So Much To Take From Big Win Over Bengals

Posted Oct 7, 2012

The Dolphins are 2-3 with a home game coming up against St. Louis and a real chance to be standing at 3-3 at the bye week.

This game, this win, said so much about the Miami Dolphins. It said they can win on the road. It said they can beat a high-quality team. It said they can overcome turnovers. It said they have a unique combination of impressive ingredients that will give them a chance in every game they play.

Sure, they could be sitting here today at 4-1 if not for a missed field goal against the Jets and a fourth-down stop they couldn’t come up with against the Cardinals. But that’s for yesterday. This is a team about today and tomorrow.

The reality is that the Dolphins are 2-3 with a home game coming up against St. Louis and a real chance to be standing at 3-3 at the bye week. That’s what you call progress.

There are those who expected a letdown against Cincinnati, expecting the Dolphins to be teetering in confidence after back-to-back heartbreaking overtime losses. Not these Dolphins. Not this year. The defense keeps surging. The rookie quarterback keeps improving. Little plays keep adding up. It is clear after five games that these Dolphins are to be taken seriously. Just ask the shell-shocked Cincinnati Bengals.

What can we take from a 17-13 victory over the Bengals, a team that came in with a 3-1 record? So much. So many areas coming through. So many players stepping up.

Foremost, the Dolphins did not squander another fourth-quarter lead. They made some plays, a few big first downs, and then got a game-clinching interception by safety Reshad Jones. So many things went against them in this game, but they never flinched.

I’ve got to start with Randy Starks. If this guy isn’t having a Pro Bowl season, then who is? His interception early in the third quarter helped set up what turned out to be the game-deciding touchdown. Starks has been everywhere this season. He is a large reason why no other team in the NFL is better than the Dolphins at stopping the run.

But it doesn’t just stop with Starks. This defense continues to step up in ways that I never expected. We know about the front seven, but how about the play recently of cornerback Sean Smith, who in consecutive games has gone one-on-one with Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green and done a more than adequate job. Or how about Cameron Wake, who added another pair of half-sacks against the Bengals and now has 5 ½ in two games.

This defense has become the story of these Dolphins. Teams aren’t even trying to run very much on them. More often than not, it’s turning into a wasted play. This rushing defense, now having gone 19 games without giving up a 100-yard rusher, isn’t a story of one or two stars as much as it is a group of players knowing their roles and working splendidly together.

As for the pass defense, it came through in a big way against a talented, multi-dimensional Bengals offense. The Jones interception was a fitting ending, the third takeaway for this defense.

The bottom line: As long as this defense plays this well, what team can’t the Dolphins stay with?

Then there’s Ryan Tannehill. Each game he grows. Each game we see something different. How about stepping up in the pocket and throwing on the run to Davone Bess for a key first down? How about his touch down the middle of the field?

Most significant about this game was that Tannehill did not throw an interception, did not make any costly mistakes. I like how he operates, how he urges on his teammates, how he seems to be developing some real leadership skills at this very young age. And I especially like how he rarely throws a bad pass and how so many of his passes are exactly where they need to be.

Add Reggie Bush to the mix, throw in Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, put in a dash of Charles Clay and you’ve got an offense that may not be overpowering but certainly has a chance to keep most any defense off balance.

Is it good to be standing at 2-3 right now? It’s not where the Dolphins wanted to be, not where Joe Philbin hoped they would be. But when you consider how they got here, when you consider all the positives that have surfaced, when you evaluate what they did to the Bengals on Sunday, it is clear that this is a team on the rise.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.
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