In towns such as Buffalo, N.Y.; Indianapolis and Nashville, defensive backfields are made up of mere mortals. And yet, the Dolphins failed to capitalize.
So how, then, can Miami’s grounded pass attack expect to survive the Seahawks’ self-named “Legion of Boom?”
In Seattle, the defensive backfield has a superpower: The corners are abnormally large.
So, to keep alive the DC Comics meme here, the Dolphins will definitely need less Clark Kent and more Man of Steel out of Ryan Tannehill on Sunday.
“[I] really need to go out and play well for four quarters, not just part of the game, but for four quarters and get us out of this slump,” said Tannehill, hoping to bounce back from the worst two-game span of his young career.
But the Seahawks, at least on paper, are no slump-busters. The Seahawks rank third league-wide in pass defense, surrendering just 196 yards per game. Opposing teams have managed only eight touchdowns through the air against them in 2012.
It might not be a fluke. Seattle sent three defensive backs to the Pro Bowl last season: safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and corner Brandon Browner.
And Seattle’s fourth starting defensive back — Richard Sherman — might be the best of the bunch. Sherman’s four interceptions are tied for fourth-most in the league, and as he showed in the Seahawks’ stunning 24-23 victory against New England, he’s fearless.
Sherman picked off Tom Brady that day, then taunted the Patriots afterward — on the field, and on Twitter. Sherman posted a picture on the social networking site of himself getting in Brady’s face, with the caption “U Mad Bro?”
You’re allowed to talk when you’re not only a member of one of the best defenses in the league, but also one that is among the most physical. The trend on defense today is to play small and quick corners, but the Seahawks instead have gone big and strong. Sherman and Browner are taller than 6-2, and will try to jam Miami’s receivers at the line.
“We don’t look at them like, ‘They’re big, they’re physical,’ ” Dolphins receiver Marlon Moore said. “Nobody’s scared or anything like that, but we know we have to go out there and play physical and be able to match their intensity, and exceed it.”
Intensity is all well and good. But what the offense really has been missing is execution and explosiveness.
The Dolphins don’t have a pass play of 20 or more yards since the Colts game on Nov.4. Their seven aerial touchdowns are the second-fewest in the league. And Tannehill has thrown five interceptions in his past 59 pass attempts.
Conventional wisdom outside the organization has hardened: Miami’s passing game has been severely hampered by the offense’s inability to stretch the field. And it’s a sentiment that is shared in Davie as well.
“Everyone in the building” at the Dolphins facility is aware the team needs to add a dynamic speed receiver or two this offseason, a source told The Miami Herald last week.
But that doesn’t help the Dolphins in the short term: They still have six games to play with the group they have.
And by jettisoning wide receiver Jabar Gaffney on Tuesday, the front office eliminated an option at a time when firepower is needed. Just days after Gaffney’s release, the league suspended him for two games for unspecified reasons, possibly explaining the Dolphins’ move.
Of course, every misfortune is another man’s opportunity, and perhaps the Dolphins want to see what they have in Moore and Rishard Matthews over the season’s final month.
Moore has played mostly special teams this season, although he does have one touchdown reception.
Matthews spent eight of the first nine weeks of his rookie season on the inactive list before finally seeing the field on offense against the Bills. In that game, he caught one pass for 19 yards in the Dolphins’ failed comeback bid.
When asked what had held him back up until this point, Matthews cited mental errors and lack of trust among the coaching staff. But neither is an issue any longer, he said.
“You never know what’s going to happen week to week,” Matthews said. “I was traveling and [not playing]. You’ve just got to be ready, whenever you number is called.”
Particularly Sunday, when Sherman and his cast of fellow super-villains come to town.