Miami Dolphins: Will they clinch a playoff berth?

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas (31) celebrates his interception as New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) walks back to the sidelines in the final seconds of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated New England 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Miami Dolphins 3-4 start this season, this team has been able to quietly yet efficiently win four out of their last five games.  Although the margins for victory have been slim throughout most of these valiant wins, the Dolphins remained relentless and competitively combative when the game was on the line.  In yesterdays last minute win over the New England Patriots, the Dolphins proved that they could handle the offensive juggernaut of the league with both disciplined poise and consistency.  While the Dolphins will inevitably have to battle for the last AFC playoff spot with the resilient Baltimore Ravens, their road to the post season hasn’t looked this promising in years.

While the Dolphins haven’t necessarily been an abysmal franchise in the last few years, their accomplishments and general competitiveness can simply be described as unremarkable.  Since 2008, the Dolphins were unable to put together a winning team and haven’t been perennial playoff contenders since 2000 when they won their last post-season game.  Yet, even with the Dolphins unimpressive track record as of late, this years determined squad looks poised to bounce back from years of mediocrity and disappointment.

The Dolphins rise to relevance and intrigue has been due largely in part to the matured and well-developed quarterback Ryan Tannehill.  From last to this year, Tannehill has clearly gained more confidence as a pocket passer as he as already thrown for 3,627 yards on the season (he threw for 3,294 yards last season).  However, what’s even more impressive is Tannehill’s ability to score consistently and swiftly.  Last season, Tannehill threw for only 12 touchdowns and was only completing 58.3% of his passes.  This year, Tannehill has eclipsed those forgettable statistics as he has already thrown 23 touchdowns and has become much more accurate as he has completed 62.4% of his passes so far this season.  While Tannehill is by no means the most prolific passer in the NFL, he has just enough determination and blooming talent to give the Dolphins a chance to win no matter who their opponent may be.

Although the Dolphins much improved passing game is an encouraging sign going forward for this reinvigorated franchise, their once dominant running game has taken a backseat to Tannehill’s rise to success.  While the Dolphins rushing attack still has its moments in certain situations, it’s not nearly as prolific or productive as it was a season ago.  Since the departure of running back Reggie Bush to the Detroit Lions, the Dolphins have gone with a dual threat rushing game that has proven to be fairly effective, especially in the red zone.  Even though featured backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas may not have the agility of Bush, they still have immense strength and keen awareness to score effectively while avoiding careless turnovers.  So far, both of these underrated rushers have accumulated over 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns.  Despite the fact that the Dolphins only rush for 95.3 yards per game (24th in the NFL), it is a unique form of attack that allows the Dolphins to be more versatile when they are on the verge scoring.

The only inconsistency that has prevented the Dolphins from being supremely successful is their erratic defense.  Despite having an intimidating pass rush that is led by Cameron Wake along with the tenacity that line backer Dannell Ellerbe brings to the table, the Dolphins still find themselves having to rely on their offense for well-deserved victories.  To be fair, the Dolphins defense has displayed more perseverance in their last for wins and impressively held off the offensively gifted New England Patriots to just 20 points in a critical victory.  As long as the Dolphins secondary can remain vigilant, this team will be well balanced and more confident in games against top tier opponents.

 While the Dolphins road to the playoffs hasn’t completely solidified just yet, they have proven that when push comes to shove they can push harder than the opposition gives them credit for.  Although the Dolphins have always been one step behind of the more dominant AFC contenders, this year, the Dolphins look to not only acquire that same type of recognition, they want to prove they have the skill and determination to go the distance.  If Tannehill can stay the course and the Dolphins as a whole can remain supremely confident in their underrated abilities, they have a chance to go further in the post season than they have in some time.

Topics: Miami Dolphins, NFL

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