The Miami Dolphins are two games out of the division and if the home losing continues they will be out of the playoff picture in a matter of a month. The good news is if they keep winning on the road, maybe the squeak into the playoffs and play all their games on the road.
This isn’t about the playoffs though, this about yesterdays game. While many will point the finger at the referees who blew a major game changing call at the end, the Dolphins did not lose because of the ref’s error. They lost because of their coaching.
Last week I made a bold prediction that the Dolphins would win yesterdays game and even said it potentially could have been very lopsided in their favor. While it was a little gutsy to make that prediction, the Dolphins players showed yesterday that they have the talent to back a statement like that up. They unfortunately don’t have the coaching to back it up.
The Dolphins opened the game with a 6 point gift from the Steelers when they forced a turnover on the opening kick-off and then a Ben Roethlisberger fumble on the Steelers first drive. They converted nothing. Coming away simply with two field goals was all well and fine but the Dolphins used the deep infiltration of the Steelers side of the field to run scripted plays instead of immediately going for the throat. Their first possession? Ronnie Brown for one yard and two short passes, one of which to Ronnie Brown for no yards…both incomplete.
Series two? Ricky Williams for no gain, Ricky Williams for 8 yards, Ricky Williams for no gain.
Did they not understand they were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers who have the number 1 rushing defense in the league? I get it you want to try and run, make it a physical game, but not when you get the ball in the red-zone twice to start the game. You put them on the coals and go for the throat. You attack a 24th ranked defense by getting Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, and Brandon Marshall involved.
These two missteps cost the Phins what may have been another 8 points. They repeated the issue later in the game as well when they had the ball first and goal from the 5. Opened up with a one yard Ronnie Brown run before tossing two in-completions to Brandon Marshall. Does Miami even have a short yardage passing game? The fact is they should have used a better play selection on first down when you know the Steelers will be watching for the run.
The special teams looked great for the first 3 quarters but a major melt-down with the Dolphins clinging to a lead put the Steelers only 20 yards from field goal range. Pinning the Steelers deep and making them drive the field would have put the Phins in better position to hold. Instead, they started that final drive on their heels trying to keep Pitt from moving at all rather than moving a little. It led to the controversial call that put the Steelers up for good.
The blown call:
I am not going to sit here and say the Phins lost on this call. They didn’t win because of it but let’s remember, the Steelers had all of their timeouts and had the Phins recovered they still would have needed to pick up at least one first down to run the clock out and it was still on the other side of two minutes. The issue with this call to me was the handling of it.
I understand the lack of definitive proof on replay of who had the ball and while Ikea Alama-Francis came out of the pile with it, that is not an indication of recovery under the pile. My issue is why the referee didn’t discuss who had the ball with the refs that were on the pile prior to reviewing the play. The reason is simple, had the refs indicated a Miami controlled ball, the ball would have been given to the Dolphins. If it was a Steeler recovery, under the fumble rules, it would have been placed at the spot of the fumble as it was. But the head referee never asked the other refs who had possession of the ball and simply relied solely on what he could see on replay.
Either way, the TD was taken off the board and the Steelers kicked a field goal. The Dolphins still had two minutes on the clock and Patrick Cobbs return to the 29 yard line on the ensuing kick-off set the Phins up for a chance to move the ball. And again, that is where the play calling of Dan Henning failed.
The Dolphins opted to open their final drive with a draw to Ronnie Brown. I actually liked the call but I think Ricky Williams would have had more success. First, Ricky should have been in the game and not Ronnie, he is a far better pass catching back out of the back-field. Brown failed to make one guy miss and had he jumped to the outside edge of the hole he would have broke a ten yard gain. Instead, it’s 2nd and 1 and the Dolphins went to the pass.
Chad Henne had all the time in the world in the pocket but apparently could not find any open receivers. Well, he found Anthony Fasano for a ten yard gain but Fasano dropped the ball. The problem here is the fact that Henne has all the time in the world. Why play with that kind of time when the Steelers are dropping back to cover the field? The bread and butter for Miami all day was the quick pass and on the final drive they didn’t use it. Slants to Marshall and Bess on curls would have moved the ball up field. A 4 or 5 yard pass on second down is a makeable 3rd and 4. Instead, they went for the Fasano catch that was not the fault of play calling but their last two attempts were nothing close.
Chad Henne had time in the pocket and simply didn’t connect. While he should have found a way to get the ball to a receiver, I still believe that giving him a quicker route would have helped him move the ball. But we will never know and that is strictly conjecture on my part. The fact is that again, Henne failed to make a game winning drive and that can’t be overlooked.
The point is that Dolphins opted to go outside of their element and not, once again, use any form of high octane energy to take control of the game each time they had the opportunity. Safe pass plays was the way to beat the Steelers and when the team used those plays, they scored and moved the ball. They allowed the Steelers to play run defense when they should have forced them to stop the pass. When the pass worked, it opened up the running game a bit more. Dan Henning didn’t figure that out.
It’s easy to point a finger at the blown call at the end of the game and that may have given Miami the victory, but the Dolphins had their shots against a top 3 team and they blew it.
I wonder if now that Bill Parcells is gone, if Jeff Ireland will take a look at replacing Henning in the off-season? He should. This is a young team that has all the makings of a high-powered offense and beat down defense. They need an OC and maybe if this continues, an HC, that understands the NFL is no longer strictly grind it out ball control.