Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Dolphins at Cardinals


When the schedule was released back in April, the Miami Dolphins' Week 4 game in Arizona looked like one of the most winnable matchups of the early season. But after victories over contenders New England and Philadelphia, the 3-0 Cardinals are playing the role of a juggernaut.

With a strong defense and some steady play from the much-maligned Kevin Kolb, the Cardinals are now sizable favorites on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins will have their hands full but will have their say in the outcome with a surprisingly-good defense and offensive playmakers of their own.

Deciding Factors:

Limit Larry Fitzgerald. Poor quarterback play has kept Fitzgerald somewhat under the radar of late, but make no mistake; the guy is a top-3 receiving weapon in this league. The Dolphins will have to do everything in their power to keep him from beating them deep and gaining yards after the catch. Possibly losing starting cornerback Richard Marshall to injury will hamper this effort, so it will be up to coordinator Kevin Coyle to put together a gameplan that can slow down Fitzgerald (Photo: Broderick Delaney, Flickr).

Rattle Kevin Kolb. If Kolb has proven anything since signing a massive free agent deal with Arizona last season, it's that he's prone to committing turnovers. His play has been relatively clean through three games, but if the Dolphins can disrupt the pocket, it should force Kolb into mistakes. Outside of Cameron Wake, Miami's defensive front has not yet generated consistent pressure this season. Arizona's atrocious offensive line should provide opportunities for that.

Utilize the West Coast offense. The Cardinals' front seven is big and strong, and it pursues laterally very well. It'll be tough for Miami to have the same success on the ground that it's had so far this season, so it'll be up to Tannehill to move the ball some more through the air. Problem is, Arizona's secondary is just as difficult to beat. The Dolphins need to use their West Coast principles and get their players out in space with the short passing game. Tannehill will need to be decisive and concise with his throws for it to work.
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