1. Hit Matt Hasselbeck
After a hot start undefeated, Father Time has taken its toll on Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The porous Indianapolis offensive line that failed to protect the young and strong Andrew Luck continues its struggle to keep the 40 year old immobile Hasselbeck on his feet. When Hasselbeck has been able to deliver the football from a clean pocket he has been effective and able to lead the Colts offense adequately enough to lead them to victory. However, when Hasselbeck who does not pop up as fast as he used to after a big hit is thrown off his rhythm his age and decline in athleticism show. In a critical matchup against the Texans last week and against Jacksonville a week before Hasselbeck was forced out of the game multiple times after huge hits which not only stunted the flow of the drive but it also hurts the moral of the team as a whole. Last week against Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers the Miami Dolphins defense yielded only 1 sack and 6 hits on the quarterback. The Dolphins allowed another 300 yard performance by the opposing quarterback and 30 points total. The Colts offense has been banged and battered all year but with weapons like T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief they can still be a dangerous team if Hasselbeck is able to deliver the ball down field. It is easy to underestimate the Colts coming off a tough loss to the Texans and control of the division, but this is still a team fighting for a playoff spot and if the Dolphin front line does not disrupt the game by hitting the already banged up Hasselbeck they could find themselves watching the old veteran tear them apart just like Philip Rivers the week before.
2. RUN THE FOOTBALL
This segment has become a weekly installment at this point I could probably even just copy and paste my notes from last week, but the Dolphins’ reluctance to commit to the run continues. The fact still remains after another week of Lamar Miller receiving less than 20 carries, the Dolphins are undefeated when Lamar Miller gets 13 carries or more and subsequently winless when he receives 12 or fewer carries in a game. This week Miller was given 9 carries for 12 yards and Jay Ajayi was given 6 carries for 27 yards and a touchdown. The San Diego Chargers have the 26th ranked rushing defense, yet it was obvious from the play calling that the running game remained second fiddle to the passing game in another loss. The Colts have the 24th ranked rush defense and the same mistake cannot be made again. Last week it took the offense 33 plays to yield 75 yards and it was not until the third quarter was Miami able to put any points on the board. The inept Miami offense has costs Philbin and Lazor their job yet no changes in play calling have come with the changes in coaching personnel. The Dolphin offense must take these last two games as an opportunity to establish their identity going into the offseason. The Dolphins have wasted an entire season trying to justify the monstrous contract they gave Tannehill, but now it is time to make the potential two-headed monster of Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi the future of this offense. That combination can be even better than what Ronnie Brown and RIckie Williams were together and can only make Tannehill by forcing defenses to protect the run. The Colts run defense has struggled all year and with a heavy dose of Miller and Ajayi it will wear them down and alllow Tannehil to shine with his arm and legs. The dolphins need a strict carry minimum for each back and if Lamar Miller gets 20 carries and Ajayi gets 10 I can safely predict a physical and dominant victory, but if the trend continues and this offense becomes pass happy early and often the still playoff hopeful Colts will be tough to beat.
3. Discipline on Defense
Playing with discipline on defense, as well as establishing the run, has been a recurring theme in this years Keys to the Victory. The lack of discipline has contributed in many of the Dolphins defeats this year and that pattern continued last week against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers offense has been injured and ineffective much of this year, but their struggles to move the ball were not apparent against Miami. Failure to keep contain, poor tackling, miscommunication, and overall lack of focus or accountability has led to a disappointing year defensively for the Dolphins. Last week in particular there were two instances where lack of discipline cost the Dolphins dearly. Former first round and current backup Chargers runningback Donald Brown ripped off a 53 yard run up the middle. Three Dolphins whiffed on their tackle attempts on Browns way into Dolphin territory, but the hole he ran through should never have existed in the first place. The Dolphin front seven failed to have a man responsible for the A gap and Brown ran through the line unimpeded until the secondary. This lack of gap discipline is a result of selfish play and failure to communicate. Successful defenses trust each other to fill their assigned gaps and duties. Miami’s defense has failed to become a cohesive trusting unit and players at times try to do too much and end up failing to do their responsibilities, like filling a gap. Another example of trying to do too much was safety Reshad Jone’s fumble. After snagging interception Jones proceeded to run down field holding the recently possessed football like a loaf of bread until it was jarred lose and on the ground and recovered by none other than Philip Rivers who threw the initial interception. What could have been a momentum changing play only yielded a peculiar first down by the Chargers offense. The Colts are playing to keep their playoff hopes alive and will pounce on any mistake or transgression made by the Dolphins. Miami needs to stop getting in its own way in order to pull out a victory agains the desperate Colts. Coming into this game the Dolphins may be more talented than the injury plagued Colts, but the team that plays with the most discipline and capitalizes on the other’s mistake will win.