The Miami Dolphins lost last night in an evening of firsts that this morning many Dolphins fans would just as soon forget. It was the first time Rex Ryan beat the Dolphins or HC Tony Sparano. The first time Mark Sanchez did. The first time Jason Taylor played against his former team (more on that a little later), and the first time Brandon Marshall caught a TD for his new team. But all of that is rotten oranges after a night filled with howling left Dolphins players and fans grumbling as they left the stadium. Yes, there were points left on the field, but none as important as the ones at the end.
I interviewed Omar Kelly a couple of years ago and asked him what it was like covering the team he grew up loving. His reply, it sucks. He didn’t enjoy the game aspect anymore because he had to cover the team in an unbiased light…sorry Armando some reporters are objectionable. Over the years, I have realized what he means. Instead of jumping on the edge of my seat I instead watched the play of the lineman, wondered where Koa Misi went, and re-wound the Jason Allen pass interference call about 10 times, and yes, he looked back for the ball. In other words, while I’m far from a reporter, a part of my fan reaction went out the window sometime last season and now, I realize that as long as I write here, I may not see it again for awhile.
It’s easy to get pissed off and I would be lying if I said I didn’t drop a few F-Bombs or through up some unkind words in our chat room last night, but when the game was over, I went to bed and I slept. Unlike in the past where I replayed every bounce and asked why couldn’t it have gone our way. This morning, I realize why this is a good thing. Despite Miami’s loss, and Brandon Marshall‘s post game irritation, last night I saw a new team that had I written about immediately would have been more scathing yet unfair.
Arguably one of the best defenses in the league, with or without Darrell Revis and Kris Jenkins, the Jets came to town with a high-flying Mark Sanchez coming off his best career game in New England…let’s face it, there is nothing worse than confidence in a young QB, and it showed last night, and the Dolphins had ample opportunity to close the door and send them home with their second loss of the season. They simply made too many mistakes of their own. It’s hard enough to beat a good football team but when you beat on yourself as well, it makes it that much harder.
The Dolphins gave up their first opening game score as they elected to defer the kick-off to the second half. Sanchez had the time in the pocket but didn’t have the WR’s open to throw to. With Braylon Edwards on the sideline for his DUI arrest early in the week, Sanchez instead found his TE Dustin Keller for two key third down plays and then for two touchdowns. When the quarter ended and Edwards came back in, the Dolphins were down by 7 but the second TD pass to Keller to open the 2nd quarter made it a 14 point game.
The Dolphins then responded with 10 unanswered points and trimmed the lead to 4 going in at half-time. The Phins came out and drove down the field culminating in a lead changing TD to Brandon Marshall from 11 yards out. Then the wheels fell off in typical Dolphins – Jets fashion. The ensuing kick-off was run back ensuing drive ended in a 60 yard strike to Braylon Edwards for a touchdown and the Jets would take the lead for good.
To me, the Dolphins had enough opportunity in the second half but they killed their own drives, settling for FG’s instead of TD’s. A 20 yard field goal should have been another 4 points but the Phins failed to put the ball in the endzone from the two yard line. An issue that would replay again on their final series from the Jets 7.
The issue here was not Chad Henne who threw for over 350 yards and two TD’s. It wasn’t the 10 catch 166 yard night by their number 1 WR Brandon Marshall, no, it was one offensive mistake and two defensive mistakes that made the difference in this game.
Defensive mistakes happen all the time in a football game and it’s how a team recovers that defines the team. The Dolphins made their share last night and they responded by coming a mere 6 yards from taking the game to a possible overtime. For the Dolphins defense their issues were simple. Failure to tackle and failure to cover the TE.
I know most will point their finger at Jason Allen’s pass interference call that would have forced the Jets to kick a FG instead of that final TD but Allen’s mistake was only that the referee was blocked by Braylon Edwards. His head turned to the ball towards the left while his arms went up to knock the ball down. The ball was under thrown so Edwards leaped over Jason Allen. Allen’s position was fine, he had the right coverage and looked back. The referee made the wrong call. That’s how it goes. Allen’s mistake on that drive was a 3rd and long from the 50 when he allowed Edwards to get underneath him for a first down that continued the drive. Had he kept his coverage tight with Edwards beside him, the safety coverage takes that play out of the equation, the Dolphins get the ball back and the momentum down by 1.
The second mistake was the tackling of the defense in regards to Brad Smith. On the same drive that resulted in that final TD, Smith was able to run the WC and gain 15 yards on a 3rd and 15 extending the drive that should have ended at no worse a FG. Three times on that drive alone, the Dolphins allowed the Jets to continue. And in the end, it meant the Phins needed a TD and a two point conversion to tie.
The tackling was not good and the pressure on Sanchez was almost non-existent but the edge rushers did have their hands full with Damian Woody and D’Brikashaw Ferguson. Two of the best in the league. Still, it was the lack of pressure that ultimately did the team in.
Offensively, to me there was only one major mistake. No, not the fact we settled for FG’s twice instead of TD’s, that happens. Not the way the final 4 plays ended as that happens too. My issue with the offense is the use of the Wild Cat in the second half of the game.
I understand you want to run it, it’s not however a part of your identity. It has become a gimmick that doesn’t work. Even when Ronnie tried to pass out of it, the Jets were not fooled as Antonio Cromartie was on the hips of Brandon Marshall down-field. The issue is this. It kills the momentum of the team.
With the Dolphins driving and the Jets defenders worn out the Phins dropped their forward steam by running the WC on several occasions that left the team in 2nd and 3rd and log situations. It took the hot handed Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall out of the game to rely on the legs and decision of Ronnie Brown to gain two yards. An end around lost yardage and the above mentioned pass fell incomplete. The wild cat has run it’s course and now all it does is kill production.
Chad Henne played most of the second half in a zone. Solid reads, plenty of time in the pocket, touch passes and Dan Henning even called a few down-field plays to open it up, but it was the wild cat that killed it all and ultimately put the team into a bad situation that was compounded by the defenses failure to stop the Jets on 3rd downs.
All in all, I’m not upset today. There was a time I would have been. I don’t think the best team won last night, I think the best team last night won. I feel the Jets made the plays they needed to and the Dolphins came up short. Chad Henne finally looked like a leader out there and he took control of the game in the second quarter and never gave it back to the Jets. The coaches play calling and the defense did that.
The Jets are a team that many in the media think have a legit shot at making the Super Bowl and the Dolphins played above them sans a few plays that put the game behind the proverbial eight ball. Still, with 40 seconds left, the Dolphins were on the Jets side of the field, staring at the end-zone and came up short. It’s the Jets, it sucks, but it happens. While the Jets fans can talk all the trash they want, they know very well that they escaped last night.
After all is said and done, the Dolphins lost a football game and now share the lead in the AFC East with NY and the Patriots who they face next Monday night. They fought hard and they stayed in the game but ultimately they gave it away rather than the Jets outright beating them. It happens. It was a good game that saw a lot of positives and a few negatives. In the end, they came up short.