Monday Night Meltdown: Dolphins Lose To Colts

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.

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  • hawk9810

    I agreed with you last week Brian, however this week I don’t!! Yes the final drive clock management was horrible. But I don’t think CP is the only one to blame. Never once did I see the coaching staff trying to light a fire up their butts, I think they were trying to milk all the time off the clock so Manning didn’t get another chance had we scored.. Ginn has to come up with the catch in the endzone!! Our defense has to make tackles!! And if your going to continue to blitz Manning he will tear you apart which is what he did!! HATS OFF to our OFFENSE!! For the most part you guys played GREAT. Our line looks much better than it did in week one and Ricky and Ronnie were running like men with a big chip!! We showed last night we have the ablilty to play with anyone now we need to find a way to win the game!! That means making a tackle, catching a pass, managing clock or just someone making a big play that changes the game. This game is NOT CP’s fault by any means!!!!!!!!!!!! We were 0-2 last year and we took off so to quote Coach Sparano “Why not us” Why not us” GO PHINS!!

  • Dolphan66

    I agree with hawk9810.  The writer of these articles is always WAY too quick to blame Pennington.  Chad wasn’t asked to do much last night, but he executed whenever he was called upon.  He had countless crisp passes on 3rd down that moved the chains and kept the offense on the field.  Yes, the time management wasn’t the greatest on the last drive, but in the end, Chad did everything he needed to do.  He moved the team the entire length of the field and hit Ginn square on the hands in the endzone for what should have been the game winning TD.  If Ginn makes that catch, which any #1 wideout should, we would all be praising Chad for winding down the clock on that drive and scoring right at the end, beautifully leading the Dolphins to the W.
    Chad did everything he needed to to win that game, in the end it was poor defensive coverage over the middle of the field and Ginn’s TWO dropped passes in the endzone that lost it for us.  Next week is an absolute must win, but if we don’t find a way to effectively cover TE’s its gonna be an extremely tough game against Gates and the Chargers.

  • Dolphin36

    Didn’t see the coaches light a fire in their butts!!These guys are pro’s…Not bantam football.You don’t see Indy’s coach puttin a fire in Mannings butt.Being a QB,one of your jobs is clock management.CP,did a horrible job at it.Look at what Manning did to Miami when they had 12 men on the field.he said attack.The guys knew exactly what he was saying and got the penalty.Hopefully CP will learn to lead and we can win some games..

  • Brian Miller

    my assessment albeit brief was spot on whether you agree with it our not.  The fact is that I did say CP didn’t play a bad game that he played his game.  I also stated that it was HIS  play on the final drive that was absolutely disgusting.  He is a freaking veteran who couldn’t get his team to the line…not once, not twice, but just about every freaking time they needed to be at the line.  I saw it, the chat room participants saw it, and the announcers saw it.  Chad Pennington is the one who needs to get his team to the line not Tony Sparano, Bill Parcells, Dan Henning, or anyone else.  THE QB IS.  Matt Ryan does it, hell Trent Edwards does it.  Not Chad Pennington.  Absolutely no hurry up.

    So o.k. maybe they tried to milk the clock down when the clock was still above 3 minutes but they needed a TD not a FG to win that game.  Moving the ball down field was more important.  At that time they weren’t playing to win and sorry, keeping the ball out of Mannings’ hands on the last drive should have been the least of their worries.

    People are way too easy to place blame and my blame isn’t on CP for this games outcome…just that he completely lacks any authority on that offense when it’s needed…that is without question evidenced by last night.  The loss goes to the piss poor coverage of Dallas Clark and the final play of the secondary on Mannings last drive.  Oh, and of course missed tackles again.  The defense played great but they didn’t close it out.

    It was a very good game to watch and had it been a win then we all would be happy…but if anyone knows me over the last 3 years one thing is for certain…wins or losses I call the same way and CP wouldn’t have got a pass for the way he handled that final drive.  He does that far too much.

  • hawk9810

    Hey I hate losing just as much as the next guy!! And I did say the time management was horrible. However I still think they were trying to take as much time off the clock as they could while still trying to score. But we should have never been in that situation. If we make some of the catches or a couple of the tackles then we may have had the lead. The more I think about it I’m still puzzled by our decision to run to the hash marks on 3rd and 6 instead of getting a first down and trying to score a touchdown instead of a field goal with 3:35 or something remaining. I know CP is a professional and that it is his job to get the team to the line and call the plays, it just seemed to me that no one wanted urgency not even the sidelines. If he was too slow in the coaches eyes don’t you think they would have been yelling for him to hurry up? I would like to see CP take a little more aggressive attitude towards the game and hopefully he does. Didn’t mean to fire you up Brian for the most part we agree a hell of a lot more than we disagree.. GO PHINS!!

  • Kevin

    I like your posts, I really do, but I have to agree with Hawk and 66 on this.  You claimed that CP monumentally failed on that final drive.  However, I can’t understand how putting the ball in the endzone to your receiver 43 yards down the field with 20 seconds left so that your receiver is the only person that can catch the ball is a monumental failure.  I do not buy CP not rushing to the line of scrimmage at the beginning of that drive as his way of keeping Manning off the field (though as a by product it would have been useful since Manning only needed about 1 min per scoring drive all night, which is really why the Colts only had the ball for so little, coupled with an incredible ground game and tiny spurts of decent defense by us).  He was looking at the sidelines like he was completely confused and had no idea what was going on.  I’m not sure that the coaching staff had even decided to run the 2 minute offense at that time…
    Anyway, I digress.  CP didn’t run that drive to perfection, but he did what he had to do.  It was the guy on the other end of that “what-should-have-been-the-game-winner” play that didn’t do what he had to do.
    You claim that keeping the ball out of Manning’s hands should have been the least of their worries.  Well, it was!  That was made evident when the COACHES ran it on third and 6 and then kicked the field goal to go up 23-20!  How do you make that call!?!?  After watching Manning take the next possession to the house in like 40 seconds, I’m sure it was on their minds, but too little too late.
    I really do feel like if we want to place the blame on anyone, it should be on the coaches, not CP (ok…Ginn too   ugh).  Pennington is an excellent qb, one who LED a 1-15 team to an AFC East division title.  However, and this is to you Dolphin 36, how can you even begin to compare CP to Manning?  “Oh, I can’t believe our qb isn’t as good as the best qb to play the position, an absolute field general at the highest level….”.  Wake up, man.
    I know we’re all incredibly disappointed by this game.  I was really hoping to wake up this morning and find out that Miami had traded Ginn for a pregame meal or something…  But we shouldn’t throw CP under the bus.  He has a reputation of doing just enough to win the games.  Well, you know what, last night he did.  And then Ginn dropped it…

  • Dolphin36

    No one compared Manning to CP.CP is a veteran just like Manning.He should know to get the ball down the field as quick as possible.As for keeping manning off the field.Thats why you have a defense.Score the points and let the defense take care of manning.For the first time ever i saw confusion in Mannings face last night.He didn’t know what the defense was lined up for, which was good.If Miami had just gone ahead and scored the points with time left.Then if Manning came back and won the game for them.Then the best team won.But sitting on the ball just so the other QB can’t get his hands on it,then lose the game.Is rediculous.We’ll see how next weeks game goes.Hopefully they will kick butt

  • Brian Miller

    Exactly!  If your down by 2 or by 1 or even by 3…you set yourself up for the FG and you take your sweet time…but you never put yourself in a position to let the clock run out when your down by 4.  NEVER.  CP should have taken them down the field QUICKLY and then worried about the time, not the other way around…and that is WHY it’s a monumental failure on his part.


  • http://phinphanatic joe

    the last part of the game made me sick why cp took his time i don’t know but he should know better. To me i would say 90% of lost should go to our number 1 wr ginn he should had those td passes he dropped what a waste

  • Kevin

    I didn’t explain myself clearly enough, sorry about that…

    I stated, “I do not buy CP not rushing to the line of scrimmage at the beginning of that drive as his way of keeping Manning off the field”.  That means that I do not believe that they took their sweet time on purpose, that purpose being  to keep Manning off the field.  I whole-heartedly do no believe that.  If you look at the face of CP at the beginning of that drive, he is staring at the sideline with a look of bewilderment.  I really believe that the coaches did not make a decision between whether or not they were in hurry up mode, and that caused a lot of confusion.  But never the less, not good enough for Sparano, not good enough for CP.

    And 36, yes you did compare the two qb’s: “Being a QB,one of your jobs is clock management.CP,did a horrible job at it.Look at what Manning did to Miami when they had 12 men on the field”.  That is a comparison!!!  Then you compared the two again, after saying that no one is comparing the two: “No one compared Manning to CP.CP is a veteran just like Manning”.  CP is a veteran, compared to who???  Oh, and what kills me is you claim that you saw Manning confused last night.  Was that when he hit Clark for 80 yards to start the game?  Oh, maybe when he hit clark on the outside to stop the clock and set up the BS end of half field goal.  Perhaps when he drove down in about a minute to score the gamewinner?  The guy put up 27 on us in less than 15 minutes of possession time.  He didn’t look confused, he looked brilliant!!!  That 3 and out in the 3rd does not negate any of this.

    I still maintain that CP, although he didn’t look good, did not monumentally fail that last drive.  Ginn did.  That was a fantastic on the money throw that NFL receivers should make 99/100 times, and if Ginn catches that then we’re not even having this discussion.  It would be “CP looked bad to begin the drive, but is now the hero for winning the game”.  Brian, you are letting the first 2 or 3 plays of that drive define CP’s productivity on that set.  Did you watch the rest of that drive???

  • Dolphan66

    Yeah, to me that’s not a monumental fail.  As I said before, it wasn’t the best 2 minute drill at all.  But when it all comes down to it, Pennington did EXACTLY what he needed to do to win the game: he put the ball right on the hands of his “#1″ wideout in the endzone with 20 seconds left.  I really cannot see that as a monumental fail on anyone’s part but Ted Ginn’s.  Pennington has shown that he’s a good leader in the past and has lead a lot of good 4th quarter game winning drives, so I was as puzzled as everyone else as to why he didn’t seem to have that sense of urgency on the final drive.  But in the end he did exactly what he needed to do to get the W, but it was Ted Ginn Jr. who failed miserably.

  • Brian Miller

    wish i watched the same game honestly. Throwing 40 yards downfield to get a TD instead of using the time to drive the ball down their throats is brilliant. The truth is that c lock managemetn totally sucked period. Regardless of whether Ginn had a chance to catch a ball. Fact is that the last drive was a huge failure…and no one has yet to show proof that I am wrong.

  • Kevin

    If you’re just simply making the assertion that the final drive was a failure, then I’m right there with.  The ONLY thing that would have made that drive not a failure would have been a winning touchdown.  In fact, I completely agree with your most recent post, Brian.  Having a sense of urgency from the get-go and driving that ball a bit closer than just the Colts’ 30 would have been MUCH better than what happened.  However, I’m still wondering how we all would have reacted if Ginn had caught that very catchable endzone pass from CP to win the game.

    For 56 and a half minutes I watched a game that made me proud to be a dolphan.  Then it seemed everyone just gave up, from the coaching staff on down.  We seem to be very angry about that final drive, but if we’re going to be angry about anything it should be what transpired BEFORE that final drive.  We’re up 20-13, and Manning sends him team right down the field to tie it in like 3 minutes.  Then we sustain a long drive and… it on 3rd and 6???  If we want to be pissed about anything, this is it!!!!  This was the game!!!  You pass it here and pick up the first, then you continue running the clock out, and even if you still settle for a field goal you’ve still ran that much more clock down.  That was the way down for us, not CP on the final drive.  No one will prove to you that the last drive wasn’t a failure, but you know what?  Who cares…the game was given away before that drive even began…

    Maybe something we can agree on…they did look better than last year’s week two game… :)

  • Brian Miller

    Kevin: Anyone who knows me and how I have written in the last few years knows that had Ginn made that catch, I still would have pointed out the laziness of that final drive. Making a 30 yard TD throw with 27 seconds left when you had originally 3 minutes to work with is insane. Honestly, had they actually taken a hurry up approach they may have been closer to the endzone and not trying a hail mary with 6 seconds left from the 35.

  • Dolphin39

    Bottom line is the game should never have come down to one catch with 6 seconds left.Especially when you have the ball 45mins out of 60mins.The defense did a horrible job of covering the receivers.The last 3mins were horrible on the offensive side of the ball.All they can do is learn from that lost and win the next one.