Monday, September 30, 2013

Four Point Stance: Dolphins at Saints


It's been 18 years since the Miami Dolphins last played in the Superdome, the site of their Week 4 Monday night matchup against the New Orleans Saints. There, they'll have an opportunity to do something else the franchise hasn't done since that 1995 season: start the year 4-0.

Both teams enter the game undefeated through three games, with the Dolphins pulling off a thrilling last-minute victory over the Atlanta Falcons while the Saints dominated the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. The game marks the first time since 1998 that two teams 3-0 or better faced off on Monday Night Football.

The Saints are very comfortable on the big stage, winning their last eight Monday night appearances and their last ten primetime games at home. The Superdome promises to be as raucous as ever, putting the pressure on Miami to play sound, disciplined football for 60 minutes.


Avoiding three-and-outs. The Saints' defense that ranked last or second-to-last in most major categories a year ago is long gone. First-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has his unit playing solid football, boasting a pass rush and coverage scheme that will make it hard for the Dolphins to sustain drives consistently. But it will be important for them to do so, because handing Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense the ball back quickly is an easy way for the game to get away from them early.

Contain Graham. Miami's defense has struggled with tight ends this season, getting gashed by Cleveland's Jordan Cameron and Indianapolis' Coby Fleener for yards and touchdowns. It did an admirable job against Tony Gonzalez a week ago, but faces by far its biggest challenge to date in Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Going into Week 4, Graham led the position in receptions, receiving yards, yards per catch and touchdowns. The Dolphins won't be able to stop him completely but must find a way to limit his impact.

Discipline and composure. The Superdome is one of the most harshest environments in the league on opposing offenses. On-field verbal communication is nearly impossible, so it'll be key for the Dolphins to be on the same page when they step on the field. Early mistakes and penalties can frustrate an offense and lead to more mistakes and penalties, so it'll take a mentally sound game from every player on the field to maintain rhythm and the protections.

Bending without breaking. The Dolphins gave up plenty of yards to the potent Falcons offense in Week 3 but tightened in the red zone, forcing the opponent to settle for field goals. The Saints' even more dangerous passing attack led by Brees will make that task more difficult, but no less important. If the Dolphins can manage to hold New Orleans in the red zone, they'll keep the score manageable and give the offense a chance to win the game.
Week 4 Dolphins stories:

Week 4 AFC East game picks: Dolphins at Saints

Saints gearing up for Dolphins' leaky O-line

Wallace: Saints' defense is 'assignment-sound'

Web-wide AFC East power rankings: Week 4

Fumbles, sacks early-season issues for Tannehill

Dolphins ink ex-Giant who injured Mark Sanchez

Dolphins boast league's best red zone offense

Jordan sees extended action in Wake's absence

Tannehill comes through in 'non-textbook' win

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