The Miami Dolphins opened their home season with a raucous sell out crowd in a sea of orange. They kicked off and pinned the Colts at the 20. 12 seconds later and the Colts had a 7-0 lead and the Phins looked to be in for a long night. The quick strike offense of the Colts would touch the ball for no more than another 14 and a half minutes…the rest of the game. They wouldn’t need to as they left town with a victory. For the Phins, it was another Monday night meltdown.
The score, 27-23 is hardly indicative of the game that was presented on the field. The Dolphins behind a legitimate power running attack owned the time of possession and kept Peyton Manning seated squarely on the sidelines. The Phins ran over 70 offensive plays in the game and despite marching down the field themselves on the opening drive for a TD it was stalled drives that ate clock but yielded FG’s that doomed them offensively while on defense the quick strike was the knife to the heart of Dolphins fans.
The Wildcat celebrated it’s 1st birthday in Miami and so long as Pat White didn’t come into the game it worked to near perfection. The draft pick that was supposed to make the WC better did nothing to put the defense on edge and instead, both drives that he showed up in were met with stalls that put the ball back in the hands of Manning and Co. Still, this loss was nowhere near Pat White’s fault and in reality despite the fact that the team did nothing with him in the game, White did nothing to shoulder the burden of the loss. That rested on poor LB and safety play and what can only be described as disgusting play in the waning moments by the teams supposed field general. Chad Pennington.
Pennington doesn’t tweet. He doesn’t keep track of stats, doesn’t read blogs, doesn’t do a lot of things. He also apparently doesn’t know how to rally the troops either. Pennington is not a leader of this team, he is a caretaker and if his play continues down this path Henne will be playing by years end. But we aren’t to CP just yet. In order for CP to monumentally fail on his final drive, the defense had to suck it up first…and suck they did.
The Dolphins 2nd to last drive stalled in the infield dirt and K Dan Carpenter put the 46 yard field goal straight down the middle and gave the Dolphins a 3 point lead with just over 3 minutes left. The ST’s stopped the Colts on the 20 and 35 seconds later the Colts had a 4 point lead. The Dolphins spent the better part of the night harassing Manning but only got to him once. The constant pressure set the Phins up well to force Manning to fire off quickly. The scheme worked for most of the game, but that was because the LB’s were covering Dallas Clark and the CB’s had control of Reggie Wayne.
That of course all changed as Manning took shorter drops to allow the rushing defense to swarm past him and then he exploited the man on man coverage of LB vs. TE Dallas Clark. Then Reggie Wayne got into the act with a first down, but in the end, it was a rookie WR who’s name I can’t remember that scampered from a bubble screen 30 yards downfield to score the winning TD. The Dolphins had 2 timeouts, the two minute warning, 3 minutes, and the ball just shy of their own 20. Manning needed 12 seconds to score his first TD and 34 seconds to score his last. The Dolphins couldn’t get out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage in 20 seconds. As stated earlier…it was disgusting. And that is where Chad Pennington is to blame.
Pennington for the most part had a decent night. While he missed more than one open target, floated several passes that soared just out of reach of the WR, and missed on two scoring attempts, he played a typical CP game. Slow, methodical, and mistake free. Until the end. Last week, the Dolphins lost to Atlanta and Pennington seemed to lack that fire or emotion of a field general. We all remember Dan Marino staring down a WR for missing a ball that Dan threw badly and the next time around Dan would put the ball out of reach but that WR would somehow catch it. It was called leading and Marion accepted nothing less. Pennington isn’t like that and he needed to be last night.
3 minutes left in the game and the Dolphins final drive started out fine. A run here, a run there, a first down completion. A run here, there, a firs down. Somewhere around the 2 and a half minute mark, the Phins stood in the huddle watching the play clock tick, sauntered up to the line of scrimmage and called a time out. 20 plus seconds had ticked off. Two plays later they couldn’t get a play off before the two minute warning.
Chad Pennington walked to the LOS after that and despite plenty of time to use a hurry up offense, the team never really did. CP didn’t command his line to get in position, he simply walked. Over and over again while seconds ticked off the clock. Oddly enough the crowd of thousands that had earlier been so loud that you could easily hear over your TV speakers as they drowned out the announcers were just as easily heard now to the screaming of hurry. The team never obliged. The final 3 plays ate up almost 40 seconds and two of the passes were incomplete as one went to the endzone that skipped off Ted Ginn’s fingers and the other sailed over Ginn down the sideline. Those are automatic clock stoppers.
Pennington and the Dolphins ended their night with a 40 yard hail-Mary that got picked off in the endzone. For 3 quarters the Dolphins played some of the best football they had in over a decade. For 45 minutes they held the ball to a paltry less than 15 for the Colts. They dominated the line of scrimmage, dominated the running game, dominated the special teams, kept Reggie Wayne out of the picture (props to Sean Smith and Vontae’ Davis) but in the end, couldn’t put 7’s on the board instead of 3’s and that kept Manning in the game.
The Dolphins are 0-2 and head to San Diego to finish up a very tough opening 2009 only to return to play Buffalo and then Jets. Not an easy opening schedule by any stretch. Last nights game was lights out better than week 1 but in the end the result was the same and the play was questionable at best. San Diego will give the Phins more of a fit with tiny powerhouse runner Darren Sproles and TE Antonio Gates. The 3rd pro-bowl TE the teams will face in as many weeks.