Here are the three keys to the game that I outlined prior to past Sunday's game against the Giants:
- Maintain a ground game in the absence of Ronnie Brown
- Contain Plaxico Burress
- Keep the game close
How did the team do according to this checklist?
Jesse Chatman ran 16 times for 79 yards, an impressive 4.9 yard per carry average, and Patrick Cobbs chipped in with 4 carries for 19 yards. The team stayed with its running game and was rewarded with some good play. Plaxico Burress was stifled all day long, being held to a mere 2 catches for 14 yards. And going into halftime, Miami had yet to score, but was still only down by 13. Check, check, and check.
Somewhat amazingly (as amazing as it can be for an 0-7 team), the Dolphins lost yet again.
The main factor, of course, was the weather. Now, I'm not one to blame the outcome of games on the weather. After all, both teams had to deal with it. But it just goes to show that when the weather is this pervasive, it throws all preconceived notions out the window. The field was a disaster, and it looked like the game was being played on a hockey rink. The defensive line literally slid backward at least a foot on every snap simply because there was no leverage to be had on the playing surface.
So, in the driving rain of London, the Dolphins completed the first half of their season in the same fashion as the preceding U.S.-based games - with a loss.
Here's a quick list of what was good and what was bad across the pond:
Run defense - The major sore spot on the defense continued again, as the Giants averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 37 carries.
Cleo Lemon - I can't blame everything bad that happened on Cleo, since it was pretty much impossible to get a good grip on the ball given the conditions. Still, he's got to find a way to overcome the external situations. Also, not throwing the ball away and tacking a sack after getting the ball to the 2 yard line was a poor decision that cannot be excused.
The offensive line - Going up against one of the most fearsome pass rushes in the league, Miami's O-line gave up only one sack. They also opened up some nice running lanes for Chatman.
Jesse Chatman - Chatman showed some serious spunk, grinding his legs and picking up some tough yardage. He runs with a determined effort, and he's proving that he deserves a spot on this team long-term.
The secondary - The secondary really stepped up and finally was able to make some big plays against quality receivers. Burress was a non-factor all game long, thanks to great athletic plays downfield by the likes of Will Allen and Michael Lehan. Even Jason Allen made an impact with 5 tackles and a forced fumble. He would have had an INT too, if not for a bad call by the refs for holding on Jason Taylor.
Justin Peelle - Peelle is a guy who shows up every week and catches almost every ball thrown in his direction and grinds it out in the trenches as a good blocker. He never gets much credit because he's the backup tight end and he doesn't get all that many touches. But he always makes the most of his opportunities, and when David Martin couldn't play in this game, Peelle came through with 6 catches for 42 yards. He showed the ability to consistently get open in the flats and across the middle and to pick up some nifty yards after the catch. (On a side note, it's clear that the front office made a mistake in bringing in David Martin to be the starter. Martin's inability to shake the injury bug has surfaced yet again, and he is being outplayed by Peelle, who is primarily known for being a blocking tight end.)
Play of the Game - Eli Manning's 10 yard run for a TD. Manning outran Jason Taylor on the play to score the Giants' only TD.
Player of the Game - Brandon Jacobs. Given the conditions, running the ball was key. Jacobs delivered by putting up 131 yards on 23 carries for an outstanding 5.7 yard average.