Week 14: Miami Dolphins At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackThe Dolphins have gotten a decent performance from Ryan Tannehill, but it has not been enough to make this team a winner. Tannehill does not have impressive numbers – 7 TDs and 12 interceptions – but head coach Joe Philbin is impressed with his talent, intelligence and leadership ability. Tannehill knows how to buy time and throw on the run, and will have to employ that strength vs. the Niners.Jim Harbaugh believes he has a winning quarterback in Collin Kaepernick. It’s certainly a controversial move considering Alex Smith was completing 70 percent of his passes, but Kaepernick is a top-level athlete with a powerful arm. However, Kaepernick is still learning on the job and will make mistakes from time to time and that could cost the Niners.
- OffenseRunning back Reggie Bush is just not tough enough to be a big-time running back in the NFL. He likes to flash his speed from time to time, but Bush does not like to get hit. The Dolphins don’t have a very talented group of receiver, but Brian Hartline will sell out to catch any pass while Davone Bess is solid. Tight end Anthony Fasano is a hard worker who can make the tough catch.With all the publicity that goes to the Niners’ quarterback controversy, few are paying attention to the superb play of running back Frank Gore. The Niners’ No. 1 running back has gained 972 yards and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Michael Crabtree is the best of the Niners’ solid group of receivers. He has a team-high 57 receptions. Vernon Davis is one of the most powerful tight ends in the NFL.
- DefenseThe Dolphins play hard on defense and that helps them overcome mistakes. They are effective against the run, ranking eighth in that category while they are 20th overall in defense. Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby is a solid tackler with 93 stops and he also has eight passes defensed. Defensive end Cameron Wake has a team-high 10.5 sacks.The Niners bring the pain on a regular basis under outstanding defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. That’s because they are loaded with big, fast and aggressive players. It’s hard to take your eyes off pass-rushing outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who has a league-high 17.5 sacks. Speedy linebacker NaVorro Bowman has a team-high 108 tackles.
- Special TeamsThe Dolphins have done a good job in kickoff coverage this year. Return specialist Marcus Thigpen has been a revelation, returning both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown. Placekicker Dan Carpenter has made 17-of-22 FG attempts, but he is 0-of-3 on kicks of 50 yards or more.David Akers has not been dependable this season. He may still have explosive leg strength, but he misses too many makeable kicks for the 49ers. Akers has made 21-of-30 FG attempts this year and he missed a potential game-winner against the Rams in overtime in Week 13. Ted Ginn has explosive speed, but he has not had a kickoff return longer than 38 yards this season.
The Dolphins might have had a chance in this game if the Niners had been able to take care of business in St. Louis in Week 13. They lost to the Rams in overtime, so that means they are not going to look past Miami. The 49ers have too much firepower on offense and too much defensive strength to lose this game at home.