Dolphins Special Teams Pull Out A Victory
By Brian Miller
Chalk one up for the Miami Dolphins special teams. Or at least Dan Carpenter and the FG unit. Considering that Brandon Fields had a punt tipped and the special teams unit has been absolutely horrid this season, we will take what we can get. In the meantime, relish the victory because the weeks ahead are going to be very tough.
I find it hard to write about wins sometimes because it’s so easy to fall into the homer category where everything went well and pointing out what didn’t makes you sound like a whiner but aside from yesterdays first half Brandon Marshall show, the Dolphins still exhibited too many breakdowns for a team hoping to turn a corner. Tony Sparano cheered his team in the locker-room after the game but there were a lot of issues on the field that need to be addressed.
First, no one should be complaining about Brandon Marshall. His second game with 10 catches this season puts him on pace for 118 on the year. While he may not reach that plateau it’s obvious that Dan Henning is finally realizing that Marshall was brought here to be more than a high-profile decoy. Each week it appears that Chad Henne and Marshall are getting more and more familiar with each other.
Speaking of familiar, Davone “Go To” Bess was rewarded on his way home from Green Bay with a 2 year extension that is said to be a rather large chunk of change for a slot guy. Bess has become so good lately that he actually has fantasy point value in most leagues now. He has quietly become a big third down target and a go to option for Henne. Amazingly, Bess actually is starting to get vital YAC’s. Think Brandon Marshall hasn’t been an influence?
On the ground Miami rushed for over 100 but honestly, it should have been much more. The Dolphins were owning the Green Bay defense on the ground but Henning seemed to abandon a lot of the power game that the Phins have used in the past. To be honest it would have made much more sense in the second half when the Pack took away Marshall in the passing game. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are bulldozers late and yet they appeared to almost disappear from the game. The Dolphins need to do a much better job of getting their backs into a rhythm. Something that won’t be easy with Baltimore and Pittsburgh coming up.
Chad Henne had a decent if unspectacular outing. He went to Marshall one too many times when he got picked but the ball was thrown inside instead of out and that led to the INT. Still, while he threw for over 200 yards easily, it bears noting that is touch passes are getting better but his ‘fastball” is getting worse. Henne overthrew a lot of passes on Sunday and he is lucky that his pick total was only 1. Still, Henne managed a good game and on the TD pass to Anthony Fasano, he stood in and took the hit to get the pass off. A positive sign that he is starting to feel more of the game.
I would like to point out that the Dolphins really need guard John Jerry back as soon as possible. McQuistan or whatever his name is, just isn’t consistent.
Since I talked nice about the WR’s I will add that Brian Hartline made a fantastic catch lying on the ground. He was pretty quiet outside of that though. They need to figure out how to get him more involved.
Defensively, the Dolphins were a Cameron Wake one man show. Wake spent most of his time in the backfield harassing Aaron Rodgers and when he wasn’t sacking him, he was hitting him. Koa Misi on the other side did well and it is starting to look as though the Phins selection of Misi will pay off. The Dolphins managed to stop the GB running game, as anemic as it is, holding the team total to about 60 yards…14 of those by Aaron Rodgers. While the defense held up well for the most part, two glaring mistakes almost cost them the game.
Vontae’ Davis gets a break because he has been stellar this season so far, but allowing Greg Jennings to get behind him for an 83 yard TD pass was something a rookie would have done. Davis didn’t allow it to happen again so maybe he learned from that mistake.
The other issue was something that honestly, I can’t comprehend. After calling a time out and holding the Pack to one yard on three tries from the goal line, the Dolphins defense suddenly found themselves confused and literally talking to each other as Rodgers walked to the center out of the shotgun and took a quick snap and walked into the endzone. It was so horribly defended that replays showed Rodgers already at the plane of the goal and three defenders looking the other way not even realizing the play was over. Yeremiah Bell was one of them.
Bell has been very solid for the Dolphins the last two years but he is developing a tendency to miss tackles and he whiffed big time twice in the Packer back-field yesterday.
That can’t continue.
For all the negatives and deservedly so, regarding the special teams unit, they pulled it out yesterday. Rookie Nolan Carroll fielded kick-offs and actually came one player away from breaking one for a TD. He looked much more explosive than anyone else. They still need to work at moving the starting position closer to the 30 though.
Dan Carpenter nailed a 53 yard field goal which was the longest of his career and then kicked the game winner as well.
The near blocked punt could have cost the Phins the game. Someone needs to step up.
The coaches are not out of the woods either. Poor play calling at the wrong times needs to stop. As mentioned, the are not using the running game to set up the passing game or vice-versa. In fact, they really seem to be calling plays that a someone playing backyard ball might call. I couldn’t find a rhythm to their play calling it seemed very haphazard. At least they didn’t roll out the Wild Cat. Everyone can pray that is dead. I doubt it though.
The worst part of the game however came at the end of the second half and at the start of overtime. The Dolphins went to the outside to Brian Hartline with about 10 seconds left and then took a knee with 3 seconds left. The ball was at the Miami 48 yard line and easily within Henne’s arm strength to go to the endzone. So why the kneel down? The issue here is the same as my argument with the coaching of Chad Henne. Chad Henne is not Chad Pennington. The coaches need to take off the reigns and let him play Henne ball and not Penny ball. There is no reason that Henne shouldn’t have taken another snap at that point. He wasn’t sacked all day.
The Dolphins won the coin toss and took the ball to start overtime. I commented in the chat room that I was amazed Sparano didn’t defer. While it was strictly tongue in cheek, Mike Berardino of the Sun-Sentinel “tweeted” the same thing about 30 seconds later. I found that funny. In any case, the Phins took the ball and immediately went to the pass. 3 passes, 3 in-completions. Why? Why not run the ball? Time is not an issue and you have the upper hand with your running game? I still don’t understand this one, but apparently the coaches thought the same thing because after they Dolphins defense forced a Green Bay punt, the Dolphins started running the ball and mixing the pass in to complement it. In fact, of the last 6 plays run offensively leading to the game winning kick, 5 of them were runs. Hmmmm, the Dolphins coaches must not be paying attention to who they are playing. Again, playing not lose instead of playing to win. KNOW YOUR OPPONENT!
The Dolphins did have to play the Ref’s as well. A couple of suspect calls here and there that could have gone both ways were no big deal. The 4th and 1 run by Ronnie Brown that could have put the Dolphins up 20-13 midway through the 3rd quarter was a blistering reminder that sometimes the game is really out of your hands. Clearly the replay showed that Brown never hit the ground and managed to spin beyond the 26 yard line. In fact every angle showed he made it past the 26 and the one angle that showed where his body was clearly shown that he was not down. Still, after review, the play was upheld and the ball handed back to Green Bay. This was not a coaching mistake or a player mistake. This was a major blown call.
The Dolphins may have got cheated on the play but the Ref’s would hand it back to them in the 4th quarter when the Phins punted the ball to the Packers. While the nation was watching commercials, the referees’ decided to throw a flag for an illegal formation on the kick-off. The ball went back to Miami and the series ended with the Fasano touchdown. The crowd was not pleased, nor should they have been. While the “NT” was lined up over the center, new rules disallow that, the player was a good yard and a half off the line. This was a bogus call and almost seemed more of a warning to teams in the future. Still, the two screwed up calls offset each other and neither really had an outcome in the final score.
The Phins will enter this week with a banged up but o.k. Karlos Dansby who got a knee scare as they prep for their 3rd home game against the Steelers.