The Miami Dolphins finally got their first win last weekend, but they know they still have plenty of work to do.
Miami hopes for a better showing from its offense when it visits the struggling Houston Texans on Sunday.
The Dolphins (1-2) beat winless Tennessee 13-10 last Sunday, bouncing back after losses at Pittsburgh and at home against Buffalo. The defense played well, forcing two interceptions and a key fumble on its own 2-yard line when the Titans were on the verge of taking a 14-3 lead, after getting just one takeaway in the first two games.
“It was great that the defense got three turnovers,” said coach Nick Saban, whose team ranks fourth in the AFC with 276.3 yards allowed per game. “It was the difference in the game.”
The offense, however, continued to struggle.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper passed for just 168 yards and no touchdowns, and was sacked five times. Culpepper, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota and is coming back from reconstructive knee surgery last November, has been sacked 15 times this season while completing just 58 of 95 pass attempts.
“It’s always good to win, no matter how you get it, by 20 points or by one,” Culpepper said.
The Dolphins have scored just four touchdowns and managed only 36 points this season.
“We’ve got a lot of things to improve on,” Saban said. “No one is denying that. But this was a great win for our players.”
The Dolphins are hoping running back Ronnie Brown can build on his biggest game of the season. Brown, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft, picked up 90 yards on a career-high 26 carries Sunday, but is averaging just 3.4 yards per rush this season.
Miami rushed for a season-high 159 yards on 37 carries against the Titans and improved to 8-0 when running the ball 30 or more times under Saban. When the Dolphins run fewer than 30 times, they are 2-9.
“Obviously you have to run the ball to win in this league,” center Rex Hadnot said.
Miami should be able to pick up its running game against the Texans (0-3), who allowed 234 rushing yards in last Sunday’s 31-15 loss to Washington.
Houston is giving up 483.7 yards per game—nearly 100 more than the second-worst defensive team in the NFL—and a league-worst 32.7 points per game. The Texans allowed the Redskins to gain 495 total yards and let Washington quarterback Mark Brunell complete an NFL-record 22 consecutive passes.
“It wasn’t good,” coach Gary Kubiak said of the defense. “We’ll have to take a hard look at what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and who we’re doing it with. We’ve got a long way to go.”
No. 1 draft pick Mario Williams, who was brought in to help out a defense that ranked last in the AFC last season, has just six tackles and hasn’t recorded a sack.
“I was disappointed in the way he played,” Kubiak said. “I think he’s progressed and done some things, but he did not do that this week.”
The offense hasn’t been much better with 267 yards per game, 14th in the AFC. Houston, which has lost its three games by an average of 16 points, had three fumbles—one lost—an interception, a number of false starts and another penalty that nullified a fumble return for a touchdown against the Redskins.
“It’s an embarrassing situation,” defensive back Dunta Robinson said. “Right now we can’t even keep the games close. We’ve got to get better or we’re going to be the laughingstock of the NFL again.”
Houston won its only previous matchup with Miami, 21-20 on Sept. 7, 2003.
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
Armon Binns WR, Dustin Keller TE, Brandon Gibson WR, Will Yeatman T, Lamar Miller RB, Chris Clemons S, Austin Spitler LB, Michael Egnew TE, Ryan Tannehill QB, John Jerry G, Dimitri Patterson CB, Daniel Thomas RB, Jamar Taylor CB