Dolphins' defense wants a short memory
September, 16, 2011
By James Walker | ESPN.com
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesNew England's Wes Welker gets behind Miami's Bennie Sapp and scores on a 99-yard pass Monday.DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano had no interest in discussing last week's struggles against the New England Patriots.
"On to Houston," Sparano said.
What about Miami's lack of pass rush?
"We're on to Houston," Sparano said.
What's the message for bouncing back after the Patriots loss?
"On to Houston," Sparano said.
How did rookie center Mike Pouncey play in his regular-season debut?
"Houston," said Sparano, hammering the point home.
Sparano's message was clear: Miami cannot afford to look back -- even if the game just happened on Monday. Coming off a short week, the Dolphins will try to avoid an 0-2 start at home Sunday against the Houston Texans (1-0). It will mark the second straight week Miami faces a high-powered offense.
Surprisingly, the biggest concern heading into Week 2 is Miami's defense. The unit was No. 6 in the NFL last season. But New England carved up Miami's defense for 622 yards, including 517 yards passing by quarterback Tom Brady.
On a night Miami's offense and quarterback Chad Henne played well, the defense was a liability. It was the opposite of last year's identity.
The Dolphins couldn't stop the pass on Monday. They didn't stop the run. They had little pass rush and gave up big plays, including a 99-yard touchdown catch by Wes Welker. Miami also didn't tackle well and struggled defensively in the red zone. The Dolphins allowed New England to score touchdowns on four of six trips inside the 20.
There wasn't much good the Dolphins' defense could take away from Monday's game. It's probably one of those gut-wrenching tapes Miami wants to throw in the garbage and never watch again.
"That was embarrassing. There is no question about it," Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said candidly. "But we went through that tape and it's over. Now it's on to Houston and time to prove what kind of defense we really are."
Secondary players like Bell often talk about having short memories. But it's up to an entire defense to forget what happened against New England. The Texans are coming into Sun Life Stadium with a lot of momentum after scoring 34 points in the first half of last week's 34-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Texans were the NFL's No. 3 offense in 2010 and No. 4 in passing. They have plenty of firepower with receiver Andre Johnson, quarterback Matt Schaub and Pro Bowl tailback Arian Foster (hamstring), who could make his season debut on Sunday.
If Miami's poor defensive performance last week was a one-game fluke, we're about to find out.
"Everyone knows the defense is better than that," Dolphins starting cornerback Sean Smith said. "What we did is in the past. We're definitely looking forward to going out there and showing everybody that we can still get this thing rolling."
Miami's defense was active last season. The Dolphins were ranked in the top 10 in sacks (39) and total yards allowed in 2010. The Patriots gained more than 622 yards Monday and only allowed one sack to Miami linebacker Cameron Wake.
It's only Week 1, but the Dolphins are last in the NFL in total defense by a wide margin. The Patriots are the next closest team, allowing 488 yards to Miami's offense.
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeMiami's Chad Henne had a strong opening game against the Patriots on Monday night.
"I didn't see the fire from our guys that we usually play with," Bell said. "Whatever reason it was, we didn't have that fire. We need to get back to the basics. We need to get back to competing with guys and get in guys' faces like we did last year."
Someone had to pay the price for last week's debacle. There was one casualty: Dolphins veteran cornerback Benny Sapp. Miami cut Sapp this week after he allowed the 99-yard touchdown catch to Welker in the fourth quarter.
Miami re-signed veteran corner Will Allen and hopes he can help tighten up the pass defense. Allen spent the past five seasons with Miami and knows the defense well. The Dolphins cut Allen before the regular season.
Allen is a longtime starter and can play on the outside as well as the nickel role. It also doesn't hurt that he's coming back with a chip on his shoulder after being released.
"You always got something to prove, and that's what I think each and every player in this locker room feels like each and every day," Allen said. "Maybe not so much as far as practice. But on Sundays, stepping up and having different competitions and [being] challenged in different ways. Everybody has something to prove all the time."
Sunday is show-and-prove time for the Dolphins' defense -- and particularly the secondary. The common theme in Miami's locker room was "Last week was last week." But if Miami’s defense lays another egg at home for the second straight game, doubt might start to creep in with this proud, veteran group.
"That wasn't us out there. We know that," Bell said. "It was the first game, and that's over with. So we're on to the Texans. We're going to put on a much better showing than we did Monday night, that's for sure.