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Keys to Victory: Complementary football in Miami


Wink Martindale's wife called him the other night before she went to bed. She was worried about the Giants' defensive coordinator.

"Are you getting any sleep?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm sleeping like a baby," he responded.

In the Martindale household, though, the interpretation of that phrase is not what most people think.

"Every two hours," he said, "I wake up and cry and go to the bathroom and try to go back and get some more sleep."

Such is life for coaching staffs when they prepare for the Miami Dolphins, who have the most total yards (2,044) through the first four games of a season in NFL history. They also lead the league in scoring 37.5 points per game.

"I mean, that's unbelievable," Martindale said. "It's unbelievable, but that's where this league's heading with some of the other scores. The points have been up pretty high. I told our guys, not the players, I told our staff because we're all old enough to remember The Greatest Show on Turf. This is like that, 2023 supersonic. I mean, they are fast. Faster than that."

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

Here are three ways the Giants (1-3) can slow down the Dolphins (3-1) and get their defensive coordinator a few more winks of sleep come Sunday night:

Don't play yourself out of the game in the first half

Sunday will be the 18th instance since the 1970 merger between the No. 1 scoring offense vs. the last-ranked scoring offense in Week 5 or later. The team with the top offense went 16-1 and averaged 30.2 points per game. That is the mountain the Giants have to climb, but they can't start by digging another hole. They have been outscored, 77-9, in four first halves this season and are one of two teams who have not run an offensive play with the lead this season (Jets). Miami has scored 86 first-half points, the most among 32 clubs.

Don't make it a track meet

Instead, the Giants need to set up hurdles for Tua Tagovailoa before the Dolphins quarterback can distribute to his speedy playmakers. That's what the Bills did in their 48-20 victory in Week 4, seven days after the Dolphins scored 70 points (second-most in NFL history) against the Broncos. Tagovailoa was sacked four times and hit a career-high nine times. He is 10-10 when sacked multiple times, 14-4 in others.

"They have elite, not just good speed, elite speed at the receiver and the running back positions," coach Brian Daboll said in his weekly interview with "The quarterback does a tremendous job of operating. He gets the ball out on time and on rhythm and gives his skill players a chance. Skill players who can beat you on any three levels, who can get to top speed very, very quickly and run by a defense. They can also run intermediate routes with the coverage being way back deep if defenses choose. They can throw, catch and run - throw at (Tyreek) Hill or (Jaylen) Waddle or either running back, they can take a two-yard pass and make it 20 yards really quick. So, they're explosive, they make a ton of explosive plays and usually creating explosive plays leads to scoring points.

"You have to choose how you want to play a team that has that much speed. You play soft and you've got to be really good tacklers. You play aggressive, then you have to be able to run with them. They place a significant amount of stress on the defense. You want to play more guys back, the running game opens up. You want to play more guys down, you're singled up against premier, elite speed players. So, it's a challenge. It's not surprising they're scoring a lot of points, and Tua has done an exceptional job of playing quarterback for the Dolphins."

Do play complementary football

Last week, the Giants allowed a franchise-record 11 sacks, turned over the ball three times (including a 97-yard INT for a TD), committed six special teams penalties, and played their fourth straight game without recording a takeaway.

"(Complementary football is) not a new concept," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. "It's something that we did all last year. It's something that we've done when we've had success, and that's any football team, you have to play complementary football and one phase has to help the other one even when the other one is down. Kickoff return, punt return, offense, defense, turnovers, all those things have to work as one and that's just something we have to do a better job of as a group and as a unit and as a team, we've just got to play better complementary football."

Notes & stats to impress your fellow football fans

The Giants are 7-3 against the Dolphins all-time, their second-best record vs. any current team (11-4 vs. Chiefs).

Tagovailoa under pressure in 2023: 53.3 completion percentage, 7.3 yards per attempt, one touchdown, one interception, 74.0 passer rating. Not under pressure: 76.4 completion percentage, 10.3 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns, two interceptions, 125.8 passer rating.

Dolphins running back De'Von Achane, a rookie third-round pick, became the fourth player in NFL history to have at least six touchdowns in his first three career games. He joined Chicago's Dutch Sternaman (1920), Detroit's Billy Sims (1980), and Kansas City's Kareem Hunt (2017).

The Dolphins' defense ranks bottom 10 in scoring, total yards and passing defense in 2023.


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