Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Dolphins at 49ers


Coming off a painful loss to a division rival, the Miami Dolphins (5-7) must travel cross-country to face one of the NFL's most complete teams in the San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1). Ryan Tannehill leads a struggling offense on the road against the league's No. 2 ranked defense, all while being without his best offensive lineman, Jake Long.

Miami's defense faces the multidimensional Colin Kaepernick, who is just the type of mobile passer that has given the Dolphins fits this season. The 49ers are 2-0 against AFC East opponents so far this season, outscoring the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets by a combined 79-3 margin. (photo: Bay Area Bias, Flickr)

Contain Kaepernick. The Dolphins have not fared well against signal-callers that have the ability to extend plays with their legs, and few are better at it than the talented but inexperienced Kaepernick. Miami's defensive scheme is naturally susceptible to this issue, so it will be up to coordinator Kevin Coyle to task a linebacker or safety to spy the quarterback.

Get creative. There is no way around it: the Dolphins' offense does not have the ability to stand toe-to-toe with this defense. Miami's unit is over-matched across the board. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman will need to include some new wrinkles and creative playcalls to throw off the 49ers' fast and talented defense.

Stuff the run. Frank Gore is a very skilled tailback, but the real reason that San Francisco is the league's second best rushing team is it's dominating offensive line. Miami's defensive line, the strength of it's roster, must counter the push that the 49ers consistently create. Failing to do so will allow San Fransisco to control the game and secure a comfortable victory.

Turnovers... as always. Last week, a Tannehill fumble and a botched punt resulted in 10 New England points in a game Miami lost by seven. This Dolphins team simply cannot afford to turn the ball over and give opponents easy points. Losing the margin again this week will doom Miami to the same fate.
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