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Next Up For The Dallas Cowboys: A Look At The Miami Dolphins

Matt Moore #8 and Reggie Bush #22 are two of the Miami Dolphins weapons the Dallas Cowboys have to account for.
Matt Moore #8 and Reggie Bush #22 are two of the Miami Dolphins weapons the Dallas Cowboys have to account for.

The short week has caused disruption to the normal preparation and scheduling, but the team is adjusting and doing all it can to deliver what you fans want. Oh, and not just us at BTB. I think the Cowboys are doing the same.

It has played a little tanstaafl type havoc with a couple of my regular posts. First, I would normally do a full post on what is going on over at The Phinsider about the game. I did find one post on the emergence of Matt Moore that was of interest. He is having a very good stretch of games since he came in to replace the injured Chad Henne.

During the last three games, Moore has gone 51-for-73 for 613 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. Through Sunday night's game, Moore leads the NFL in ESPN's new Total QBR for the week, grading at a 98.0 out of a possible 100, nearly 8 points ahead of the second place Jay Cutler.

Outside of that and the injury report, there is not much relating directly to the game. If you want some good information on the Dolphins, you will find more going to Dave's Five Questions post he has up here on BTB.

The other post I regularly do is the video review of the last game by the other team. But this has been fouled up by my own schedule. I have the week off through a good bit of luck. I am enjoying the down time, but that means I am dependent on the rather sketchy wireless connection at my house. After a couple of hours of trying, I realized I was not going to be able to watch the replay of the Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins game. So I have had to go back to my notes of the Miami game with the Washington Redskins from the week before, along with the play by play recap on ESPN of the Bills game, to try and get a few things to share about the team the Cowboys face this week.

My observations after the jump.

One thing that jumps out of the two games is that Miami is not doing it with an overpowering offense. They only had 303 total yards against Washington and 242 against Buffalo. Both those were home games, by the way. The secret to their success has been taking advantage of opportunities, like the blocked Bills punt recovered for a touchdown and the interception that gave them the ball on the Buffalo 4-yard line. In the Bills game, they opened with a very good 87 yard touchdown drive, but the rest was all off of great field position. A 59 yard drive came off of holding the Bills to a three and out and getting the punt on their own 41 (although they almost lost it on a muff), and then the first of two interceptions set them up 23 yards from the goal line (I've already mentioned the other interception). It is hard to beat a team when you keep giving them short fields like that.

The Washington game had more in the way of drives, but twice the Dolphins got deep in the red zone (Redskins 8 and 10 yard line) and had to settle for field goals. They had a short field off of a missed Graham Gano field goal (he missed two in the game, a familiar stat to us) for one of their two touchdowns and, like against Buffalo, had one long drive for a touchdown.

Matt Moore has been effective in what he does, not overpowering. His best trait in the two games has been protecting the ball, only giving up one interception while throwing four touchdowns. Part of that has been good protection. The Bills only got credit for one sack and one hit on him, and Washington, which has some good pass rushers, was limited to two sacks and three hits. This is pretty good performance from an offensive line that includes Marc Colombo, one of the Cowphins they have on their team. This may be an opportunity for the Dallas pass rush to have a bit more of an impact. Over the same two games, the Cowboys have a similar four sacks, but racked up eleven quarterback hits. Just looking at the stats, it appears that Dallas could have more success with the pressure, which OCC has shown to be more important than just the number of sacks.

The receiving corps is very up and down. There is no one that has been consistent over the last two games. Against Washington, Moore's three main targets were WR Brandon Marshall, TE Anthony Fasano (another Cowphin), and WR Davone Bess. But against the Bills, they all pretty much disappeared, with FB Charles Clay and RB Reggie Bush (who at one time had a Heisman Trophy, but doesn't anymore) accounting for 64% of the receiving yards. However, that game is a little deceiving, since the Dolphins jumped out to a big lead and were able to play very conservatively throughout the second half.

They do like to screen, but Washington broke up several of them with good linebacker and secondary play, coming up and busting them up before they could develop.

Rushing is also in the effective if not overpowering category. Bush has 506 yards on the season, with a 4.3 average, and Daniel Thomas has 406, for a 3.6 average. Bush is primarily effective going wide, and the Dolphins will often use trickery, such as wildcat formations, to try and increase his effectiveness, while Thomas is more of a between the tackles runner.

Defensively, the Dolphins like to use blitzing to get pressure, which they have done fairly well at. They have tallied five sacks and ten hits over the last two games. In the Washington game, one of their sacks came when Karlos Dansby came free during the first Redskins possession. He was completely untouched and Rex Grossman just had to cover up and take the sack. It looked like a missed assignment in the Washington pass protection.

Against the rush, the Dolphins have been pretty much outstanding the past two weeks. They only allowed 61 yards against the Redskins and then upped their game against the Bills, yielding only 41 yards, including 17 to the dangerous Fred Jackson. If I were to pick the key matchup in the game, it would be the Dallas rushing attack against the Dolphins defense. The loss of Tony Fiammetta is going to be a factor again, I am afraid. However, Tony Romo is, in my humble opinion, a much better quarterback than either Rex Grossman or Ryan Fitzpatrick, and this quote from the Five Questions article mentioned above may be very pertinent.

I like the Dolphins against the Cowboys wide receivers for some reason.  With Miles Austin hurting, I think the secondary of Miami might be able to handle the receivers.  However, the Dolphins struggle against pass catching tight ends, so I would expect Jason Witten to have a good performance.  

Their special teams have been fairly solid. That blocked punt is something to beware of, and obviously Dallas has shown a sudden vulnerability in covering punt returns. But Dan Bailey is no Graham Gano.

Overall, the Dolphins seem to be beatable by a team that protects the ball well and that can convert scoring opportunities. Dallas has shown that it can do both the past two weeks. This is not a game to be taken lightly, especially with the players that are out for the game. But I like Dallas' chances at home on Thanksgiving.


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