Miami Dolphins’ game against St. Louis Rams surprisingly meaningful

With a new head coach for each team, the Dolphins and Rams meet Sunday in a surprisingly meaningful game.

10/14/2012 12:01 AM

09/08/2014 6:06 PM

It’s pretty simple to figure out why the Dolphins chose to induct Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas into their Honor Roll this particular weekend.

The St. Louis Rams may be the weakest draw of Miami’s eight home games this season -- although Tennessee, Seattle and Jacksonville are also in that mix -- so honoring two popular former players when St. Louis came to town makes good business sense.

Now, it just so happens to be a pretty interesting matchup.

The Dolphins and Rams playing a meaningful game in 2012? Who would have thought that in August?

“It would be huge to get this win, go into the bye week and get fresh. Then we can get rolling,’’ Jake Long said.

The Rams, who won two games last year and a grand total of 18 over the past six, come into Miami at 3-2. The Dolphins are 2-3 yet have played well enough to where it is easy to see how they could have been 4-1.

A few made field goals against the Jets and Cardinals might have done the trick. Going into the bye week, the Dolphins — who are 4 1/2-point favorites — will have to settle for joining the league’s other .500 teams with a win.

Although Miami has been in their games, the Dolphins failed to close out close ones before holding off the Bengals 17-14 last Sunday. That was a win Miami needed after two overtime losses.

“I think it gives us a lot of confidence,’’ running back Reggie Bush said. “That was one of things that we talked about in the two, the loss we had against the Jets and Arizona, just winning the close games and just playing for four quarters and playing for however long we’re out there, giving a full effort physically and mentally.

“I think physically we’re playing well throughout the game. It’s the mental part where we kind of break down a little bit, and I think we had a step in the right direction this last game. It’s giving us a lot of confidence, especially for this next game, it’s going to be big.”

There are definitely some interesting side stories going into Sunday, aside from the halftime ceremony to fete Taylor and Thomas.

The most obvious is that of St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, who spurned the Dolphins’ advances in January and instead chose to coach the Rams.

Fisher has seemingly changed the culture of losing that surrounded the Rams organization the past few years — although it could be argued Joe Philbin is doing the same in South Florida.

The Rams are over .500 for the first time at any point in the past seven seasons.

“The culture has absolutely changed,’’ said defensive lineman Chris Long, who was the second overall pick in 2008 by St. Louis behind Miami’s Jake Long. The two have remained friends since that draft.

“Just the simple fact this organization is made up of a lot of different people this year than it was last year. The No. 1 thing Coach Fisher brought is confidence. We’re very confident in our coaches, the schemes we’re in, coach Fisher’s experience and his track record, those speak for themselves.

“When you take the field on Sunday, and you believe you can win, and you’ll be put in the right position to win, it’s empowering. We’ve taken that and run with it.’’

‘A developing team’

Philbin said: “They’re playing well. They’re a well-coached team and they’re certainly getting better as the year’s gone on, and it’s evident on the film. They have good players. They’re well-coached. ... They’re a developing team and they’re doing a nice job.’’

The Dolphins are playing just their third home game of the season after opening with a win over the Raiders before losing in overtime to the Jets.

St. Louis isn’t very good away from its downtown dome, starting this season 0-2. The Rams have lost five consecutive road games and have won just seven of their past 42 road games since 2007.

“I’ve heard people before say that winning football games on the road is the hardest thing in professional sports,’’ Chris Long said. “I haven’t played other sports, but I know it’s the hardest thing in our sport. Finding a way to win on the road is very tough.’’

For Miami, stopping the Rams’ offense will be key.

Although St. Louis is ranked 29th in total offensive yards and 23rd in scoring, the Rams — led by quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Steven Jackson — have been effective if not spectacular.

Top run defense

Miami’s defense has been great against the run and goes into Sunday ranked No. 1 in the league by allowing 61.4 rushing yards per game. Jackson averages 54.2 yards per game.

Bradford will be returning to Sun Life Stadium for the first time since his Oklahoma Sooners lost to the Gators in the 2008 national championship game. Now in his third season with the Rams after being the top pick in 2010, Bradford is ranked 22nd in the league with a quarterback rating of 78.6.

“He can make all the throws,’’ Philbin said. “His arm strength is excellent, he is an aware player. ... We’re going to have to play good pass defense and get good pressure on him.”

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