That game was interesting, as it got ugly very quickly and, really, out of nowhere. And before I do my usual look at the offense and defense, I wanted to point out what was the key play of the game, and one in which I don't think enough Dolphin fans are discussing enough. It's 13-10 following a perfect TD pass from Trent Green to Marty Booker. The defense then comes out and gets Dallas's offense to punt. Then, on a 3rd and two, Green throws an incomplete pass looking for Chris Chambers and the Dolphins go 3 and out. The key play, and the turning point of the game, was on the punt. Brandon Fields then punts a monster kick and, if the play stood, it would have pinned the Cowboys back at their own 16. Instead, Jason Allen gets called for an illegal formation, forcing the Dolphisn to kick again. Fields kicks another great kick, but the coverage is poor and Patrick Crayton returns it 49 yards to the Dolphins 30. Three plays later, the Cowboys take the lead for the final time on a touchdown pass. That penalty by Allen was an absolute killer. It changed the momentum of the game and really cost the Dolphins substantially. In my opinion, that penalty was more costly than any of the other blunders that you can point to, and there were many.
[editor's note, by Matty I] That penalty was called against Allen, but it was actually Edmund Miles's fault. He wasn't lined up on the line of scrimmage like he should have been, which caused Allen to be illegally lined up off the line. After the game, Miles acknowledged that it was him. Hat tip to LeftCoastFinFan for pointing this out.[end]
Moving on, we need to start by talking about Trent Green. Everything was going so smoothly for Green up until midway through the 3rd quarter (basically up until that Jason Allen penalty). Yes, Green had the earlier interception on the deep ball intended for Booker, but I gave him a pass on that one. He was just doing what many, including myself, wanted to see him do from time to time. He was trying to make something happen deep. He took a chance and got burned. All QBs have that happen at one time or another. But then, following the Dallas TD which put them up 17-13, Green missed a wide open Chris Chambers over the middle by grossly overthrowing him and, unfortunately, the ball went right into the arms of Ken Hamlin. It was a very poor throw which he floated and simply missed the mark. The next Dolphin possession ended just 2 plays in when, at midfield, there was a botched snap between Green and rookie center Samson Satele that was recovered by Dallas. I don't want to put all the blame on Green, like many have, for this one because it's hard to tell who is at fault.
However, despite all those mistakes, the Dolphins were still in the game in the 4th quarter. But then with about 6 minutes left, Green made another terrible throw on an out route to Chambers which ended up in the arms of Anthony Henry. The Dolphins were at midfield and Green had no reason to try and force that throw in to Chris. But he throws it anyway, and it was an ugly throw, and it gets picked, and realistically ending any chance the Dolphins had at battling back. Green would later throw a fourth interception, but by that time it didn't matter. So here's the way I see it. Green made two VERY costly mistakes when he overthrew Chambers when he was wide open for a pick and when he tried forcing a throw into Chris when he was well covered. Those 2 throws cost the Dolphins and exemplify just what is wrong with this team (and has been wrong for years). They still don't have a QB who can make "all the throws." Trent used to be that guy, but there's no way, in his prime, he would have missed Chambers over the middle. So what's the solution here? Is it John Beck? Is it Cleo Lemon? Personally, I don't think so. Beck is the long-term answer, but I doubt he's ready. He certainly didn't look ready in the preseason finale. The way I see it is that Green still gives the Dolphins the best chance of success so, despite what many of you might think, Green has to remain the starter. However, as the season progresses, if things don't improve, then you think about making the switch to Beck. But certainly not yet.
The offensive line is still an issue. Yes, they held up fairly well in pass protection. But the running game was again a failure. You can blame Cam Cameron all you want, but until this line improves, running will be nearly impossible. There were only a handful of plays in which Ronnie Brown or Jesse Chatman actually had a hole to run through. However, there was improvement. So if you're basing success on progress, then Sunday was a success for the offensive line because they did look better than last week. But they still have a long way to go.
And speaking of the running game, I'm starting to get sick to my stomach seeing Jesse Chatman in the game that much. Ronnie must be in Cam's doghouse because that's the only way I can explain this. I just don't get it. And I also don't get why the Dolphins are so quick to go away from the run. Here's an interesting stat from the game. Ronnie Brown had 4 carries for 22 yards on the first possession of the 2nd half. He was clearly starting to get into a rhythm. The next possession, he gets one more carry. And then that's it. He never sees a rushing attempt the rest of the way. Can you friggin believe that? Over 20 offensive plays are ran and Ronnie never gets another carry. That's a damn travesty. I hate to get on the coach so soon, but I have to question this play calling. RUN THE BALL, CAM!!!
However, there was one positive. I think that the receivers played very well. Chambers, especially, was getting open all game. And unlike last year, he didn't disappear for long stretches or in key moments. I really like what I'm seeing out of him. I think those that wanted the Dolphins to cut or trade this guy are freakin' nuts. He's showing his worth and I hope to god that he's a Dolphin for many more years. He's earning his roster spot, to say the least.
And speaking of receivers, when will Ted Ginn, our first round pick, get involved in the offense? He's still without a catch and he's only been targeted 2 times all season, both in today's game. And for a guy who was supposed to jumpstart the return game, he's been quite unimpressive. Of course, some of that blame goes on the blocking by the return units. They haven't given Ginn any room to work. I know I may be a bit unreasonable here, but can we please see SOMETHING out of our #1 pick?? Possibly?? Please??
I'm not too sure what to take out of this game when looking at the defense. I'm really not. Early on, they just couldn't seem to get off the field on third down. And the one play that really exemplifies that was when it was 3-3 and Dallas had a 3rd and 15 at their own 35. With this defense, you typically think that anything over a 3rd and 10 is pretty safe. But Tony Romo has all day to throw and finds Terrell Owens open for a 28 yard gain. That's completely unacceptable for a defense that was supposed to be borderline great this year.
That play also exemplified the other problem, while also showing what a huge difference a good offensive line makes for an offense. The Dolphins couldn't get pressure on Romo at all. And the few times they did, Romo was able to move around and make plays, either by scrambling or by making tough throws. I said all week that getting pressure on Romo would be a key. And the Dolphins failed miserably at that.
This defense also displayed poor tackling all game long, something we aren't accustomed to seeing from this unit. But they were unable to bring down the ball carrier on first contact several times, allowing Dallas to pick up extra yardage that they had no reason picking up. I'm sure that's something that Dom Capers will get on them about when they watch the film.
But with all that said, the secondary did play better than I thought they would for the 2nd week in a row. They only allowed Romo to complete just 48% of his passes and held him to a subpar 6.4 yards per attempt.
And without a doubt, this defense played better than the score showed. They were constantly put into bad situations and they didn't really begin to breakdown until late in the 4th. Despite all the mistakes, this defense kept the Dolphins in the game. I guess that's all you can ask for.
Too many mistakes. That's the bottom line. Too many penalties. Too many turnovers. Too many defensive lapses (missed tackles, no pressure on QB, etc...). This game hurt because it was another winnable football game. In my opinion, the Cowboys didn't win this one; the Dolphins lost it.
But like I said, there was some progress made on offense. And I'm not ready to throw in the towel. Not yet. Up next are four games that aren't overly difficult. So to those who want Trent Green's blood, I say this. Give it four more weeks. Then, following the October 14 game at Cleveland, we'll re-evaluate this situation. If the Dolphins are something like 2-4 or 1-5 at that time, it may be time to make some changes (if you know what I mean). But not yet.
If you want on the bandwagon, the 2007 Miami Dolphins bandwagon, get on now. In 4 weeks, it might be a little crowded. Yeah, probably not. It'll probably be more like a sinking ship. But like any good Dolphin fan, I'm going down with the ship.