This TD did not break the Dolphins, the Dolphins broke the Dolphins

Phins Loss Not On Refs

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.

1st Quarter:

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.

Special teams:

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.

Final Drive:

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.

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Tags: Chad Henne Dan Henning Miami Dolphins Pittsburgh Steelers Ronnie Brown

  • CozzyG

    I could not have expressed my point more eloquently. The playcalling / coaching has been questionable at the best of times and horrid in the worst of times. How can a team develop any swagger when the coaching is so conservative?

  • MJ

    Screw you guys. It was completely the Refs fault. If they make that call right your talking about how tough of a team Miami is.

  • Txmedic5

    If they make that call the Dolphins have a great shot at winning the game, but in reality, it should never have come down to that call and the play calling following that call was not going to move the ball down field. We have zero hurry up offense at all. Not to mention the fact that we still would have had to make a first down and they had all 3 time outs. Do you want to lay money down that Henning rushes the ball three times in a row and then punts? I would, because so far, they don’t let Henne play anything more than a “Don’t make a mistake” offense. Pittsburgh would have gotten the ball back with about 1:30 left and only needing a FG to win.

  • martin

    I have been seeing this for the past three years against the Dolphins and once again yesterday. Rotten burger drops back and then runs it in for a TD. Yeah he fumbled and Sanchez’s TD was called back for holding but Miami always seem to give it up when they are down there on the goal line. I would like to see Miami give it back to the other team for once. I am sure Henne is fast enough to do a roll out corner of the end zone run. Shoots if Payton can do it why can’t him. Love to see Ronnie, Ricky and even Brandon score but the end result is to get the ball across the line.

  • Steve

    Good post about the game. I’m a Steelers fan and it is good to see the reasonableness and smart analyzation of the ref call. The refs made the right call. It was just a really bad break for the Phins. As you indicate, there is no real way to know who recovered the fumble since the refs did not actively investigate like they normally do. And your point is correct, just because a guy comes out with the ball does not mean anything. Plus, the Steelers would have likely gotten the ball back and had been moving it on the Phin D in the 2nd half. So I feel like Pitt would have still gotten a chance for the winning kick.

    Either way, weird but good game. Good analysis here. Steelers caught the break this time around.

    • supt

      Steve….We dolfans feel strongly that our coaching staff is too conservative..and dont play call to our strengths….dont you agree that we blew the chance early in the game to at least get a 10 point lead?…Beings your a Steeler fan..If you were the dolphins..would you have ran the same plays? and if so..what do you think would have worked…Thanks!

  • David

    The Dolphins can’t keep leaving points on the field
    Field Goals in the first half from the 4, 5 and 12. Put the ball in the endzone and there is no discussion about the call. The call was wrong. But it shouldn’t have come to that.

  • Jerrard

    Yea…I can’t agree more…I think it might be time to replace Henning. I understand wanting to run the ball and being conservative…but to win in the NFL, you have to also have the ability to open up the passing game. You have to have faith in what you claim is the quaterback of the future. This was no more evident than in the Patriots loss. Special Teams had put us in a 21 point hole and with 9 min left instead of giving Henne the ball and telling him to go sling it (and learn to try and put a comeback drive together…even if he got a few int’s)to try and win the game…they go back to this conservative run, dunk and dink eat up the clock play calling. We have no more excuses not to open the passing game up. We got rid of Ginn and replaced him with Marshall. Hartline has been solid and Bess is a third down converting slot machine. Even in the wildcat the play calling is way to conservative…have we even tried to throw once out of the wildcat?

    You can’t win football games on fieldgoals alone…sad to say but that is the difference between us and the Jets right now…the Jets find ways to get the ball in the endzone and go for the kill…we manage the clock and kick fieldgoals…Until we change that, I have my concerns if we will even make 9-7 this year.

  • michelle

    Actually, had our IDIOT HC gone for 2 at the end of the 2nd quarter we would have had a chance for a tie game well early. That pig Roth fumbled, the refs jumped on the whistle and didnt let the play run out. Nonetheless – BLOWN COACHING LAST 2 minutes including calling their final timeout on DEFENSE. F@@K YOU TONY and YOUR OC!! Hope you all get canned next year!!

  • Jimbo111

    VERY well written Tx, thanks.

  • pancanfinfan

    Steve the Pittsburgh fan…save your breath with the “refs made the right call” lunacy. Not in this universe did they make a right call…it was an absolutely horrible call that took victory away from the team who actually earned it. Your steelers myopia is in full form and I’m sure would be in full form if your team were on our side of the arguement. The game was what it was…a hard fought defensive battle that came down to the end of the game…what went on during the game can’t be changed so its a moot point too even do the “what if” scenario’s such as if the dolphins had done this or that. The only “what if” scenario that does matter is that the refs from pittsburgh made a wrong and dubious call that gave the game to their hometown team…”What IF” they actually did their job right? The answer? The dolphins would be 4-2! And that’s whats wrong in the universe!

  • The 4J’s

    I completely agree that our play calling is horrible. The Dolphins play too CONSERVATIVE!!!! Let Henne throw the ball and see what he can do. Although the refs made a bad call, the dolphins failed to capitalize on many other opportunities…..which were lost by poor play calling.

    - Still a PHINS fan!!!

  • Chris

    I’m a Dolphins fan and I can honesty say that the better team won. Miami was given 6 easy points, regardless if they didn’t get a touchdown or not, it was 6 free points and maybe 2 free minutes off the clock. Miami’s offense has the potential but their play calling is beyond predictable and it has been for some time now. It sickens me to hear from announcers about how great of a rushing team the Dolphins have and such when in reality, we’re an average rushing team. I have yet to see Ricky or Ronnie break a long run and Ronnie is doing himself no favor by being outplayed by Ricky consistently.

    In terms of the infamous play at the end. The ref who blew the whistle quickly ruled it a touchdown while he couldn’t even see the ball. I don’t care who you root for, shouldn’t the ref that can see the ball be making the call, not the person who’s blinded by the action. Secondly, as it was ruled a fumble and for argument’s sake, as they showed in the footage, the Dolphins appeared to recover it. That would have left them with the ball at the 20 yard line. Even if they go 3 and out with running the ball, it forces the Steelers to burn all their time outs and a punt forces them even further back.

    A lot of folks argue that the Phins still got the ball with 2:30 left in the game and still had plenty of time to march down the field. While that is true in a sense, there’s a difference in how an offense runs with zero timeouts and how the defense manages it. Knowing that the Phins had to run out of bounds to stop the clock, all the Steelers had to do was bottle the edges and force Henne in the middle and basically run the clock out on their own. Too many folks blame Henne for his inability to march the team down the field when in reality, you’re looking at a.) i need to hit my receivers that are close to the sidelines. b.) if i hit them with crossing routes, im spiking the ball for a loss of a down to stop the clock. c.) there’s no element of surprise for a good defense that isn’t playing prevent defense as you already know what the offense has to do. Essentially the call put the Phins behind the 8 ball, and while it’s not impossible to make a comeback, it isn’t as easy as everyone makes it sound. Having a timeout or two to plan and not rush through your plays does make a world of a difference.

    But either way, the Phins are an okay team with some question marks that are getting exposed repeatedly by decent teams. Their defense while showing flashes of being really good, still give up the big play way too often. Their special teams still is vulnerable to the big play and their offense, despite the tools to be great, still plays small ball. Their Offensive line is “okay” and needs to be upgraded to actually be able to push around defensive players to create a running game. Our receivers, despite the talent either get covered way to easily or Henne isn’t taking what the defense is giving him.

    While I may be sounding harsh, but I believe that our HC and OC need to be shown the door at the end of the season. OC for obvious reasons. While it’s hard to knock our HC as he’s a decent coach, his play calling and game prep is severely lacking which is probably from his own inexperience as this is his first gig as a head coach. He’s got potential, just like the rest of the team but at the same time, you can only go so far on “potential” and need to start showing results, especially when you have home field advantage and the talent that this team has. The scariest stat I saw during yesterday’s game was the fact that all the Phins wins came under 4 points, and that includes the Bills. This is a Dolphins team that is severely underplaying to it’s ability and could easily be sharing the same record as the Bills.

    Of course, Ill keep watching as this season progresses but it’s going to take an act of god for this team to make the playoffs combined with pigs flying to have the other teams that are ahead of them in the AFC to start losing.

  • Dave

    The Dolphins need to look in the mirror to see who cost them the game. It wasn’t the blown call by the refs. It was defiantly the blown play calling in the early part of the game. If they had challenged the Steelers secondary on those two gifts to open the game, I believe that they could have taken a strong emotional edge. I should have propelled them to a victory. Instead all we have is just another sickening home loss.

  • http://phinphanatic shawn

    3 things:Henning does not know how to call a game using what talent he has. #2 The Dolphins are a on the bubble team;they are right on the edge of being a VERY GOOD team. That being said we should know that you will not beat a good Pittsburgh team by kicking field goals. #3 get off Chad Henne’s ass! He is doing exactly what he is being asked to do! But thanks to Henning he is not being asked to do the right things.

  • Ken Ebersole

    So many of you say that the game should not have come down to that refs call, but you all seem to forget that we were not playing the Bills. We were playing the one loss Steelers. The team that bosts arguably the best Defense in the NFL and the team that will line up and punch you in the mouth on every play. Yet, we are in this game, fighting to the end and giving them all they can handle. So I say to all of you that believe the refs call to be of little consequense to the outcome, YOU ARE WRONG!

  • Ken Ebersole

    I have been a strong advocate of this entire coaching staff and to this day, I believe they are doing some great things. That being said, no one, including the most positive, supporting fans, can honestly say that the offensive game plan and 80% of the plays that are called, are designed to dominate an apposing defense. No, we call a scared offensive game plan. Scared to make a mistake, scared to trust our players and scared to go for the throat! So many, so called, Dolphins fans are anti Henne. Discustingly so, but none of these great football minds or should I say mindless, have ever seen what the kid can do when he is allowed to cut loose and play. It has never happened in Miami. I’m afraid that our scared head coach and our scared offensive coach are ruining our QB. That by the time he gets away from them, he will be afraid to challange the defense. Hope I’m wrong, because I have seen Henne play to destroy a defense and he can do it well. Or at least he could.

    • http://phinphanatic shawn

      man,I agree Dude. I am very worried about this