Last night the Miami Dolphins headed into their game with the New England Patriots with a chip on their shoulder. If the Dolphins were to be serious playoff contenders they couldn’t drop two home games in a row, especially to division foes. The game started off innocent enough with Miami taking the opening kickoff and marching right down the field only to see the drive stalled when on third and six Dan Henning killed the drive by call the Wildcat. Miami had to punt the ball and the defense stood strong by holding the Patriots to a quick three and out. Cameron Wake looked like a one man wrecking crew.
The next series was more of the same. Miami drove right down the field and scored a touchdown on some nice footwork from Davone Bess as he tiptoed down the sideline for the score. Again the Patriots saw relentless pressure from Wake and only held the ball for six plays before having to punt.
If the game just stopped there and people were to look at the stats one would have thought Miami dominated the New England. But only if stats said everything. How many times when playing against Randy Moss can a team boast to holding him without a catch? Well last night Miami and Vontea Davis did just that. The Dolphins also held the Patriots Tight Ends in check with six catches for 33 yards and Tom Brady only threw for 153 yards. All that looks good right?
Unfortunately for Miami they were in a giving mood last night. Chad Henne threw 3 ill-conceived interceptions. Now to be fair one of the picks was on Marshall and not on Henne when he cut off his crossing route and Pat Chung was the recipient of a pick 6. Although he completed 75% of his passes and threw for over 300 yards Henne didn’t look good at times. He short-hopped receivers on a couple of occasions. Threw into double and triple coverage and stared down receivers.
With that being said it wasn’t Chad Henne who handed the game over to New England. Last night the Dolphins Special Teams was truly special. Miami came out of half time leading by one point. They left points on the board, but with the opening kick to the second half New England took those points back. Brandon Tate took the second half kick and returned it 103 yards for his second kick return for a touchdown this season. When Miami got the ball it was a quick three and out with a punt giving the ball back to Brady. As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” Pat Chung broke through Miami’s offensive line to block the Brandon Fields punt which led to a Patriots TD.
Miami did bounce back and came down the field and scored making it a 6 point game, but that’s as close as they got. The special teams gaffs wouldn’t stop with a kick return for a touchdown and a blocked punt. The Dolphins special teams pulled off the trifecta when Dan Carpenter’s 53 yard field goal attempt, was blocked by, you guessed it Pat Chung and picked up Kyle Arrington who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
So New England scored 41 points in a game in which Randy Moss was held without a reception and Tom Brady only threw for 153 yards. Many will lay this game on the feet of Chad Henne, and while he didn’t look good his errors resulted in 13 points (although the pick 6 was on Marshall for cutting off his route). Steve Young made comments after the game that Henne is still rushing and not letting the game come to him. He is going through his progressions, but going through them too fast and not letting the plays develop. He also stated that Henne looks too mechanical. I am not giving up on Henne yet, because after all last night was only his 17th start in the NFL.
No, last night’s loss can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Special Team Coordinator John Bonamego. Bonamego has been in that position for three years in Miami, and for all three years the Dolphins special teams has been at the bottom of the NFL, but last night was rock bottom. Many will be calling for his head this morning and I believe there should be a change. However, I also feel some of the blame should fall on the shoulders of Jeff Ireland. The constant churn at the bottom of the roster hinders special teams because it disrupts continuity. Just like the offensive line special teams is about a unit acting as one, knowing that the man next to you is going to stick with his assignment and not leave lanes open. Well this just has not happened. The constant influx of new players on the bottom of the roster means a constant shift in personnel on special teams resulting in not continuity. I am not trying to deflect this mess from Bonamego but just trying to make a point on a few different factors. Since the pre-season the Dolphins have had four, yes count them four punts blocked. That doesn’t happen in high school much less the NFL.
The bottom line is Miami finds themselves looking up in the division to New York and New England after only four games with two division losses. Hopefully Miami can bounce back and make a run, but after the bye week the schedule doesn’t get any easier. The next six games Miami’s opponents are 16 and 8 on the season. The Dolphins need to use the bye week and get the comedy of errors turned around quick or the 2010 season will be over before it really even got started.