Defense continues to step up for Dolphins
Miami's defense has turned into a forceful unit in
the second half of the season, and Sunday's 30-23 win over Buffalo
produced a new impressive and unique stat.
The Dolphins prevented Buffalo from converting a
single third down for the second game this season.
The Bills were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions.
Parlay Sunday's struggles with the 0-for-12 performance the Dolphins
held the Bills to in last months' 35-8 loss and it's an astonishing
feat. In two wins against an AFC East division rival the Dolphins held
Buffalo to 0-for-23 on third downs.
"I've never heard of that before," interim coach
Todd Bowles said. "We've been lucky a little bit. They helped us out."
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 3-of-10 on
third-down passes, throwing for 44 yards with one interception.
"We got pressure up front and forced the
quarterback to get off his spots," linebacker Karlos Danby said. "He
made errant throws and some guys had to cut their routes short because
we were covering them well. His timing got thrown off."
Over the last five games, the Dolphins defense has
allowed 8-of-58 third-down conversions (13.8 percent).
The Dolphins hope to take their third-down
stinginess into this weekend's game against the New England Patriots,
which lit the Dolphins up for 622 yards and five touchdowns in the
In that game, Tom Brady carved the Dolphins up,
converting 8-of-13 third downs. But the Dolphins believe they're a
totally difference defense than the one New England saw 14 weeks ago.
The Dolphins struggled putting pressure on Brady
last time, sacking him just once. Miami also couldn't get the Patriots
off the field. Anything close to a third-down performance like the one
the Dolphins had against the Bills could go a long way.
LINEUP WATCH: For the first time in his four NFL
seasons, Jake Long missed a game because of an injury. Long, the
Dolphins' Pro Bowl left tackle and the No. 1 overall draft pick in
2008, was replaced in the lineup by second-year guard John Jerry, who
started his 12th NFL game. Long ended his streak of playing in 62
consecutive games, which includes a playoff game, because he didn't
feel like his back was healthy enough during warm-ups.
"He wasn't feeling that great on the plane ride,"
interim Dolphins coach Todd Bowles said. "We just had to wait and see
if anything would kick in and he'd start feeling better."
With temperatures in the 30s and light snow
flurries falling before kickoff, Long's back stiffened up and the
Dolphins decided to sit him.
Jerry, who had never played left tackle at any
level, fared well in Long's absence outside of a pair of third-quarter
penalties on consecutive plays - one for holding, another for a false
UNDER THE RADAR: Against Buffalo, defensive end
Jared Odrick started his seventh game of the season and contributed his
sixth sack. Odrick, the team's 2010 first-round pick, leads the
defensive linemen in sacks despite playing fewer than 30 snaps a game.
It's possible he'll be elevated into a starting role if the Dolphins
let Kendall Langford leave as a free agent this offseason. Langford
hasn't contributed a sack this season.
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