TORONTO - The Miami Dolphins switched special-teams coaches after an embarrassing performance two weeks ago to New England.
Sunday they won a game in overtime at Lambeau Field on a 44-yard FG by Dan Carpenter in overtime.
The easy jump to make is to say the improved special teams were the reason. Carpenter, after all, is part of the special-teams unit.
But that would be the wrong jump to make.
The real difference in Sunday’s win was just how much time Chad Henne had to find his receivers.
Brandon Marshall is a gifted receiver but even his 10 catches for 127 yards were aided by the lack of pass rush the normally active Packers front seven managed.
And the primary reason Henne had so much time was because Clay Matthews, the leading sackmaster in the NFL, was on the Green Bay sidelines in civvies instead of chasing Henne from one side of the field to the other.
Without Matthews, who took part in pre-game warmups but was ruled out, the Green Bay pass rush was all but non-existent.
Henne, who was hearing plenty from his detractors leading up to the Green Bay game, had to feel like the crown jewels the way he was protected throughout the afternoon.
Even so, Henne still managed to throw a red-zone interception and had enough misses with receivers open that his detractors will continue to find their voices.
It got even easier for Henne in the second half after Matthews’ replacement, Brady Poppinga, left the game before the half with a knee injury.
Credit the Dolphins for taking advantage of the situation, but this one was gift-wrapped for the Fish.
No, Matthews was just the latest in a long line of injuries that have hit the Packers of late.
Starting tailback Ryan Grant has been replaced by Brandon Jackson. The Packers other starting outside linebacker, Nick Barnett, is gone for the season. His backup, Brandon Chiller, was inactive this week, meaning the Pack were down to third-string linebackers on both sides of the field.
The Pack were also without starting defensive end Ryan Pickett.
It was like Henne had a bubble around him for the entire afternoon.
Even the key play of the game for the Dolphins, a penalty on recently-activated Robert Francois who mistakenly lined up over centre on a Miami punt that wound up giving the Fish a first down, was indirectly the result of Matthews’ absence.
Francois was only activated from the practice roster for the game in anticipation of Matthews not being able to go.
A 23-yard touchdown strike on a screen pass to tight end Anthony Fasano followed and marked one of the few times Henne was even touched. Fasano threw a token block at a Green Bay defender. Henne then waited until the defender was on him to toss it back to Fasano, who had a wide-open 23-yard romp to the end zone.
It was a huge win for the Dolphins, who move to 3-2 with 2/5 of the toughest part of their schedule behind them. Still remaining are a home date against the Steelers, where the Fish have yet to win this year, before back-to-back road games in Cincinnati and Baltimore. As bad as the Fish have been at home, they are now a perfect 3-0 on the road.
Wak-ing the monster
As bad as the Packers pass rush was on Sunday, it was a completely different story on the other side of the ball.
And the Dolphins can thank former B.C. Lions and two-time CFL defensive MVP Cameron Wake for that.
Wake doubled his sack total for the season yesterday to six as he got to Aaron Rodgers three times and battered him at least another handful of times.
Wake made Packers rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga look like a Walmart turnstile as he consistently ran by, around or through the Packers’ first-round pick this year.
By game’s end, Wake had single-handedly delivered six hits on Rodgers, which was two more than the entire Green Bay defence managed on Henne.