Final Game 5 Observations

The Dolphins are coming an impressive victory at Cincinnati against a Bengals team that had won three in a row, and with St. Louis coming to town on Sunday, a 3-3 record heading into the bye is a distinct possibility. Before the focus shifts to the Rams, let's take a final look at the 17-13 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.

• This actually was a strange game, from the Dolphins turning the ball over in the first nine minutes of the game, to them taking control in the third quarter, to them having a hard time closing before safety Reshad Jones clinched the victory with his interception.

• Read somewhere that the Dolphins are now better at closing games ... why? Because they were able to hang on this one time. No, the test will come in future weeks. The truth is what should have happened in this game was for the offense to close things out after Cincinnati made the strange decision to go for a field goal on fourth-and-5 from the 23 with a little over 3 minutes left, only to have Mike Nugent miss his first attempt of the season.

• First, why do coaches keep going with this insane notion of putting the game on their defense instead of going for it on offense. Is it not obvious enough this is an offensive league? Had the situation been reversed and Joe Philbin opted to go for the field goal down 17-13, he would have gotten double-guessed to no end — and rightfully so.

• That the Bengals even had a remote chance at a final drive came because of a really bad mistake by Charles Clay and bad execution by Brandon Fields. First, Clay clearly, positively, absolutely cannot let himself get pushed out of bounds after catching that third-down pass after the two-minute warning. Both Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Monday they should have made it more clear to Clay not to go out of bounds, but that's two coaches protecting their player. Clay has to be smarter than that.

• Then Fields punted from Cincinnati's 45-yard line and got the ball to the end zone instead of being able to get it downed inside the 10-yard line. It was the second time in the fourth quarter that Fields had a touchback. Don't look at the gross average he had in this game (49.6), this was not a good punting day for Fields.

• Side thought, which young readers might have a hard time relating to: Whatever happened to punters aiming their punts out of bounds to get inside the 10-yard line inside of the high kick with the coverage team running downfield to down the ball.

• Anyway, regardless of the mishaps by Clay and Fields, this was a game the Dolphins defense just wasn't going to let slip away. Kind of strange, too, because they couldn't stop Kevin Kolb from tying the game at Arizona and, by all measurements, Andy Dalton is a better quarterback than Kolb.

• It was really a pretty complete effort on defense, starting with Randy Starks all the way to the back end.

• Starting with Starks, he is having a tremendous season so far, both as a pass rusher and against the run. It's premature to be talking about the Pro Bowl, but that's the kind of football he's playing.

• On the back end, how about the job of the secondary. Sean Smith had a second consecutive strong outing. Sure, he gave up a touchdown pass to A.J. Green, but that was a perfect throw by Dalton. More importantly, Smith kept Green from dominating the game.

• On the other side, Nolan Carroll quietly had a very solid game. It was good enough actually that the Dolphins should give serious consideration to giving him another start Sunday against the Rams even if Richard Marshall is ready to go again after sitting out the Cincinnati game with a back problem.

• Jones also had a good game, besides his late interception. The way he filled the gap and stonewalled BenJarvus Green-Ellis (love that name) on a running play was very impressive.

• Offensively, it was a rather ho-hum performance by the Dolphins. The good news was that Ryan Tannehill played error-free football; the bad was that the Dolphins were really bad in short-yardage situations and the running game in general didn't get much accomplished.

• I like what fullback Jorvorskie Lane brings to the offense as much as the next guy, but perhaps it's time to do something else on third-and-short and fourth-and-short other than just hand him the ball for a plunge. How about a play-action pass or giving the ball to Daniel Thomas deeper in the backfield so he had a lead blocker in front of him. Just wondering.

• Finally, we move to special teams and kicker Dan Carpenter, whose job really should be in jeopardy as he continues to miss long-range field goals. There soon will come a time when Philbin stops attempting 50-plus-yard field goals because of the field position misses give opponents. But you also can't give up those three points because you don't have confidence in your kicker. Bottom line, if Carpenter misses another 50-yard attempt anytime soon, it may be time for a change.

• The Dolphins will see Sunday what a long-range kicker can do because St. Louis will bring a rookie who already might be the biggest kicking weapon in the league. If you don't know the name Greg Zuerlein by now, you soon will. The guy who goes by Greg "The Leg" is 13-for-13 on field goals this year, a perfect 8-for-8 from 45 and out, and had kicks of 60 and 58 yards in Week 4 against Seattle.

• Zuerlein, though, can only make so much of a difference in a game, and the Dolphins really look like a better team than the Rams right now.

• Miami actually also looked better than Cincinnati, just like the Dolphins looked just as good as Arizona and better than the Jets.

• The results haven't always been there, but the game against Cincinnati was just another step in a season that clearly has more possibilities than anyone outside the locker room would have thought possible back in August.


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