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Philbin Finds Lots To Build On

Posted Sep 10, 2012

Outside of one six-minute span, Dolphins showed some positives.

There are lots of different ways to break down a football game after it’s been played regardless of the final score, and Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin employed almost all of them this morning.

Less than 24 hours after experiencing his first official loss as a NFL head coach by a 30-10 score to the Houston Texans, Philbin put on a brave face and charged ahead. After all, the Oakland Raiders are coming to Sun Life Stadium in six days for Miami’s home opener, so Philbin needed to identify areas of strength in the Texans game film in addition to things that need to be corrected.

“I thought we played physical and I thought our guys played hard. I thought the effort was excellent,” said Philbin during his day-after press conference. “Those are the main positives. I thought defensively at times we did some really good things and offensively in the first half when the score was balanced between the two teams I thought we showed some balance and an ability to have good balance on offense. Then I think when the score got distorted a little bit we had one possession in the third quarter and the game got a little bit tilted, the field got tilted a little bit and obviously we didn’t perform as well. But there were some positives, clearly.”

Philbin pointed to the play of second-year center Mike Pouncey as one of those positives, describing him as having done “some things I haven’t seen a lineman do in this league in a long time.” The former Florida Gator was active in run blocking as well as pass protection and helped stabilize the young offensive line.

Running back Reggie Bush took advantage of the holes being opened up by Pouncey, guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry and tackles Jake Long and Jonathan Martin. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and was easily on his way to a 100-yard day had the score not gotten so out of hand and forced the Dolphins to pass the ball more.

“We were running the ball, we were second-and-five, we didn’t have a lot of negative yardage runs and the sticks were pretty much where we wanted them to be. They did a good job,” Philbin said about the offensive line. “The second half, I walked over to the bench one time and said, ‘Look guys, the score being what it is you’re going to have to strap it up.’ And the toughest chore for an offensive line is when the defense knows it’s going to be a pass 95 percent of the time. That’s going to be tough sledding, and they got some good rushes so overall it was average.”

As far as the four batted passes by the Texans – two that led directly to interceptions, Philbin distributed the blame evenly among rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the offensive line and the receivers. Some of those deflections came as a result of the offensive linemen not being firm at the line of scrimmage and preventing the defensive linemen from getting their hands up or leaving he ground. But he also admitted that Tannehill might have locked onto his intended receiver too long on some throws and did not slide in the pocket to find the open throwing lane, while his receivers could have done better in giving him that lane.

However, one thing Philbin did not waver on was his confidence in Tannehill and his belief in the rookie’s readiness and potential for growth. He did not second guess his decision to name Tannehill his starting quarterback for the opener and saw some resilience in the first-round draft pick out of Texas A&M.

“There were some good throws in the second half. There were some good throws in the first half and he did some good things, there’s no question about it,” Philbin said. “The good news was, again, when he came off to the side it wasn’t like he got so flustered to where he was like, ‘Oh my God, are they playing zone or man? Did they blitz?’ My experience with most interceptions has been into double coverage or a bad decision from a progression standpoint with the quarterback. That’s where historically I’ve seen most of those. Some are clearly bad throws but that wasn’t the case yesterday. It wasn’t like you saw a ton of bad decisions, so if you can glean some positives out of that that would be the positive.”

Defensively, the Dolphins were put in some bad situations during those four consecutive possessions that ended in turnovers late in the second quarter. Texans cornerback Jonathan Joseph returned Tannehill’s first interception to the Miami 14 and then a late hit by Pouncey out of bounds moved the ball to the 7. Houston stalled and actually lost 10 yards, setting up Shayne Graham’s game-tying field goal and giving the defense a moral victory.

Back-to-back interceptions off of tipped balls by J.J. Watt led to two touchdown drives capped off by Arian Foster scoring runs, and then Daniel Thomas’ fumble at his own 30 set up the last touchdown. Still, Philbin saw some bright spots in the play of his defense.

“I thought the effort was good. I thought our tackling was relatively good,” he said. “As I said yesterday, the early portion of the game was playing out in our favor with our special teams establishing field position and even offensively we moved it a couple of times. Even though we didn’t score we punted the ball back and they got the ball on the 13, they got the ball on the 10 and we tackled them inside the 10 on a kickoff, so there were a lot of positives there early. I don’t believe that they scored a touchdown off our defense unless we had a giveaway, so yeah, that’s certainly something you can build on. But once you throw the tape on there are still some things that need to be cleaned up.”

Like any 60-minute game, that’s the kind of mix head coaches tend to find during their evaluation, even after convincing victories. Philbin’s hope is that those mistakes will be corrected this week in practice and will not reappear Sunday against the Raiders.

LOCKER ROOM TALK

“It felt a little weird and a little different, as I thought it would be, but it was a situation that happened and I’m on a new team with new teammates and I go to war with them. I saw a lot of friends on the other side of the ball and familiar faces from my time there but that’s in the past now.” – safety Troy Nolan on playing against the team he went to training camp with and spent his first three seasons with in the Texans

“You start off losing football games and you need to get it fixed. If there’s one thing that you want to understand in this league it’s that wins are hard to come by. And when you have opportunities you’ve got to capitalize on them, no matter what that opportunity may be or where that opportunity comes. When it comes, on defense you’ve got to stop them and on offense you’ve got to score points, period. We didn’t do that on either side of the ball.” – linebacker Kevin Burnett on the lessons learned from Sunday’s game

“He was calm and he was the same person. It was just an unfortunate situation and we’ve just got to rally with them and help him through those tough times. We did exactly what we set out to do early on. We moved the ball, we got in the red zone but obviously we didn’t put up enough points in the red zone. We came out, especially the guys up front, they blocked really well and on the perimeter we caught a couple of passes and made a couple of third-down conversions. We were right where we wanted to be and then the disaster happened.” – wide receiver Davone Bess on how Tannehill responded to adversity and how the offense played as a whole early on Sunday
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