Eagles-Dolphins: Same record, opposite directions


The Eagles and Dolphins have the same record. Theyre not playing like it, though.

The Eagles and Dolphins meet Sunday afternoon in Miami, and both teams go into the game at SunLife Stadium with identical 4-8 records.

The Eagles? Theyve lost four of their last five games. The Dolphins? Theyve won four of their last five.

And not only have the Dolphins been winning, theyve been shutting people down.

Michael Vick will make his return against a defense thats allowed just four touchdowns in its last five games, giving up a microscopic 10.8 points per game during that five-game stretch.

Miami, under highly regarded defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, has not allowed a rushing TD in its last seven games. Its last three opponentsthe Bills, Cowboys and Raidershave converted just four of 32 third downs.

Were playing good, were playing really good, fourth-year coach Tony Sparano said. Theres guys running to the football. Theres guys making plays when the ball is in the air. Theyre contesting balls, changing the line of scrimmage. Theres some really good effort plays out there. ...

Guys are just starting to feed pretty good off each other. Good Pressure. The pressure has gotten better as of late. Starting to get to the quarterback a little bit better, and I think thats caused some problems too.

The Dolphins allowed 38 points and 622 yards on opening day in a loss to the Patriots. Since then, theyre allowing just 16.5 points and 293 yards per game and have the No. 4-ranked defense in the league.

Overall, theyre fifth in rush defense, ninth in third-down efficiency and fourth in red-zone efficiency.

Of all those things, getting off the field on third down has been really big, Sparano said. Getting the offense back out there, at bats, field position, those kind of things I think theyve done a really good job with. ... They just go out there and theyre playing good and the coaches are doing a good job.

Jason Taylor, who leads active players with 136sacks, is still going strong, and the Dolphins are also getting terrific production on defense from weak-side linebacker Cameron Wake (6sacks), inside linebacker Kevin Burnett, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and strong safety Yeremiah Bell.

The Eagles are third in the NFL in yards per game but only 16th in points per game, thanks to their 29 turnovers (most in the NFL) and poor performance in the red zone (24 touchdowns on 51 drives, 21st-best in the league).

This will be the Eagles first trip to Miami since they won 34-27 on a Monday night in 2003. Thats their only win ever in South Florida after five losses.

They present a tremendous amount of problems for a lot of reasons, Sparano said. The running back is one of the best players Ive seen in a long time. This dude is a good player. And the receiver and the tight end are really good players. ... They make 20-yard runs with the runner, but Michael Vick can extend plays and he can run and he can do all the things that create plus-20-yard, 30-yard plays, chunk plays.

And these kind of games coming up you cant allow those kind of things to happen, so we have our hands full we know that. Its a hungry team. Well have two hungry teams playing. Itll be fun.
E-mail Reuben Frank at frank@comcastsportsnet.com

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