How the East Was Won, Part 1: Drowning the Dolphins

It’s not often that we will hear “How are you going to beat the Dolphins?” But let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute or two and admit that we lost to the Dolphins not once, but twice last year! That being said, how do we avoid this embarrassment in the 2012 season?

The Dolphins took the exact opposite route than the Bills this offseason. Instead of retaining key players they traded them, cut them, and lost them to retirement. Instead of signing key free agents to fill areas of need, they signed Chad Ochocinco. And instead of drafting players to advance their team, they made a massive reach to get QB Ryan Tannehill with the 8th pick. But no matter what, this is still the NFL and nothing comes easy, so the Bills will still have to play well to walk away with the wins.

Step 1 for the Bills to beat the Dolphins is stopping Reggie Bush. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Step 1 for the Bills to beat the Dolphins is stopping Reggie Bush.
(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Step 1: Stop Reggie Bush

Bush had a decent season last year. He ended the season with over 1000 yards of rushing, and four yards short of 300 receiving yards. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry, while only scoring 6 touchdowns. Let’s be honest: although these stats are decent they aren’t anything to write home about, but here is the hard truth. Bush had the best game of his career against none other than the Buffalo Bills, rushing for 203 yards, 6.7 yards per carry, and scoring a touchdown.

Another reason that stopping Bush is a key to success against the Dolphins is their terrible pass game. Don’t take this the wrong way; I don’t think it’s about the Dolphins QB situation as much as it is about their lack of pass catching options.

The Dolphins lead receiver last year was Brandon Marshall with 81 catches and over 1200 yards which is a pretty ridiculous season, especially for a receiver on an offense that ranked 25th last year in passing. But here’s the problem for the Phins: Marshall plays for the Bears now, and their next leading receiver had 35 catches for 549 yards. So if you’re worried about the Bills second option at receiver put yourself in the shoes, or flippers, of a Dolphins fan worrying about who any of their options will be.

The bottom line is if we don’t stop Bush, even the decimated Dolphins roster could be a tough hill to climb for the Bills.

Step 2: Pass the Ball

Straight and simple, the Dolphins finished 23rd against the pass last year and did very little to help themselves in that area this offseason. I admit losing Yeremiah Bell doesn’t hurt them that badly in terms of pass defense, as he is much better against the run, even if he was the leading tackler last year. The retirement of Jason Taylor is a different story. When Taylor retired the Dolphins lost their second leading pass rusher in terms of sacks, which is a big hit to an already poorly rated pass defense.

On top of all this the Dolphins had a pretty outstanding run defense last year that allowed less than 100 yards a game, while ranking 3rd best in the league. With a great run defense, and a poor pass defense the Bills need to start an air raid that ends in touchdowns, and victories.

Miami finished last season on a 6-3 upswing. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Miami finished 2011 on a 6-3 upswing. Will that trend continue? (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Step Three: Convert (3rd downs, and Red Zone Visits)

Last year against the Dolphins the Bills were terrible in conversion situations. They were 0-23 on third downs, and no that isn’t a misprint they converted on exactly zero, zilch, nil on 3rd downs. Red zone visits weren’t all that much better at a whopping 2-7. This doesn’t need much, if any explanation. You don’t win too many games with those kinds of stats. So the Bills need to step it up and get the necessary yards in the high pressure situations.

What worries me: The Unknown.

Despite everything that I mentioned about the Dolphins above, at the end of last year, after starting 0-7 they ended up going 6-3 in the last 9 games. They were clearly on an upswing, and if somehow, despite the offseason, the Dolphins continue on this trend I have no clue what they will look like this upcoming season. Although the complete unpredictability of what the Dolphins will look like next year doesn’t keep me up at night, it isn’t something that should be overlooked.

What encourages me: Paper

I don’t need to remind any of you of what the Bills did this offseason, but if you haven’t realized, the Bills look much better on paper this year than they have in over a decade. Of course, as every coach and GM will remind you, paper is appearance, and that’s all it is. In the end they need to perform on the field, but appearances can be encouraging, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to watch the Bills take the field, and prove the hypothesis that the paper puts forth.

Dustin Haefele
Bills Mafia Blog

About Dustin Haefele

Dustin grew up outside the little town of Hickman, Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Nebraska in May 2013 and is now a Production Management Engineer for Cargill in Gainesville, Georgia. Despite being from the Midwest, and his Dad's love for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dustin has been a Bills fan for as long as he can remember. God comes first in his life, then family, and then The Buffalo Bills! #BillsMafia Follow him on Twitter at @D_Haef.

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