the only team with a perfect record in the takeaway department.

By comparison, the Dolphins had at least one takeaway in only eight of their games last season, exactly half.

The Dolphins’ takeaways break down to 16 interceptions and six fumble recoveries, and have been produced by 11 different players.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is the only player on the team with one of each, as he has two interceptions and two fumble recoveries on the season. Dimitri Patterson, who is now on injured reserve, and Brent Grimes are tied for the team lead with four interceptions apiece, followed by Jimmy Wilson, Nolan Carroll and Ellerbe with two each, and Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones with one.

Besides Ellerbe, the other players with fumble recoveries are Philip Wheeler, Randy Starks, Cameron Wake and John Denney.

With three games left in the regular season, the Dolphins are attempting to accomplish something they’ve done only five times in their history and only once since 1978 — record at least one takeaway in every single game during the regular season. The Dolphins did it in 1972, 1974, 1977, 1978 and 2000.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Dolphins made the playoffs four of those five seasons, and the one time they didn’t (1977), they tied for first in the AFC East with a 10-4 record but lost out on a tiebreaker.

The last time the Dolphins went 13 consecutive games in a season with at least one takeaway was 2007, which may be surprising given the team’s disappointing record that year.

By comparison, the longest such streak the Dolphins had in the past five years was a seven-game run in 2009.

The Dolphins have had five games this season with multiple takeaways, with a season high of four against Cincinnati, three against the Jets and Browns, and two each against Atlanta and Baltimore. The Dolphins won all those games except the one against the Ravens.

Breaking down the takeaways, the Dolphins’ total of 16 interceptions already has matched their highest since 2008 when they had 18. Miami also had 16 picks in 2011 before falling off to only 10 last season.

In terms of fumbles, the Dolphins have the exact same number with which they finished the 2012 season, but they have done a much better job of capitalizing on their opportunities. The Dolphins recovered only six of 23 fumbles last season, but this year it’s six recoveries out of 11 fumbles.

It’s the first time since 2006 that the Dolphins have recovered more than half the fumbles they’ve caused. The 54.5 percent recovery rate is also the team’s highest since 1997 when the Dolphins recovered 54.8 percent of the fumbles they caused (17 of 31).

FUMBLES RECOVERED AND CAUSED OVER THE LAST 10 SEASONS

2013 - 6-11 54.5%
2012 - 6-23 26.1%
2011 - 3-17 17.6%
2010 - 8-22 36.4%
2009 - 6-17 35.3%
2008 - 12-27 44.4%
2007 - 8-20 40.0%
2006 - 19-35 54.3%
2005 - 17-35 48.6%
2004 - 10-22 45.5%

Come Sunday, there’s no question the Dolphins could greatly enhance their chances of winning by forcing some turnovers — and avoiding them.

Since Tom Brady took over at quarterback for the Patriots in 2001, he has faced the Dolphins 22 times. In those 22 meetings, the Dolphins have lost the turnover battle or been even 14 times. Their record in those games: 0-14.

In those 22 meetings, the Dolphins have won the turnover battle eight times. Their record in those games: 6-2.

The Dolphins had one takeaway in the earlier meeting this season at Gillette Stadium, an interception by cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Doing better in that category just might hold the key to success in the rematch.

And the Dolphins certainly have shown they can do it.

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