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Behind the Dolphins' recently stingy third-down defense

The Miami Dolphins have been supremely stingy on third down of late, and Armando Salguero tweeted the statistic that quantifies how good they've been in their last two games:

(*According to Pro Football Reference, the Bills have converted 42.1 percent of their third-down attempts, which puts them in 7th in that stat category. ESPN has them at 41.1, which is 10th.)

Of course, this includes Miami's victory over New England in Week 13. In that game, the Patriots failed to convert on all 11 of their third-down attempts.

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Matt Burke was quoted saying, "I pretty much dialed up every blitz on my call sheet," when asked about his team's third-down effort against Brady and Co.

Even after getting blanked on third down in Miami, the Patriots remain in eighth in third-down efficiency during the 2017 season. Before their contest against the Dolphins, Tom Brady's club was converting 44.8 percent of their third downs.

The Dolphins have sent a blitz — five or more rushers — on 32 of their opposition's last 91 drop backs, good for a blitz rate of 35.1 percent.

More importantly, they've generated major quarterback pressure. Trevor Siemian and Brady were pressured by Dolphins defenders on 40 of their 91 drop backs, which equates to a 43.9 percent pressure rate.

To contrast, in Week 10 against the Panthers, when Carolina converted 78.6 percent of their third-down attempts, the Dolphins blitzed on just eight of Cam Newton's 35 drop backs (22.8 percent) and pressured him at the same rate.

The week before, when the Raiders converted on 53.3 percent of their third downs, Miami sent an extra rusher on just 19.3 percent of Derek Carr's drop backs (nine of 31) and created pressure 35.4 percent of the time.

While there isn't a direct correlation between the frequency at which the Dolphins blitz — and create pressure — and their ability to stop offenses from converting third downs, their recent spike in aggressiveness coupled with dominant third-down defense will likely lead to them sending the house at Tyrod Taylor on Sunday.

Buffalo's starting quarterback has the fifth-best adjusted completion percentage (67.8) among 39 qualifying signal-callers when facing pressure this season. His passer rating in those situations is 80.8, the sixth-best in the NFL among those quarterbacks.

(Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus)

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