Miami Dolphins vs. New Orleans Saints: Who won the key matchups?



Dolphins linebackers vs. New Orleans’ Darren Sproles

•  Winner: Saints.

By the end of the first half, the Dolphins resorted to double teaming Sproles with two linebackers. That didn’t prevent Sproles from catching a 13-yard touchdown pass (OK, that apparently was cornerback Nolan Carroll’s area) to end a half in which he caught seven passes for 114 yards and that touchdown. That included a 21-yard completion on a third-and-20 screen pass. When the Saints lined up the running back in the slot, a linebacker would be one-on-one with him.

Dolphins pass rush vs. Saints pass protection

•  Winner: Saints.

You’re not going to stop the Saints without consistent pressure on quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints have too many players who essay their passing-game roles with excellence to keep everybody covered for too long. The Dolphins made New Orleans one-dimensional early, but even being able to play the run on the way to Brees didn’t help them get the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket. Also, New Orleans did a great job with screens and safety valves.

Dolphins pass protection vs. Saints pass rush

•  Winner: Saints.

Part of the reason Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace might as well have been Morley Safer most of the night was Ryan Tannehill didn’t have the time for Wallace or any other wide receiver to get open downfield. Some of New Orleans’ potato sack of sacks were coverage sacks, but especially after halftime, the Dolphins offensive line got stampeded even when the Saints sent only four rushers. The shower of sacks kept the Dolphins from getting back into the game.

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Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013.


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St. Louis Rams seventh-round draft pick Michael Sam listens to a question during a news conference at the NFL football team's practice facility Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


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