Defense Coming On

Chad Henne tied a franchise record with 17 consecutive completions and Ricky Williams had his third 100-yard game in four outings, but the Dolphins beat Jacksonville and ready for another late-season run for one reason. That's their defense, which seemingly is playing its best football of the season when it counts the most.

After shutting down New England in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins put the clamps on Jacksonville pretty much all day.

It seemed against the Jaguars that the offense was intent on losing this game, with fumbles lost by Ricky Williams and Davone Bess, as well as an interception by Chad Henne. On top of that, you had kicker Dan Carpenter with a rare miss, this one from 38 yards out.

But the defense came up big time and time again, stopping Jacksonville on fourth fourth-quarter drives. Three of those reached Dolphins territory.

The Dolphins stopped one on a fourth-and-3 when Yeremiah Bell broke up a pass, they stopped another when the Jaguars punted on fourth-and-10 from the Miami 39, and then Randy Starks stuffed David Garrard on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-3 from the Miami 46.

It was another big game for Starks, who has established himself as a star defensive end this season. As a rule, 3-4 defensive ends don't generate much attention, but that started to change after all the success attained by Pittsburgh when Aaron Smith began to get some recognition.

Starks is just playing too well right now now to get recognition, whether or not that lands him in the Pro Bowl.

But Starks isn't the only one playing well on defense.

Bell is on a solid streak at strong safety, the two rookie corners have been very good for the most part (yes, Vontae Davis has given up big plays, but overall he's been good).

The linebackers have been playing solidly as well, even though it's the sacks that garner all the attention. In that vein, it was Joey Porter, Reggie Torbor and Cameron Wake with the game-ender who stood out Sunday, but don't discount the work being turned in by Akin Ayodele, Channing Crowder and Jason Taylor as well.

This, really, is what this defense is about, everybody chipping in and the group performing well as a unit.

The one flaw that remains on defense is the big play, and against Jacksonville it was a 63-yard completion from Garrard to veteran Torry Holt when free safety Gibril Wilson bit on a double move and let Holt run right by him.

Wilson also was called for a pass-interference penalty as his difficult season continues, although he did make a nice play in run support as well.

The bottom line is the defense has put together five very good defensive quarters, and that kind of play will need to continue over the next three games if the Dolphins are going to make the playoffs.

It certainly won't be easy next Sunday when the Dolphins try to slow down the ridiculously explosive Chris Johnson. Then again, the Dolphins shut down Tom Brady late in the Patriots game and did the same to Maurice Jones-Drew on Sunday.

It seems now anything is possible.


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