NFL Miami DolphinsSan Francisco 49ers

Dolphins at 49ers Preview

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Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers


This week the 5-7 Miami Dolphins travel to the west coast to take on the 9-3 San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers are on a 4-1-1 run, and are 4-1-1 at home in 2012. San Francisco is battling with the NFC North winner (either Green Bay Packers or Chicago Bears...Both are 8-4 currently) for the #2 overall seed in the NFC. They are 21-6 under Jim Harbaugh (wow).

The Dolphins are in a 1-4 free-fall and are headed for their fourth straight losing season. They are going to fail to qualify for the playoffs for the 10th time in the last 11 years.

This slideshow article is a game preview that breaks down like this: Page one - you are there now!...Page two - SF offense vs Miami defense...Page three - Ryan Tannehill vs SF defense...Page four - Dolphins run game vs 49ers rush defense...Page five - Special teams...Page six - a few more stats for these two teams.

The Niners have played AFC East teams twice in 2012 and have won both games by a combined score of 79-3 (wow).

Both teams have wonderful front-7s.

San Fran is the #2 defense vs the pass, #3 vs the run, and numero uno for least points allowed (they allow a measly 14 points per Miami is #8 vs the run, but they are bad vs the pass (#26 overall vs the pass). Miami allows 21 points per game (#11).

Both teams are in the top seven for 3rd down defense.

One area where Miami has a potential leg up in this game is penalties. The Dolphins are a top five team for fewest penalties committed, while the 49ers are in the bottom five.

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49ers Offense VS Dolphins Defense

49ers Offense VS Dolphins Defense
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE


The Dolphins are using their 17th different quarterback since Dan Marino retired (article on why I consider Dan Marino the best QB ever is HERE). In San Francisco they seemingly have two legit quarterbacks. Alex Smith has been passed by Colin Kaepernick on the depth chart, but they are fine either way.

As far as grades go Smith is #17 and Kaep is #18 in the NFL. For completion percentage Smith is numero uno and Kaep is ninth. For QB rating Smith is #4 while Kaep is #7.

One massive reason that both 49ers quarterbacks have had success is they play behind an awesome offensive line. I am sure their goal is to cut down on sacks allowed, but overall they are really good.

Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, and Jared Odrick are the strength of the Dolphins, but they will have their hands full vs Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, and Jonathan Goodwin. This o-line opens holes for Frank Gore and the running backs to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry (#2 in NFL). The Dolphins yield just 3.7 yards per carry (#4 in NFL). The 49ers rush attack vs the Dolphins rush-D = strength vs strength.

Frank Gore seems like the type of RB that Miami usually handles. The majority of the play calls are runs up the gut, but Miami is excellent vs those. Gore has six games in 2012 where he has gone for 100+ yards from scrimmage. If he gets his 7th game north of 100 in this one then Miami is in trouble.

Wake has 8.5 of his 11 sacks on the road. He needs to be huge in this game. If either SF QB is given time to make a play then they have 3 WRs graded in the top 40 to throw to (only Green Bay has as many in top 40). Plus they have Vernon Davis also. SF is built to run the football, but the Dolphins pass-D is ranked #27 and there are plays available vs them.

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Ryan Tannehill VS 49ers Defense

Ryan Tannehill VS 49ers Defense
Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE


Many Dolfans disagree with my assessment that Tannehill has been bad in his rookie season. For me I see missed throw after missed throw. Certain accuracy issues, and production that puts him in the 30's for most QB stats. This SF defense is hardily the cure for what ails you.

Add the fact that Jake Long is OUT and we see an offensive line that was already struggling and are forced to make several changes.

Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are getting a lot of QB hurries, and Ahmad Brooks is really good too. They also have Aldon Smith who is en fuego. Smith's last six games have been wow wow wow. How about 13 sacks over the last 6 games. There are just two players in the entire NFL who have more than 13 sacks for the entire season (wow).

Nate Garner has played just 71 plays this season, and Josh Samuda just 4. Both are likely to see playing time in this game as the o-line is in flux with the Long injury.

One major issue in this game is the fact that Tannehill has zero first quarter touchdowns. That must change in this game. Miami's best chance in this game is to get an early lead and force the Niners to play from behind. SF is awesome with the lead. They are built to take a lead and then use their running game and defense to bring home the victory. SF is a different team when you force them to play from behind.

Tannehill has two touchdowns and five interceptions when throwing to his left. Three touchdowns and seven interceptions when throwing to the right. Over the middle he has been good with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Hey Mike Sherman, screens, Bush in the slot, and Fasano in this game please...

I would game-plan to attack Carlos Rogers. He is good, but his 2012 has not been as good as other CBs on SF like Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver. As for their safeties Dashon Goldson has been excellent, while Donte Whitner has been decent-at-best.

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Dolphins Running Game VS 49ers Defense

Dolphins Running Game VS 49ers Defense


Reggie Bush opened 2012 with a pair of 100+ yards from scrimmage games. He has not been close since. This 49ers defense is not the unit to excel against. We already looked at their d-line plus the outside linebacker skill of Smith and Brooks. Vs the run they also have monsters like NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Actually Willis is about as good as it gets in the NFL.

We have looked at the changes coming for the Dolphins o-line, but one constant is how good center Mike Pouncey has been. In this game he is their best chance as he goes up against Isaac Sopoaga who is not that good. Bush wants to show he is an every-down running back who can run up the gut, well this is his chance. The linebackers at the next level are awesome, but Pouncey beating Sopoaga should at least get Bush to the next level where he needs to make a juke/move and make a play.

Bush averages 3.6 yards per carry on the road. Much more will be needed in this game. He averages just 3.3 yards per carry to the right, and that was when the right side had consistent lineman (changes coming to the right side this week).

Daniel Thomas is getting just 3.1 yards per carry on the road. The reason he was playing ahead of Lamar Miller is that Miller was terrible with picking up blitzers which put the franchise (Tannehill) in harms way. Well lately Thomas' pass blocking has been terrible so I do hope we see Miller get a chance. The Dolphins are likely to lose Bush at seasons end so 'Phins phans want to see if there is a legit talent/replacement on the team in Miller.

Overall the Dolphins are in the bottom half of the NFL for almost all rushing categories, while the 49ers rush-D is in the top three for all rush categories. Miami averages 78 rush yards on the road, and a putrid 3.0 yards per carry. That sort of production will not cut it vs most NFL teams, and surely will not cut it vs the Niners.

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Special Teams

Special Teams


Ironic that if San Francisco had ex-Dolphin Ted Ginn Jr. last season in the NFC title game vs the New York Giants they likely would have won that game and went to the Super Bowl. Kyle Williams replaced an injured Ginn and his miscues were the difference in the game.

Williams and Ginn both are on the team this season. On kickoff returns Williams averages 27.2 return yards, and Ginn averages 23.0. Neither has a return touchdown. The Dolphins have Marcus Thigpen (for article on Thigpen's 2012 play CLICK HERE). On kick returns Thiggy is averaging 28.9 yards per return, and he has a touchdown.

For punt returns Ginn is the main guy for San Fran. He averages 10.0 yards per return (no touchdowns). Thigpen averages 12.7 yards per punt return, and he has a punt return touchdown.

49ers punter Andy Lee averages 42.3 net yards per punt (#3 in NFL). Miami averages 41.2 net yards per punt (#9 in NFL) behind Brandon Fields.

Both teams are in the bottom six in the NFL for field goal percentage.

David Akers is 21 for 30 for SF. From over 40 yards he is just 7 for 14. On attempts under 40 he is 14 for 15. He is 32 for 32 on extra points.

Dan Carpenter is 9 for 9 on field goals under 40 yards, and 8 for 13 on field goals of 40 yards or more. He is 24 for 24 on extra points.

53% of SF kickoffs are touchbacks (#10 in NFL). 44% of Miami's kickoffs are touchbacks (19th).

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'Phins at Niners

'Phins at Niners


I am looking for much better play calling and execution on 1st down. The Dolphins are converting just 35% of 3rd downs. Bush is getting just 3.6 yards per carry on 2nd down so when Miami struggles on 1st down then 3rd down becomes 3rd and long which is death vs any team, but especially the 49ers. SF allows opponents to convert just 30% of 3rd downs (#2 in NFL).

Tannehill has one touchdown and six interceptions on 3rd down. His QB rating of 60.2 on 3rd down is his worst on any down.

As far as turnovers go the Niners have turned the ball over just a dozen times in 2012 (3rd best in NFL) while Miami has 22 turnovers. The 49ers have created just 17 takeaways. 17 teams are better at that, but Miami is not one of them. The Dolphins have a putrid 12 takeaways (only 3 teams have been worse).

Most of us would like to see more deep passes from the Dolphins offense. Tanny is 49 for 99 on passes of 11 yards or more. He has just four touchdowns on those passes, and six interceptions.

Tannehill's three best games have come in his three games vs NFC opponents (2-1 vs NFC, only loss was the Arizona Cardinals OT game...Miami beat the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks).

This game is on the heels of a six hour cross-country flight for the Dolphins. This will be a tough game for Miami. They will need to be awesome, and mistake free.

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