Analysis: Defense Key in Miami’s Undefeated November

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Miami Dolphins DB Steven Parker intercepts Indianapolis Colts' QB Brian Hoyer in the end zone after ripping the ball out of TE Eric Ebron's hands as they fell to the ground. PC: The Herald-Dispatch

The Miami Dolphins defeated the Indianapolis Colts 16-12 on Sunday to bring them their second win of the season. Miami improves to 2-7 and have a two-game win streak, while the loss drops the Colts to 5-4. 

“It (has) been awesome. It is so much fun to be in the locker room when you’re winning and for what we went through in the beginning of the year and that attitude that everyone had and what we touched on last week even after that win, it makes it so much sweeter to go in and celebrate with this group of guys,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. 

Hoyer and Fitzpatrick have poor stats in matchup

The Colts were without two of their best players on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton were both ruled out of the game, leaving backup QB Brian Hoyer to lead the charge with Zach Pascal locked in as their No. 1 WR. In turn, Hoyer didn’t have a very good game and ended up finishing with 18-for-39 with just 191 yards, with one touchdown to three interceptions. On the opposing side of the field, Fitzpatrick stayed pretty quiet as well. He finished going 21-for-33 with even less passing yards, 159, one rushing TD and one INT.

With both of the running games also struggling for the teams, it was clear the better defense was going to win the game.

No bigger problem for Miami than its rushing game

The running game for Miami is still trying to find its footing this season after taking another hit last week with starter Mark Walton suspended. It elected to go with Kalen Ballage who had entered the game with a horrible yards per carry. He didn’t do much better on the day as he finished with 2.2 YPC. 

Through nine games the Dolphins have one 100-yard game as a unit and no individual 100-yard rushes. For Miami picking up its second win in a row, the Football Power Index (FPI) dropped its percentage of having the first overall draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft from 66-percent to 12-percent. draft’s number one pick from a 66% to 12%. If the season ended today, the Dolphins would hold the fifth overall pick, behind Cincinnati (1), Washington (2) and both New York teams, the Giants (3) and Jets (4).

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Defensive takeaways coming out of nowhere

For the second week in a row, the Dolphins have looked like a completely different team as the defense has forced four turnovers, resulting in 13 points off those turnovers. The Miami defense set the tone early when defensive back Steven Parker ripped the ball away from Colts’ tight end Eric Ebron in the end zone resulting in a touchback. Off that turnover, and in the game, the Dolphins were able to score 13 of its 16 points off turnovers.

I think these guys are really working hard. I think they’re preparing the right way. The process is something we talk about on a weekly basis and I think they’re trying to stick to that process and I think they’re seeing the fruits of that labor, but culture isn’t – it’s something you build over time,” head coach Brian Flores said.

It sounds crazy, but Miami has a Wild Card chance

This has helped Miami go undefeated so far in the month of November. Furthermore, it’s also just three games out of the wild card round with seven weeks left. In the stretch, the Dolphins will play Buffalo, both New York teams, Cleveland, Cincinnati and New England in week 17. The Bills’ strong start to the season at 6-1 is falling apart and the team finds itself on a two-game losing skid to poorer teams in the league. Miami has also done notoriously well against the Patriots in week 17 and have favorable matchups for the remainder of the season. In addition, it also holds the tiebreaker with Indianapolis after beating them. 

“We all know what we’ve faced all year and what we’ve worked through. Just a different way to win today, but another great team win. I thought the defense played really, really well today,” Fitzpatrick said.

Miami has a realistic chance of improving its win streak to three games this upcoming Sunday when it hosts Buffalo. The Bills are coming off a 19-16 loss to the Browns and have dropped two in a row. Buffalo did however win the teams’ first meeting just four weeks ago 31-21, but trailed for significant time in the game. It was also a three-point contest until the final minute.

– Carl Mahler is a Sports Contributor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. Like and follow on and Facebook.

Kayla Morton contributed to this article.

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