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What a difference five weeks can make in the NFL. A 0-7 start for the Miami Dolphins suddenly seems like a distant memory from a different season. Miami has now won four of its last five after pounding the Oakland Raiders 34-14 on Sunday. “We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Reggie Bush, “but I couldn’t be more proud.”
If this recent run wasn’t impressive enough, the Dolphins nearly shut out their opponent for the first time since a 2006 victory over the New England Patriots. The Raiders were unable to get on board until they scored two touchdowns during the last eight minutes of the game.
“We couldn’t run. We couldn’t stop the run. We didn’t pass very well,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “Just a bad day at the office.” The Raiders offense definitely missed Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Taiwan Jones, and Jacoby Ford. All four were inactive due to injury.
Carson Palmer threw for 273 yards, but most of them came in the second half once the game was already out of reach. On top of that, the Raiders rushed for only 46 yards the entire afternoon. It’s even more astounding that Oakland sported the league’s fourth ranked rushing attack before kickoff.
Instead, it was ironic that the Dolphins’ ground game that put up huge numbers. The team ran for a total of 209 yards, 73 of which Daniel Thomas contributed on 13 carries. But the majority of the yardage came from Bush, who has been criticized throughout his career for not being a hard-nosed runner that goes between the tackles to pick up the tough yards. He’s been committed to changing that perception since coming to Miami.
A 100-yard performance on 22 carries certainly helped his cause. For Bush, it was his second 100-plus yard rushing game of the season, and just the third of his career. He also added a one-yard rushing touchdown to his final line. A 21-yard punt return by Davone Bess in the second quarter began what would eventually be their first touchdown drive on their own 37.
Matt Moore led a 63-yard drive that Bess would finish off with a 13-yard touchdown reception that would give them a 13-0 lead. While the Dolphins began moving the ball more efficiently, the Raiders never even brought the ball deep into Miami territory until it was too late. A 77-yard kickoff return by Clyde Gates to open the third quarter would put the Dolphins on the Oakland 25.
A pass interference call against the Raiders in the end zone would set up Bush for his touchdown. Kevin Burnett returned an interception by Palmer on Oakland’s ensuing drive to wrap up Miami’s scoring with 34 points. Palmer would finish up the overall scoring with two insignificant touchdown passes to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Darrius Heyward-Bey in the fourth quarter.
The loss was severely deflating for the Raiders, as a late Broncos victory over the Minnesota Vikings officially knocked them out of first place in the AFC West. Both teams sit at 7-5, but Denver currently holds the tiebreaker with a week nine victory over Oakland. Meanwhile, 4-8 Miami continues to build toward next season. They have shown remarkable improvement over the last few weeks and hope to win like this in 2012.
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