Brandon Marshall's first game as a Miami Dolphin drew accolades from the opposition. The Vikings get the next shot at Marshall, who is coming of an eight-catch performance that did have a couple of warts.
After a hot-and-cold preseason, Brandon Marshall
made a strong impression in his first real game as a Miami Dolphin.
Marshall caught eight passes for 53 yards in Sunday's 15-10 win and also delivered a knockout run block on Bills safety Donte Whitner
"He's more physical than any other receiver in the National Football League," Whitner said. "That physicality is what you have to worry about. You don't have to worry about him stemming his routes. You have to worry about him trying to run you over."
Marshall would have had a bigger debut but one his two dropped passes came on a 39-yard bomb from Chad Henne
that the wind appeared to hold up. Marshall couldn't stop his momentum in time to keep the ball from glancing off his hands. That shouldn't be an issue Sunday at Minnesota, where the Dolphins and Vikings will play indoors.
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said the offense called those big passing plays, which are dictated by the coverage Marshall gets and Henne identifies, "green-light specials."
"It was a little bit underthrown, but we'll make that play," Sparano said. "The more times we have a chance to get in those situations, the better."
Whitner was somewhat surprised the Dolphins had Marshall and the banished Ted Ginn
Jr. (now with the 49ers) running the same routes. But he wasn't too surprised the outcome was different.
"He's not afraid to get hit, and not afraid to fight for those extra yards. I'm not saying Ginn was, but he's a much smaller guy," said Whitner, who was a teammate of Ginn Ohio State
"Brandon Marshall's a big physical guy and he takes those small intermediate routes, makes a guy miss, then turns it up to get the extra yards."
Clock management continues to be an issue for Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. With a chance to run the clock down to just a few seconds before halftime, the offense inexplicably took a quick timeout at 21 seconds facing fourth-and-5 at the Bills 28. Dan Carpenter was sent out for a 46-yard field goal, which he missed, and the Bills, taking over with 16 seconds left, were able to get in range for Rian Lindell to attempt (and miss) a 63-yarder.
Dolphins punter Brandon Fields didn't have his best game at Buffalo as he struggled at times with a swirling wind that limited his distance. But Fields delivered one of the key moments Sunday for the Dolphins when he spun a 48-yard punt that Jason Allen downed at the Bills' 1 with just under two minutes remaining in a three-point game.
"It was huge," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "I grabbed the kid and told him that's the way to battle back." After three incompletions, the Bills purposely took a safety that accounted for the final score. Fields, who holds for placekicks, also did a nice job of handling a high snap on Dan Carpenter's 43-yard field goal that gave the Dolphins a 10-point edge with 9:32 to play.
QB Chad Henne was guilty of just eight "minus plays" in Sunday's game, according to Dolphins' coach Tony Sparano. This is a solid figure for 67 plays the Dolphins ran in piling up a time-of-possession edge of nearly 37 minutes to 23 for the Bills. Henne avoided throwing an interception for the first time since Game 10 last year at Carolina. In his past six regular season starts, Henne had thrown a combined 10 picks.
RB Ronnie Brown had a successful return to the lineup following foot surgery that cost him the final seven games in 2009. Brown carried 13 times for 65 yards (5.0-yard average) and a touchdown. He also managed to break off a 17-yard gain early in the fourth quarter that helped set up Dan Carpenter's second field goal of the day. Brown also caught two passes for 20 yards, including a 16-yard gain.
RB Ricky Williams, coming off his first 1,000-yard season in six years, fell a hair short of the average production he'll need to match that feat again at age 33. Williams (62 yards on 18 carries) got the lion's share of the fourth quarter work, carrying eight of the last nine times (for 31 yards) the Dolphins ran the ball. His average was just 3.4 yards, however, and he dropped the only pass thrown to him.
TE Anthony Fasano, coming off a disappointing season, caught three passes for 46 yards, including a 21-yard gain on post pattern to the Bills' 1 yard line. Fasano stayed busy as the Dolphins rarely used the two tight-end package they showed often in the preseason with veteran David Martin, since waived and picked up by the Bills.
Marshall, plagued by dropped passes in the preseason, dropped two more Sunday and was limited to an average of 6.6 yards per catch as the Bills rolled their coverage in his direction all day. Marshall was targeted 13 times with a long gain of 13 yards. He also went out on the hands team and caught the Bills' pooch punt that followed a safety with 1:32 left.
WR Brian Hartline was held without a reception Sunday for the first time since playing at the Jets in Game 7 last season. Hartline was targeted officially three times and had two drops. He did catch a 9-yard pass early in the second quarter but the play was wiped out by a penalty for illegal formation.
CB Sean Smith did not get into Sunday's game at all after losing his starting job to veteran Jason Allen. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said that wasn't exactly the plan and that he would likely find a spot on special teams for Smith this week. Smith made no special teams tackles as a rookie and played sparingly on those units as he started all 16 games at cornerback.
TE John Nalbone, a fifth-round pick out of Monmouth in 2009, played some on the kickoff return unit but was rarely seen in the two tight-end package the Dolphins have favored under coach Tony Sparano. With David Martin waived and Joey Haynos (foot) on injured reserve, Nalbone is the Dolphins' only backup tight end behind Anthony Fasano on the 53-man roster The practice squad includes a pair of developmental tight ends: undrafted rookies Nathan Overbay (Eastern Washington) and Jerod Mastrud (Kansas State).
OLB Koa Misi stood out with a game much stronger than any of his preseason showings. Sparano said the rookie second-rounder out of Utah needs to work on his fundamentals but his motor runs a "million miles an hour" when he's on the field. Misi, the successor of Dolphins great Jason Taylor at the strong-side linebacker position, finished with four tackles (one for loss), a sack and two quarterback hits.
FB Lousaka Polite added to his long resume of short-yardage success when he rushed for 3 yards on third-and-1 from the Dolphins 18 early in the third quarter Sunday. Polite carried twice for 6 yards and also caught two passes for 12 yards.
WR Davone Bess, who continues to thrive in the slot for the most part, had six catches for 51 yards (8.5-yard average) on Sunday. Bess was targeted seven times and was the only Dolphins' wideout not to drop a pass. His best stretch came on the Dolphins' first possession of the fourth quarter, when Bess and Henne hooked up four times (including three straight plays) for 32 yards in receptions. That drive set up the field goal that put Miami ahead 13-3.