On Sunday, the Dolphins came back in a big way, avoiding costly turnovers on the way to a 35-13 blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Facing a three-point halftime deficit, Miami, led by a hard-charging Reggie Bush, quickly wrestled momentum away early in the second half and ran away from Oakland.
Here are my five key takeaways from the Dolphins’ win over the Raiders:
- Fast Start Again: As is the case with any young quarterback, it was essential for the Dolphins offense to get off to quick starts early in the season to allow Ryan Tannehill to smoothly settle in. So far, so good. They followed up last week’s productive first quarter with a 12-play, 80-yard, game-opening touchdown drive, where Tannehill’s total package was on display. When he had to, the rookie quarterback used his legs, finding the end zone on a nice bootleg run. On a the drive, two critical throws stood out; both passes were able to exploit the Raiders’ man-to-man coverage on Brian Hartline. The first was a 12-yard comeback pass that took advantage of the separation Hartline created; the next required a little bit of improvisation. Tannehill intentionally stopped Hartline on a go route and found him for a 21-yard gain, setting up the offense up in prime scoring position.
- Run Reggie Run: With the Dolphins hitting a lull in the second quarter, Reggie Bush came out running hard in the second half, providing a big-play spark. His 176-yard, two-touchdown performance was obviously highlighted by one home-run play. Bush followed Jorvorskie Lane around left tackle, shifted gears and sprinted 65 yards down the sideline for a momentum-clinching touchdown. Just as impressive, though, was his first rushing touchdown, a 23-yarder where he made nearly half the Raiders defense miss. After breaking a couple of tackles, it looked like Bush had finally been stopped. He somehow kept his balance, though, and went into the endzone. That play would end up opening up the floodgates for the rest of the game. He can be breathtaking in the open field, but Coach Philbin said he was impressed with the way Bush showed patience and discipline on his aiming points. Sometimes you can’t block everyone; you may have to make a few guys miss. Reggie did that on the way to a big afternoon.
- Efficient Across the Board: When you score 35 points–on five offensive touchdowns–it’s easy to talk about the offense. The unit, at least for one afternoon, was able to tighten up a few problem areas — 100 percent red-zone scoring, 53 percent third-down efficiency, four rushing touchdowns, etc. But the defensive numbers were just as impressive on Sunday. The Dolphins front seven was able to shut down Darren McFadden, who was a primetime performer in Oakland’s Monday Night loss to San Diego in Week 1 (28 total touches, including 13 receptions). They held the Raiders to 23 yards rushing and an average of just 1.6 yards per carry. But an overpowering run defense can be rendered useless if you can’t get off the field on third down. That, specifically, was a big key to victory. By shutting down Oakland on third down, holding them to a paltry 1-of-12 , the Dolphins defense didn’t allow Carson Palmer to take control of the game in the second quarter.
- Are We Talking About Practice?: Well, yes, we are. It’s amazing that Brian Hartline has been so productive with so little of it. His absence this offseason brought up some legitimate concerns, mainly of which being whether he’d be able to get on the same page with Tannehill. It’s early, but they seem to have an instant chemistry. In fact, the rookie seems to be leaning on the fourth-year receiver early and often. On Sunday, he was targeted 12 times — that’s more than the rest of the team’s receptions (9) combined. Hartline burned Oakland’s single-man coverage for a career high in receptions (9) and receiving yards (111).
- The Road Graders: The Offensive Line: When you run for 263 yards, the offensive line had to do some nice things, no matter how explosive your back is. The leader, again, was second-year center Mike Pouncey, who Philbin singled out for the second consecutive week. The rookie head coach raved about Pouncey’s ability to stay engaged with defenders during run blocks. Guard Richie Incognito also stood out, showing marked week-to-week progression. If the running game was going to work, the right side of the line — a preseason red flag — had to quickly gel. You haven’t heard John Jerry or Jonathan Martin mentioned much, if at all, which typically is a good thing for offensive lineman.