Holy Marino what a game! And yes, I was IN ATTENDANCE. Sat on the 20 yard line, upper deck, 10 rows up. Saw everything. Great seats. I'll be doing this column a little differently tonight, because there was so much that happened, I don't want to confine it to a few notes and 5 Gameball selections. Too much going on for that format. So this part will be a running story of the game, and the actual Gameballs section will be much shorter than normal.
First of all, there was nothing interesting in my tailgate, just me and the little brother eating Publix Subs while walking from the parking lot. Parked in the Cash Lot, so it took me a good half hour to walk to the stadium. We rode the giant escalator to the 400 level, which is scary, because it's just a moving staircase going 39 stories into the air. We found our seats, parked ass, and waited for the players to come out for warmups. Thank god we got there in time too, because warmups were pretty eventful. The 49ers were already on the field, and Dolphins players were trickling out of the tunnel to join their teammates. Of course, Peezy comes out last, jersey rolled up, mouth going, and he makes a beeline for Vernon Davis. Gets right in his face, jawing back and forth, and Porter starts going crazy. Jumping up and down, swinging his arms everywhere, screaming loud enough for us to hear him in the upper deck. And both teams come running. Face-off at midfield. The few of us already in our seats are going crazy, and kickoff isn't for another half hour. Good start.
Introductions. They strategically announce the defensive starters in a weird order to get to Peezy last. He walks out of the tunnel slowly, and the Stadium goes bonkers. Everybody standing, everybody yelling, and Porter just eats it up. He loves it. The fire goes off and he takes off, and somehow the place gets LOUDER. I knew this one was gonna be special. Then I see a guy in a Montana jersey sit with his family RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Luckily, his wife was a Dolphins fan, and we immediately teamed up to crack on her husband. And don't worry, the day will get much, much worse for that sorry schmuck. The game starts...
The 49er fan is yapping away about how they're gonna show us what a real offense looks like... They pick up one first down, Roth gets a sack, and they punt. And we let him have it. 3rd play with the ball, Pennington hits David Martin aka The Flying Squirrel down the middle, he makes a phenomenal catch, and is off to the races. And the insults fly. Not too much that I can print here, but one guy did drop his pants saying he was trying to fire the 49ers up. Hilarious stuff. About halfway through this quarter, a soccer fan with binoculars (finsx, was that you?) sits directly behind me. More on him later.
So we're up 7-0. SF drives, gets a FG. Big deal. We're now at 9 straight quarters without giving up a touchdown, and we made sure the 49ers fan (now already 4 beers in) knew that fact. A few ugly drives ending in punts, including a Vernon Davis wide open drop (which led the crowd to serenade him with boos and laughter) and then Joey Haynos (who?) makes a nice grab for our second TD. We, the fans, erupt. Crazy. A guy decided to run up and down the steps high fiving people. A little kid (4 or 5 maybe) told the 9ers fan, who I'm going to call Skippy from now on, that his team stinks. And we all made sure he knew we agreed. Funny stuff. The place was rocking, thinking the beat down was on, and this would be over quick. That wasn't the case.
Halftime, and the score is 14-3. We're whooping that ass. What better setting could you ask for to induct the first 2 Defensive Linemen into the Dolphins Ring of Honor? They bring out a loong line of Dolphins Alumni, including several members from the current ROH, and the HOFers. All of em in sexy aqua jackets. Add that to my wish list by the way. Doug Betters and Bob Baumhower come out, and then Tony Segreto (why? I don't know..) announces the KING, DON SHULA. Second loudest cheer of the entire day for him. He gives a great speech, gives me chills, and hands it off to Betters. Betters is almost moved to tears, and many of us in the crowd were as well. Big Bob is just as good. Thanks Shula immensely. Then the 2 plaques on the ROH were revealed, and once again the stadium went crazy. Theme of the day, this was the loudest I've EVER EVER heard Dolphins Stadium. It was a playoff atmosphere, and the crowd responded. From this point of the game on, I couldn't sit down. At all.
3rd Quarter was pretty boring, but I was amped up, so I was screaming and yelling and jumping and trying to get everyone else to cheer as loud as possible. They responded. Every big 3rd down, after every big play, everytime we held them to a FG, the crowd responded. I honestly think that the Defense fed off the Stadium energy and that helped them make all those stops.
By now, our friend Skippy is about 9 beers deep and getting seriously depressed every time we make a play. I was worried about him, but I still made sure I twisted the knife deeper, telling him he can borrow his wife's Ronnie Brown jersey for the playoffs, or asking him if they would consider moving Vernon Davis to LT because he can't catch. No comebacks. Nothing. He's hating life right now, so we cheer him up by letting him know his FG kicker is coming back out again. He starts looking for a way out. His wife is laughing her ass off.
4th Quarter, getting close. SF drives for another FG, bringing the deficit to 5. And that's when the defense said No mas. Fast forward to our final drive. Start at the 20, 5 and change remaining, and we need a clock killing dagger of a drive. And what do we do? That's right boys, PTR. Ronnie Brown pounds that rock for gains of 16 and 18 to pick up big first downs. SF uses all three of their TO's, and DC$ comes out for a 49 yarder. And he doinks it, right off the crossbar. Uh oh. SanFran gets a chance to drive for the win now, but the defense, and the crowd, are up to the challenge. Not sure if the TV picked it up, but it was non-stop noise. Non. Stop. The floor was shaking in the upper deck. And that's when the soccer fan with the binoculars attempts to get beat up. He starts tapping me on the shoulder saying "sit down, sit down, I'm trying to watch." I turn around and tell him "So am I" and continue standing and yelling. He grabs me by the shoulder and tries to force me down into my seat. Bad move. I slap his hand away, turn around, and very politely (not really) tell him if he wants to see he needs to, and I quote, "Stand the F(deleted) up, or Get the F(deleted) out." He whimpered back into his seat and shut up. I told him not to ever buy tickets to a real football game again, if he wants to sit and watch through binoculars and sing Christmas carols, he can go watch MLS. No response. He left shortly after I turned back around.
Final drive. The 49ers are once again bending our unbreakable defense, and they end up 1st and 10 at our 21 with a minute20 left. Spike. 2nd and 10. Incomplete. The place is absolutely rocking. 3rd and 10. Incomplete. We're going insane. And then, it quiets down a bit, and we all know it's Peezy time. 4th and 10, the crowd ratchets it up to a level I haven't heard at a sporting event in my life. Porter comes whistling off the corner, demolishes Shaun Hill, and pumpkin-chunks his helmet clear across the building. I tried to throw my head. Little bro comes vaulting over the railing and jumps on my back. Skippy holds his head in shame. We watch as Sparano goes ape-s#!+, fists pumping, a hug/chest bump for a helmet-less Porter, who is just a giant ball of muscle and sheer adrenaline at this point. Game Over. We're delirious. Random people are imitating Jim Mora and screaming Playoffs?!
As good ole Skippy is leaving, we start singing to him. I'm sure you can guess the song. As he's walking down the steps, he looks on the verge of tears. I decide I'm getting him, and I yell to him that next time he should buy some tickets to the draft, since the season is OVER. He turns back and just unleashes a stream of unintelligible cusses and slurs, his eyes well up, and he turns towards the exit quickly before the tears flow. So we sang to him some more.
Whew. What a ride. And I'm still flying high from this one, I am forever grateful to my cousin, who gave me the tickets, for giving me the opportunity to attend that game. Haven't slept in a couple days, and I don't know when I'm gonna finally come down off of this one. Mission 2W starts this week. KC is next. A home playoff game is in sight, and that's the only thing I want for Christmas is tickets to that game. Anyways, this is incredibly long, so I'll hustle through the Gameballs part. Here they are.
5. Brandon Fields - Is this the same guy we all wanted cut earlier in the season? Not only has he stopped shanking the pressure punts, but he's putting them all inside the 10 yard line. His hangtime was great today. In a game where we only mustered (mustard?) two touchdowns, he was a key part in the field position battle. If he can punt consistently like he has been, he'll be a damn good one.
4. Nathan Jones - What? Who? The backup DB had 2 gigantic sacks in this game, both coming completely untouched off the corner, screaming like a bottle rocket towards poor Shaun Hill, who had just enough time to curl into a ball as Jones got to him. Special mention for Paul P, our DCoordinator. He dialed up the right blitzes at the right time, had his defense prepared and fired up, and help yet another team without a TD. That's 3 weeks in a row. Somebody give this man a raise. (Speaking of raises, YBell needs an extension. Seriously.)
3. David Martin - He's mainly here because of that 1st quarter catch and carry for the 61 yard touchdown. The offense was stalled for much of the day, but that play stands out as the big play potential of some of these guys on offense. He picked the ball outta the air, right off the defenders ear it seemed, shrugged him off like a jacket, and raced the rest of the way for a score. We coined the name 'Flying Squirrel' for Martin last night, and it will stick now because he responded with a bigtime play.
2. Joey Porter - Officially my favorite player on the Dolphins right now. He sealed that one up today. From the opening warmups, where he verbally punked Vernon Davis and the rest of the 49ers, to the final defensive stand, when he steamrolled Shaun Hill and launched his helmet into low orbit. That sack, combined with a couple big tackles on run plays, earns him a Gameball. The fact that he almost gave me a heart attack because he waited till the ABSOLUTE LAST MINUTE to get that sack drops him one spot. You can't be doing that Joey, you're going to kill me.
And the Number 1 Gameball this week goes to... Chad Pennington - I'm sure I'm gonna hear it about this one, but too bad, it's my column. Being there for the ebb and flow of that game, and understanding the importance of every single play, mistakes would've KILLED this team. One turnover could've turned the whole game into SF's favor. So, even though the numbers were unspectacular (12/19, 156 yards, 2 TD's) he did account for all our points, and he gets the Top Spot for what he didn't do as much as for what he did. He didn't screw up. He didn't put us in a hole. He didn't turn it over. He didn't make any mistakes at all. And when you play great defense and mistake-free offense, you give yourself a chance to win. That's been the M.O. of this team all year, and it will continue to be that way. Just a note, we have a league low 10 turnovers through 14 games. That's ridiculous.
This Weeks' Turd Sandwich goes to - Penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot quite a few times today. Way too many False Starts (including one on Wilford that prompted me to scream out "GO AWAY ERNEST"). a PI call on London, a holding here, an offsides there, and we racked up 8 for 66 yards. That can't happen. And you know Sparano will address it this week.
So, wow. My fingers are cramping. I don't think I forgot anything. That's a looong column right there. Bonus points and a shot of Goo from me to you if you read the whole thing. It was truly one of the best football experiences of my life.