Three Observations From Miami's Win In Pittsburgh

Posted Dec 8, 2013

Finsiders analyst John Congemi breaks down his three observations from the Dolphins 34-28 win over the Steelers.

This afternoon, the Dolphins once again found themselves in a must-win game and they did just that, defeating the Steelers in the snow, 34-28.

It was another well-rounded effort from Miami, with all three phases of the game contributing to the win that keeps the Dolphins alive and well in the AFC playoff picture.

Here are my three observations from today’s action in Pittsburgh:

1) Tannehill Sets The Tone: Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to be taking ownership of this offense and becoming a player that his teammates can rally around. A three-touchdown performance on the road in a bad weather setting, he was able to locate the football consistently and make big plays not only with his arm, but his legs as well. Midway through the first quarter, on third and three, Tannehill extended the drive and ran for eight yards, and then the next play he ran what looked like a designed zone read run for 48 yards, the longest run by a Dolphins quarterback in the history of the franchise. That led to points, but more importantly, gave the Steelers second thoughts about sending pressure to the pocket. His decision making in the second half was nice to see, especially how he bounced back from the interception returned for a touchdown by Troy Polamalu. He’ll have to continue to play at a high level over the next couple of games as the Miami Dolphins continue to stay alive in the playoff chase.

2) Clay Is A Monster: It seems like we’re repeating ourselves as we mention Charles Clay’s name again, but he’s such an important part of this offense and he has the ability to turn five yard passes into ‘Big Play Clay’ touchdowns. Just like he did against the San Diego Chargers, Clay took a short pass and broke two tackles, getting himself into the end zone and snapping an eight-game streak in which the Dolphins did not score an offensive touchdown in the fourth quarter. Clay had two of the three Tannehill touchdown passes today, and on the first one, he did a great job of blocking and fooling the Pittsburgh defense on the play-action fake and then slipped into the flat, where no Steeler defenders were to be found. His seven catches for 97 yards showed again his versatility and his consistency as being Miami’s main target for big plays in this pass offense.

3) Total Defensive Effort: It seemed like multiple defenders came up with big plays when their backs were against the wall on Sunday. If it wasn’t Brent Grimes getting his hands on the football, it was Nolan Carroll breaking on a Roethlisberger pass and deflecting it to the ground. If it wasn’t Cam Wake forcing fumbles off the edge, it was Olivier Vernon tracking down Roethlisberger on a fourth down try from behind. Safety Jimmy Wilson also pitched in by blocking a put and seizing momentum for the Miami Dolphins. It’s going to take a collective effort on defense down the stretch if Miami is going to run the table and keep their playoff hopes alive. And it was good to see players like Randy Starks and Paul Soliai and Reshad Jones make plays that may determine whether the Dolphins win or lose, not only against the Steelers, but in the three weeks to come.
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