Sunday slant: Dissecting the Dolphins

We take a look at the Dolphins and Vikings from all angles. Where are the Dolphins vulnerable on defense and most successful on offense? Which Dolphins are hottest right now and on the road, and which Vikings are best at home and against the AFC?

A look at the Dolphins from many different angles and stats …

RUSHING OFFENSE: When Brad Childress first took over the Vikings job, he referenced a football statistician, Bud Goode, who had a theory that it wasn't the quality of the run but the quantity of the runs that determined NFL success. The idea is that not every run has to be a game-breaker, but sticking with the rushing game leads to success. Of course, winning teams also tend to the run ball more at the end of games to use up the game time faster.

The Dolphins might also subscribe to that theory, or at least a look at their directional propensity statistics would indicate they are more prone to stick with a running game even if it is just average.

The Dolphins ranked first in number of rushing attempts around left end, but their 5.77-yard average is only 15th. That average drops to 3.10 yards when they move to running behind left tackle, which ranked 30th.

Miami was particularly adamant about running the ball in the middle of the line last year, ranking second in the league with 190 rushes up the gut, averaging a 13th-ranked 4.28 yards per carry behind center. Move that out to right end and the Dolphins ranked 29th with only a 3.79-yard average.

PASSING OFFENSE: There is a reason Miami has a reputation of throwing short passes – because it does. While the Dolphins weren't anything better than average at testing the deep portions of the field, they had the fourth-most passes (213) to the short right part of the field and eighth-most passes (160) short left. However, their best success, relative to the rest of the league, was in the short middle of the field, where they have a sixth-ranked 8.12 yards average gain.

DEFENSIVE VULNERABILITIES: If there is one area the Vikings should test most often it is running to their right behind and outside of Phil Loadholt. The Dolphins ranked last in the league, giving up an average of 6 yards a carry behind right tackle and 4.38 around right end, which is actually a much more respectable No. 10 ranking.

In the passing game, if the offensive line can protect Brett Favre long enough, the long ball could be on the docket, no matter which third of the field is targeted. Miami ranked 27th defending a pass deep left (giving up an average of 14.24 yards), 27th deep middle (15.73) and 27th deep right (14.50).

BY DOWN: Last year, the Dolphins were a pretty balanced offense on first down, running 245 times and passing 220 times. They started to sway more toward passing on second down with the to-go distance between 6 and 15 yards and they ran 102 times while passing 122 times. The biggest surprise in looking at their run-pass ratio by down and distance came on third down with 3 to 5 yards to go. Passing more in that instance would be expected, but the Dolphins all but completely ignored their running game, electing to pass 61 times and run only eight. For a team that had decent overall success running the ball, they went 0-for-8 in those third-down situations while their 61 passes converted first downs 67 percent of the time.


The Vikings faced the king of the passer rating from 2009 in their season opener, but the task will be different this week. They go from Drew Brees and the Saints to Chad Henne and the Dolphins.

Henne completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,878 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last year in 14 games.

"I know he's had success as a young player and he's done enough things. Being from South Florida myself I know the buzz down there is that they overall generally like him," said Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, who, like Henne, is a Michigan alumnus.

"I don't know if he's changed (since college). He's always been your classic drop-back quarterback. … He's a smart kid. I know from his days at Michigan he's a smart quarterback and he's just continuing to learn how to play at this level."

When Henne is at least serviceable, the Dolphins are a much better team. They are 5-1 when Henne has a passer rating of 80 or better. Last year, he had a 75.2 rating.

Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway played against Henne twice in college when Greenway was at Iowa. Greenway sees a better quarterback now than he did years ago.

"He's a much more well-rounded quarterback and player," Greenway said. "He's running a pretty good offense down there and he's in a pretty good spot. It will be fun to play against him again."


Former Minnesota Gopher Bobby Bell, who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs, talked with the Vikings before their practice on Thursday. More than anything, he impressed players and coaches alike with how quick he still is at age 70.

He demonstrated a reflex drill on Pat Williams and Adrian Peterson, beating them both. He had the players place a quarter in the open palm of their hand. The player was to tell him when they were going to close their hand, and before they could close it Bell reached in and grabbed the quarter away from them. In fact, he took a quarter from one hand a dime from another when it was Peterson's turn.

"For a 70-year-old, to be able to do that to Adrian Peterson and Pat Williams and them not even know what they had left in their hand after he took that from them – a quick guy," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He played in the era of the head swat."

Williams was left smiling and shaking his head in disbelief hours after the feat.


  • The Dolphins and Vikings series has conflicting trends. While the Dolphins lead the series 5-4, the Vikings have won three of the past four. However, the Dolphins won the last meeting, 24-20, in Miami, taking advantage of a 48-yard Renaldo Hill fumble return for a touchdown and a Jason Taylor 51-yard interception return for a touchdown.

  • The Vikings won the last game at the Metrodome, 20-17, when kicker Gary Anderson converted a 53-yard field goal with 17 seconds to go, much to the chagrin of receiver Cris Carter, who was on the Dolphins sideline during that 2002 game.

  • The Vikings have won 18 of their last 32 home openers.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe had more yards (76) than Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall (53) in the opener, but Marshall had eight receptions to Shiancoe's four. As starter vs. the NFC, Marshall averages 87.3 receiving yards per game (1,048 total in 12 games).

  • Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby will have to be accounted for. He had two sacks in three games against the Vikings while he was a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

  • Favre needs two touchdown passes to become the first ever with 500. In nine games at home last year (including the playoffs), Favre was 9-0 and had 25 touchdown and only two interceptions for a 120.7 rating. He views playing in the Metrodome much differently now that he no longer a Green Bay Packer.

    "I hated playing here. There was nothing more special than winning here because I knew how big of a challenge it was. The Vikings team was always tough, but the crowd was always twice as tough," Favre said. "… You can change protections, you can change plays, you can get off on the snap count. All those things that are a disadvantage on the road are equally good for us here. But you still have to play. You still have to make those throws."

  • Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown is going for his third consecutive game with a rushing touchdown, but Ricky Williams has had good success on the road. In his past five games on the road, Williams has averaged 96.8 rushing yards per game (484 total). In two career games against the Vikings, Williams averaged 101.5 rush yards per game. He needs only 46 yards rushing to reach 9,000 for his career.

  • As good as Williams is on the road, Adrian Peterson is even better against the AFC. In 11 games vs. the AFC, Peterson has 1,382 rushing yards (125.6 per game) and 14 TDs. He has four rushing TDs in his past three home games.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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