The Miami Dolphins lost yesterday in the closing minutes of the game. Not by a miracle pass by Brett Favre that fans witnessed in the 1st half, or by some huge mistake on offense. In the end, time and luck just ran out. The Phins could have won this game and in fact at times it looked like they were going to pull it out. Instead, they start the season 0-1 leaving Miami fans wondering if the team they saw today was a much improved team, or much of the same.
On Friday, I posted my 5 keys to the game for the fins. With the game over, here is how my 5 keys stood up against the NY Jets and the Dolphins themselves.
Key 1: Pressure Brett Favre. The Dolphins did spend quite a bit of time in the NY Jet backfield however poor tackling allowed containment of Brett Favre to slip often allowing him to find an open WR. In many cases that receiver was Jericho Cotchery. On one play, a sure sack on a 4th down, the lack of tackling allowed Favre to throw a lame duck floater that came down into the arms of a Jets receiver for a touchdown. When the Phins kept Brett wrapped up and the secondary kept the WR’s moving, Favre and the Jets struggled.
Grade: D. Part of this loss can be directly attributed to attempts at arm tackles instead of wrapping Favre up and the breakdown of containment gave Favre time to find open receivers when he needed them most on the 2nd TD specifically, the Dolphins should have had the ball at mid-field, instead, lack of tackling left the Phins in the hole by 7.
Key 2: Open up the pass. Ronnie and Ricky never got going and the fact that offensive line rarely opened running lanes to keep the Jets defense on their toes, meant that the defense did not need to respect the passing game. The Jets stuffed the box and the Dolphins young offensive line allowed too much quick pressure on Pennington. Ricky and Ronnie carried the ball less than 20 times combined and the duo could not combine for 100 yards rushing together a direct reflection on the offensive line.
However, the TE’s, specifically Anthony Fasano and David Martin played very well and were able to exploit problems in the NY defense.
Grade: C. The Dolphins offensive line is still learning to play together but they need to protect the QB better and fire off the line to open running lanes for the backs.
Key 3: Mistake free football. A young team that is rebuilding can ill afford timely and costly penalties and turnovers. Against the Jets, the Phins did one well and the other not-so-well. Failing to turn the ball over except on the last play of the game, the Dolphins instead committed a few drive killing and a couple of drive extending penalties. Rookie Jake Long accounted for two penalties that would have in one case, extended the drive with a first down and on the second occasion possibly taking away a FG opportunity.
Grade: C. The lack of turnovers was impressive given the pressure by the Jets and the coverages down field, but the penalties need to stop. It’s hard enough playing against your opponent than to play against yourself as well. Penalties always create an uphill climb from behind.
Key 4: Special teams must be special: Unfortunately for Miami they were not. Long gains by the kick return game of the Jets and poor decisions by Ted Ginn were actually overshadowed by the poor punting of Brandon Fields who shanked one punt and short kicked another and Dan Carpenters kick-off out of bouds. Ted Ginn left balls to roll around the turf while waving off his fellow players only to see on the replay that Ginn was relatively alone. For all the changes made this offseason, the ST’s were supposed to be vastly improved. They were not.
Grade: D. Nothing done on special teams today made an impact in this game except a run by Davone Bess.
Key 5: Manageing the game. All in all I think for his first time, Tony Sparano did fine. He did not waste his timeouts on frivolous challenges and he decided to wait out the 2 minute warning rather than use his final timeout. That proved valuable as the Dolphins were then in position to win the game late. Sparano did well calling a simple game but the team as a whole struggled and that is Sparano’s responsibility.
Grade C. Sparano did what he was supposed to but the execution wasn’t there and that too is his responsibility.