By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Joe Philbin now knows how Pete Carroll must’ve felt.
Long before he was a Super Bowl-winning coach in Seattle, Carroll was the head
coach for the New York Jets in 1994. The Jets were 6-5 that year and poised to
defeat the Miami Dolphins to take over sole possession of the AFC East lead
when Dan Marino’s fake spike turned a win into a sudden 28-24 loss.
The Jets lost their final five games of the season and Carroll was replaced by
Fast-forward 20 years and Miami’s Philbin is feeling the time-management heat
after a loss to Green Bay last week, in which a fake spike by Aaron Rodgers
led to a decisive TD pass with just seconds to play.
The Dolphins took two timeouts when the Packers had none, and the Miami
offense was unable to run out the clock and prevent the 60-yard drive that
Rodgers engineered in just over two minutes.
“I have to do a better job, first and foremost,” Philbin said. “I’m the head
His players return to action Sunday with a visit to Soldier Field to meet the
And they’re well aware of the lack of pity they’ll be receiving.
“The Chicago Bears don’t give a rip what happened against the Green Bay
Packers,” Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “So we’ve got to go out
there and give them our best.”
Still, if sympathy were coming the Dolphins could contend they deserve it.
Offseason acquisition Knowshon Moreno was lost for the season with a knee
injury against the Packers after gaining just 148 yards in three games with
the Dolphins. His absence will mean more workload for Lamar Miller, who
already leads the team with 330 yards; and undrafted rookie Damien Williams,
who has 39 yards on 12 carries.
Miller, who’s scored three times in two games, is questionable this week with
a knee injury.
“We’ve got some good running backs here,” he said, “and we can get the job
The Dolphins are sixth in the NFL in rushing with a per-week average of 136.2
yards and are third in yards per carry with 4.97, but those rates may dip a
bit in a matchup with a Bears defense that’s surrendered just 188 ground yards
across three games with a 3.24-yard average per attempt.
Atlanta went for just 42 rush yards last week against Chicago, in spite of the
absence of three starting linebackers – Shea McClellin, Lance Briggs and D.J.
Williams – and a top reserve in Jon Bostic.
McClellin is probable this week, while Briggs, Williams and Bostic remain
Another challenge for the Dolphins on offense will be keeping quarterback Ryan
Tannehill upright against a unit featuring the NFL’s sack leader in Willie
Young, who added two last week and now has seven. Tannehill was sacked eight
times in games two and three, but just once across four and five.
He’s 0-4 in career road games against NFC foes and his 2014 numbers in
completion percentage (60.8) and passer rating (81.5) are in the bottom half
among the league’s starters. He’s also been intercepted three times in the
last two games, while throwing four touchdowns.
“We have every piece we need to put this puzzle together,” he said. “Now it’s
a matter of doing it.”
The thing that’s been puzzling the Bears thus far in 2014 is an inability to
win at home.
Chicago has won road games at San Francisco, New York and Atlanta in its first
four tries this season, but is 0-2 at home after dropping a three-point
decision to Buffalo and losing a 21-point blowout to Green Bay. The Bears
haven’t started 0-3 at Soldier Field in 10 years.
Quarterback Jay Cutler shook off the doldrums of a two-game losing streak
against the Falcons, throwing for 381 yards – his most with Chicago – and
watching running back Matt Forte generate 157 total yards and a pair of
touchdowns in a 27-13 victory.
The Bears defense held Atlanta to 287 yards and one TD, too, which provided
coach Marc Trestman with ample reason for optimism.
“We’ve seen signs in the first six weeks of the season of the type of team we
can be and the way we can play the game,” he said.
Still, the Bears have scored eight fewer points at home than on the road, and
their plus-6 turnover margin in away games has disintegrated to a minus-4 in
the home losses to the Bills and Packers.
Cutler has nine touchdowns against two interceptions for a 104.6 passer rating
in the road games, while he’s thrown four TDs, four INTs and compiled an 84.7
rating at home.
After halftime in those home games, his rating sinks to 58.1.
His weapons, however, do appear suited for all environments.
Forte leads the league in receptions with 46 and is seventh in rushing yards
with 399. He’s averaged better than 160 yards from scrimmage in his last three
games, and he went for 97 yards and scored once in a 16-0 defeat of the
Dolphins in Miami in 2010.
It was the last shutout posted by the Chicago defense.
On the receiving end, a pair of 6-foot-4 wideouts – Brandon Marshall and
Alshon Jeffery – could be made to order for Cutler against Miami starting
cornerbacks Finnegan and Brent Grimes, both 5-10. Marshall and Jeffery had 11
catches for 249 yards against Atlanta.
“We’ve got to bring our A-game,” Finnegan said. “Those guys are special.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Second Line of Defense
As mentioned, the Bears were without four of their top linebackers for the win
against the Falcons, but it didn’t hinder them much because of a favorable
matchup along the front line. That is far less a certainty this week,
particularly against a Miami team that has Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey back for a
second straight week. Whomever is suited up at linebacker for Chicago will
need to perform well.
Swimming in his Wake
Bears right tackle Jordan Mills had a devil of a time in Atlanta, getting
flagged for three penalties and allowing one sack. His task gets even tougher
this week against Miami end Cameron Wake – a three-time Pro Bowler – who beat
Green Bay right tackle Bryan Bulaga for 1 1/2 sacks in last week’s loss to the
Packers. Similar to Cutler, Mills will need to handle things far better at
It’d be hard to find two more enigmatic teams than the Bears and Dolphins,
considering the obvious levels of talent and the consistent levels of
To Chicago fans specifically, it’s maddening that a unit with such firepower
has yet to reach 30 points and has been limited to 20 or fewer twice. This
week, though, so long as Cutler is kept vertical he should be able to get
Sports Network predicted outcome: Bears 28, Dolphins 23