Thursday, November 5, 2009

Your 2009 Miami Dolphins: Weeks 5-7

Overdue for some quick recaps

Week 5

I know it was just an early regular season game but this Monday Night win against the Jets had to be one of the greatest wins of the decade for Miami. No really. I'm not kidding. First of all, beating the Jets is never a bad thing. That makes a game great in itself no? And doing it on Monday Night just adds to the thrill. Can you ever think about these two teams playing in prime team without thinking back to their most memorable Monday Night game: that horrific 2002 collapse when Miami blew the 23-point fourth quarter lead and lost 40-37 in OT. (The defining game of the Wannstadt Era). I still have post-traumatic Dolphins stress syndrome from that game. Finally some payback! Driving the length of the field to break Jet fans hearts with a game-winning TD in the final seconds. Awesome. And maybe the best part was just how great and how clutch Chad Henne played. We’ve been waiting this entire decade for Marino’s successor to show up and in his first start Henne sure looked like he might be that guy. That perfect bomb to Ginn was kind of a shock and everyone took notice when Henne zipped in those critical third down throws to keep that last drive alive. Actually Henne’s performance was the second-best part. The best was the pre-game Jets hype getting flushed down the toilet. “How are the Dolphins and their rookie quarterback going to be to able to handle that Rex Ryan defense?” Oh, we’re so scared. Not a Rex Ryan defense. Just forfeit the game right now. Jaws says they're too good.

Well, everybody got their answer didn't they. Miami handled that Rex Ryan defense by kicking its ass! A great night to be alive.

Week 6

Bye Week

Week 7

The high lasted all of one week. Miami faced an upgrade in quality of opponent in week 6: the undefeated New Orleans Saints. A powerhouse offense led by the man who could have and should have been quarterbacking the Dolphins for the last 9 years, Drew Brees. A surprising defense stifling its opponents weekly. Most were skeptical of Miami’s chances against the Jets the week before. Everybody thought the Saints were taking this one. And surprise! Miami, not New Orleans, looked like the Super Bowl favorite. They outplayed them. They outscored them. They throttled them. They crushed them. Unfortunately I’m only talking about the first half. Miami’s offense kept matriculating the ball down the field and the defense wasn’t letting Brees do anything. And then three disastrous mistakes somehow worked in tandem to turn the game around in New Orleans’ favor just as the first half ended.

First, leading 24-3 with less than two minutes left, the Dolphins had the ball at the Saints’ 40. Another score, especially a TD, probably puts the game out of reach so I understand Coach Sparano’s decision to aggressively press his team’s advantage. But he might have been better served keeping the ball on the ground. Given their remaining time outs Miami still had plenty of time to score. And they didn’t need that many more yards to get into field goal range. But they decided to try to pass it down the field. First play—sack, necessitated a second-down pass, a pass caught by Devone Bess and promptly fumbled. Blunder Number One. Scoring opportunity gone. The focus shifts from scoring to just stopping the Saints and preserving the still fat 21-point lead. Bress did manage to drive the Saints to the Miami 21 and field goal range with no time outs left. But the Saints got greedy. They took a shot at a TD with only 12 seconds left. Brees hit Colston inside the five, not the end zone! Two Dolphin defenders dragged him down at the one before he landed over the goal line and the clock ran out before the Saints could try a FG. 24-3 halftime lead. Scratch that. The clock didn’t run out! It SHOULD have but the refs never saw Colston’s knee hit and so they ruled the play a TD. The worst call in a game filled with bad ones. Blunder Number Two. A replay review correctly overturned it but the game stoppage gave the Saints time for the one-yard field goal attempt they didn’t deserve (there needs to be a rule tweak to address this; maybe some sort of time runoff). Ok, 24-6 is still a three TD lead. Still good. But enter Blunder Number Three (can you enter a blunder?) Sparano called time out! WTF? Given the time to talk about it and the Saints decide to go for the TD and of course they get it. 24-10 at the half. All momentum to the Saints. Second half? Brees picks up where he left off, on fire. Miami made some stupid mistakes (and got screwed by a Saints INT TD return that should have been a touchback for Miami). And so the game was lost. The Dolphins had that game. They should have won it. It could have been their defining game of the season. But they blew it.

Beyond the screwed-up end of the first half, the biggest problem, the biggest disappointment was the offense’s struggles to hold onto the football. The 2008 Dolphins were practically mistake-free. This year’s model keeps turning the ball over and dropping passes. And the biggest offender? Ted Ginn. He just can’t reel in perfectly catchable balls. Between Ginn and the already waived John Beck it’s looking more and more like that 2007 draft was almost as big a disaster as that season itself was.

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