Game observations

The Dolphins got a much-needed victory against the Saints on Sunday, but more importantly they were some encouraging signs as far as the long term. The obvious one was the great production the Dolphins were able to get from both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown against New Orleans, but it went beyond that.

Perhaps just as important was the play of the defensive line, which rebounded from a couple of mediocre outings to totally dominate the Saints.

Yes, the Dolphins did blitz a lot against Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, but the fact remains that Vonnie Holliday, Keith Traylor, Kevin Carter and Jeff Zgonina all played very well up front.

In fact, the most interesting aspect of Carter's third-quarter sack for a safety was that it came on a three-man rush, with Holliday first getting pressure on Brooks and forcing him to his left and straight to Carter.

The secondary, for as banged up as it it, actually played fairly well.

And considering the criticism he's received all season, it's only fair to point out that Reggie Howard had a very good game.

It goes beyond his interception, which actually was very easy considering that Brooks threw the ball right to him because wide receiver Devery Henderson cut off his route.

No, Howard was effective because his coverage was better than it has been and also because he generated a lot of pressure on his blitzes.

Other quick observations:

-- Donnie Jones is turned into a pretty impressive punter. He entered Sunday's game with a net average of over 40 yards, which is simply outstanding.

-- Gus Frerotte is still missing too many open receivers, the perfect example coming when he threw too late and too far to a wide open Wes Welker in the end zone in the first half.

Speaking of Welker, did you notice that it always looks like he's wide open.

-- It was good to see Channing Crowder have a big game. After getting so much praise in the preseason, he had been way too quiet early in the season, but that changed against the Saints.

-- On the flip side, when's the last time you've seen Zach Thomas credited with only two tackles? But, hey, he didn't need to make any more tackles, so it's no big deal. The guy is still having a great season.

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