DAVIE – In one season the Miami Dolphins have turned what was perceived as the team’s biggest weakness - the secondary - into its greatest strength.
The Dolphins defense has only allowed one touchdown pass to a receiver all season, and that’s not just an NFL low. The Dolphins are flirting with an NFL record.
The last team to reach game 12 having allowed one or fewer touchdown passes to a wide receiver was the 1981 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In addition, the Buccaneers allowed only two touchdowns to opposing receivers that entire season.
The Dolphins have four more games to match that feat, but this Sunday’s opponent – the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – could put a dent into Miami’s stingy start.
Ben Roethlisberger, who comes into Sunday’s game possessing a 92.4 passer rating, has thrown 21 touchdowns this season. Only two of those touchdowns have been to fullbacks or tight ends.
Antonio Brown, whose 85 receptions leads the NFL, has accounted for six touchdowns and 1,103 receiving yards, and slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery has scored another eight touchdowns.
“He’s a great quarterback that has a unique talent of making something out of nothing,” cornerback Brent Grimes said. “You’ll look at a play and everything will break down and it looks like you’ve got a sack. Before you know it he’s dumped it off to somebody and they’ve gained 15 yards."
Eleven of the 12 touchdowns scored on the Dolphins through the air have come from tight ends and tailbacks (one was scored by an offensive lineman). Last season the Dolphins defense allowed 18 touchdowns through the air.
Last season opposing quarterbacks possessed a 83.4 passer rating. The secondary’s struggles contributed to Miami's executives letting cornerback Sean Smith sign with Kansas City as a free agent. Miami replaced him with Grimes, and selected three cornerbacks in April's draft. But Jamar Taylor, Will Davis and Don Jones have sparingly played because of the emergence of veterans like Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson.
The Dolphins have held opposing quarterbacks to a 72.7 passer rating this season. The only NFL defense with a lower passer rating for opposing quarterbacks is the Seattle Seahawks, which has held opponents to a 69.5 passer rating.
“We just go out and do our job. This is the NFL. People are going to make some plays,” said Grimes, who is rated by ProFootbalFocus.com as the NFL’s sixth best cornerback this season. “You’ve just got to keep competing and try not to give up big plays….Receivers are going to make some plays. Just don’t get down on yourself and make the next play.”
Grimes and company could be getting reinforcements this weekend because it appears veteran cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who has been limited to five games this season because of a troublesome groin injury, might be cleared to play against the Steelers.
Patterson, who has pulled down four of the team’s 16 interceptions in his limited work, has missed the past two games because of the groin issue. But he practiced on a limited basis this week.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun