After a long week off, the Miami Dolphins will try to snap a three-game losing streak against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. Pete Carroll's club also enters on extra rest, enjoying their bye in Week 11 and looking to extend a win streak to three games. The extra week should aid that oft-cited disadvantage of West Coast teams traveling across the country. The Seahawks are 6-4, but have just one win away from their raucous home field -- a narrow victory over Carolina.
The extended week between games could not come soon enough for the Dolphins, who have gone into a free fall in the month of November. Joe Philbin's team was over .500 through the first two months of the season and hanging with the Patriots in the AFC East standings. But Miami has now dropped three straight games that featured all sorts of ugliness on both sides of the ball. They will need to knock off Seattle in Week 12 in order to avoid a winless month of November and at least keep themselves in the discussion as the calendar flips to December.
Meet the Dolphins
The Miami offense is one of the biggest reasons for the woeful November, with rookie Ryan Tannehill ranked near the bottom of the league in passer rating. But the first-year quarterback isn't getting a ton of help, as the Dolphins have the 21st ranked rushing attack in the league and have not had a rusher break the century mark since Week 2. Reggie Bush has just one touchdown over his last five games, and the ground game has failed to get anything going to help out Tannehill. The Dolphins averaged 2.5 yards per rush against the Bills last Thursday, and they will need to dramatically improve that at home in Week 12 if they want to snap their losing streak.
But the onus is also on Tannehill to stop the streak, as he has been careless with the ball and committed a slew of turnovers during the losing streak. He's been picked off five times in Miami's last two losses, and he'll need to get the ball out quickly against the Seahawks pass rush. Seattle has the third-ranked pass defense, and much of that success starts with their rush coming off the edge. Tannehill must avoid the turnovers at home to keep the Dolphins in it and consequently force his fellow rookie across the field, Russell Wilson, to make plays for the Seattle offense.
Miami's defense had been steady against the run through the first half of the year, but the rush defense was exposed in the past two weeks. Both Chris Johnson and C.J. Spiller had success against Miami, and it won't get any easier with Marshawn Lynch now on deck. Miami needs to limit Lynch, and force Wilson to go to the air -- something Seattle has been relatively reluctant to call for, especially on the road.
Meet the Seahawks
In Pete Carroll's second season in Seattle, the Seahawks boast one of the league's elite defensive units. Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons are a fearsome pass-rushing tandem on the outside, and Brandon Mebane has dominated teams in the middle. Mebane has been particularly successful at getting push on the interior and getting into quarterbacks' faces. Tannehill could be in for a harrowing afternoon if the Seahawks control Miami's recently anemic rush game. He'll be ducking for cover as Seattle attempts to unload every time he drops back.
That pass rush has aided an already sound defensive backfield, led by Richard Sherman. The second-year corner from Stanford has emerged as one of the top defensive backs in the NFL, and he'll likely spend time shadowing Brian Hartline, who's become Tannehill's top target. Hartline has been the Dolphins biggest threat in the pass game, and continually finds room to maneuver when it seems he's overmatched physically.
On the offensive side of the ball, it's all about Lynch, who is already over 1,000 yards and second in the league with 212 carries. Even if Miami improves its rush defense from the past two weeks, the Seahawks will insist on pounding it on the ground with Lynch. He's averaging 4.7 yards per carry and Carroll, along Darrell Bevell, have indicated that they won't cut down on his workload as Seattle makes a push for the postseason.
Wilson has improved as the season has progressed, but Seattle has been fairly conservative with their rookie QB. He has not thrown an interception in two games, but has been prone to the giveaway on the road this year. That's certainly one way to keep Miami, whose season appears to be on the ropes, in it at home.
Local Takes: Dolphins
In their "What to Watch For" preview, The Phinsider writes that rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has not hit a rookie wall, but is rather not getting a whole lot of help around him:
He's getting no help around him. The line isn't doing their job, receivers are either dropping or fumbling the ball. The run game can't get going. And most importantly, defenses have figured Tannehill out.
Why did it take Sherman wait until the 4th quarter to start making adjustments? I don't know, that's just poor coaching from a man who should know what to do with all the experience he has.
I don't think Tannehill has hit the rookie wall. I think it's just because he's getting no help and we've been playing behind the last few games Tannehill is trying to do too much.
Local Takes: Seahawks
Mike Chan of Field Gulls provides an excellent X-and-O breakdown of the zone blocking scheme the Seahawks utilize under Tom Cable:
While the ZBS may be one that is run dominant, it certainly doesn't mean that there are liabilities in the passing game. One of the reasons that guys like John Elway and Matt Schaub were/are able to put up huge numbers in addition to having a dominant running game was/is because of play action. By setting up the run, the defense is opened up to a lot of holes its coverage. Play action in the ZBS is also augmented by an athletic QB, who, while they may not be able to run, still hold enough credibility in finishing a rollout that he holds the backside LB and S away. This is why you see Wilson (and to an extent, Tavaris Jackson) always running out the rest of the handoff.
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O-Line looking for consistency, Bush going up against former college coach, and more. News You May Have Missed sbn.to/TmzEVW— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) November 24, 2012
@BenVolinPBP - Dolphins beat reporter
@Eric_D_Williams - Seahawks beat reporter
The Seahawks are going to be a fun team to watch down the stretch. Can 10 wins get them into the playoffs? Four more wins could come again Miami, Arizona, Buffalo and St. Louis. The defense can keep them in most games.
The pick: 17-14, Seahawks
The game opened as a pick 'em but has moved three points in most places, with the Seahawks favored by a field goal, according to OddsShark.
The Dolphins will face the Patriots for the first time this season, with the AFC East leaders making the trip to South Florida. The Seahawks stay on the road and will play the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Week 13.