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Team Grades: Defense, Ground-And-Pound Proves To Be Winning Formula For Dolphins

By Abraham Gutierrez

With all the hoopla surrounding the possibility that Ryan Tannehill would be given more freedom offensively following the firing of Bill Lazor, the Miami Dolphins pulled off a little misdirection on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13. Instead of coming out throwing, the Fins pounded the visitors into submission with the running game on their way to a much-needed, 15-13, victory at Sun Life Stadium. The win snaps Miami's two-game skid, improving its season record to 5-7 on the year and, incredibly, head coach Dan Campbell & Co. remain mathematically alive for a playoff berth.

"That was a gritty, gritty performance," an emotional coach Campbell said after the game. "If you don't have the heart like we do, you don't win a game like that. You guys just hung in there, and I'll be honest with you: That's more of my type of game. I'm not going to lie to you. You play with freaking kicka** defense, you run the freaking ball, you do what you have to do."

Offense: C

Even though it wasn't pretty, the Dolphins' offense did just enough to come away with a slim three-point win. It's almost hard to believe that Miami finished the day with just eight first downs and 219 yards of total offense. As stated above, ground-and-pound was the order of the day, as the Fins rushing attack accounted for 137 of those yards, while the aerial attack tallied a mere 82 yards.

Running back Lamar Miller was the player of the game on this side of the football, rushing for 113 yards on 20 carries and a score. Backup halfback Jay Ajayi also got on the board with 12 yards on four rushes, while quarterback Ryan Tannehill was able to scramble for 11 yards on one carry.

Speaking of the fourth-year signal-caller out of Texas A&M, Tannehill finished the day going 9-for-19 for 86 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 78.0. The receiving leaders in this one were wide outs DeVante Parker (3 receptions for 63 yards, TD), Jarvis Landry (2 receptions for 5 yards) and tight end Jordan Cameron (1 reception for 4 yards).

Defense: A

Defense was the winning formula for this ballclub, as the Fins' D allowed a field goal in the second and fourth quarters, while the lone touchdown of the game came immediately after the break. Led by strong safety Reshad Jones and defensive end Derrick Shelby (22-yard, pick-six), each recording an interception on Matt Schaub to help Miami win the turnover battle (2-0), the Dolphins allowed 22 first downs and 375 yards of total offense.

In the end, 94 rushing yards and an additional 281 yards through the air weren't enough, as the Ravens dropped to 4-8 on the season, putting a true damper on their playoff hopes. Aside from Jones (10 tackles, INT) and Shelby's (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks) efforts, other defensive standouts for Miami include the outstanding play of Olivier Vernon (2.5 sacks, 6 tackles), Kelvin Sheppard (8 tackles), Koa Misi (7 tackles), Michael Thomas (7 tackles) and Jelani Jenkins (7 tackles, PD).

"Defense, we played a decent game, made mistakes," said Ndamukong Suh during his post-game press conference. "Can't allow teams to come out of the half, start the ball, move the ball and score a touchdowns. We've got things to clean up and we'll take the win and move on to the next team."

Special Teams: C-

In such an ugly, low scoring affair, special teams frequently play a significant role on the outcome of the ballgame and this was no different. And while punter Matt Darr (nine punts, 45.8 average, 59 long, two inside the 20 and a touchback) did a solid job in what was a very busy afternoon for him, there were some near disasters by the special teams unit.

Coaching: C

At this point in the season, the Dolphins will take a W any way it comes. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of issues Campbell and his staff can improve on. The first area for concern is the passing game, as this team cannot expect to win too many games tallying less than 100 passing yards.

Then, there were some questionable play-calls, as well as some goofy moments on the Miami sideline. Nevertheless, this team showed great determination and a never-say-die attitude this afternoon, helping improve Campbell's record to 4-4 as Fins head coach.

"That's the type of game you needed against the Baltimore Ravens," Campbell added as he addressed his team in the locker room. "We proved we were stronger today. You guys were freaking gritty, man. You stuck together, you just kept [expletive] swinging. That's what it's about, man. You guys know this, that's what this league's about. I'm proud of you guys."

Abe Gutierrez's (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to, and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers),, and other online publications.


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