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Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Vikings Travel to Miami: 5 Things to Know

Just like many games this week, the game between the Dolphins and the Vikings this weekend means more than just a win and a lost. The Dolphins are clinging to the hope they can sneak into the bottom part of the playoffs. At 7-7, they have to win both of their final games, then hope for help from other teams above them.

Last season, the Dolphins were in the post season if they beat the Jets and the Bills in the final two weeks of the season. The team lost both games, finished 8-8 and missed out on the party. Miami is hoping this season is not a carbon copy of last.

To start with, they must face an improving Vikings team that could be a spoiler and a team to watch in 2015. Teddy Bridgewater has clearly played above expectations for a rookie, despite the loss of Adrian Peterson at running back and the lack of production form Cordarrelle Patterson at receiver. Miami’s defense will have a hard time trying to shut the rookie signal caller down.

Here are five things to know about this game if the Dolphins are going to gain a win.

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Find Balance and Consistency

If the Dolphins achieve both balance and consistency this Sunday, it doesn't guarantee a victory, but it sure would be refreshing to see from this football team. What I've seen with this team for the majority of the season is that their highs aren't sustained long enough and the lows dip far beyond most acceptable levels to produce winning results.

Offensively it's all about making more consecutive positive plays and getting better execution that's spread out over sixty minutes. Defensively, the pass rush and run defense seem to disappear more than be a consistent force that you can count on. Also, the need for the secondary to get their hands on the football or at least make a pass break up is paramount for defensive success this week.

Generate A Pass Rush

Last week proved very difficult to get to quarterback Tom Brady in time to negatively affect the Patriots timing in their pass offense. This week facing a rookie quarterback and a line that's given up 44 sacks through 14 games might ignite the defensive side of the football. This entire front seven has been getting consistent pressure, but not enough to alter a passing game or create errant throws that either gets the defense off the field or flips field position for the offense.

If players like Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon can exploit the edge of Minnesota's offensive line, it will be a pleasant sight for Dolphins fans, and should lead to more than just one big opportunity.

Stay Aggressive Offensively

How happy were you to see quarterback Ryan Tannehill come out first and ten from the minus twenty yard line, and fire a strike down the sidelines to Mike Wallace on the games first play? Chunk yardage plays always help energize an offense, especially when a team is struggling to put points on the scoreboard. But the deep ball is not the only way that this offense can get more aggressive, or try to maximize the pressure they would like to apply to a defense.

The zone read has been something this unit has used to stretch the edge of the defense and linebackers, but I'd also like to see more tempo used to wear down defenses as well. At some point on Sunday, look for this unit to increase the pace it plays with, especially during the middle of a drive when they feel like they have the Vikings defense on their heels.

Provide Tannehill Protection

This key is quite simple to write or talk about, but over the last two weeks, much harder to execute. The Dolphins offensive line needs to dominate the Minnesota front seven and before looking at the numbers, most might think this would be a very simple task. But the Vikings come into this contest ranked tied for sixth in the league with 38 sacks, and fifth year defensive end Everson Griffen leads Minnesota with 12 sacks.

It's not only Griffen doing damage, but defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (4.5 sacks) getting an inside push along with end Brian Robison (4.5 sacks) as well. Head Coach Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards I'm sure will have a solid plan to attack Miami, but it's time that this revamped offensive front provide a clean pocket so Tannehill can execute and exploit the Minnesota secondary.

Consistent Production

This offense must find a way to score in the twenties to win football games. If you look back at the first fourteen games, when the Dolphins offense has achieved this (Bears: 27 points, Jaguars: 27 points, and San Diego: 37 points), they've won going away.

The problems and losses have occurred when the competition and level of opposing defenses rise. For example, twice in back to back games versus Buffalo and Kansas City, Miami could only muster 10 and 15 points in those two contest. Again in the last two games verses Baltimore and New England, the Dolphins could only account for 13 points in each contest, which simply isn't good enough to sustain consistent success and win games.

The Dolphins must find more touchdowns when the opportunities present itself, and defensively cannot allow teams to dominate multiple quarters to change the momentum and control the outcome.


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