Welcome to week 3. Two weeks down, two losses. Sounds familiar. Anyone remember all the way back to last year? Two losses to start the season, to include a beat down from the Cardinals that had all of us expecting a repeat of 2007? See, I know you remember it. How'd that turn out?
Yes, this posting is late this week. Why? Because I was so angry and frustrated after last week that I contemplated not even bothering to write anything. However, this is a very cathartic experience and I think I need that right now. Maybe you will even find what I have to say as entertaining.
Last week was ridiculous. No, not the game. I thought the team played well. I think there is a lot to work on , specifically the defense needs to learn how to tackle, and any day someone wants to stop a tight-end from catching a ball would be great. I'm not blind to the shortfalls of this team. And I expected them. The Dolphins are in year two of a three year rebuild. Give it time. The team will get better.
Why am I angry and frustrated? Because I am tired of getting splashed as everyone abandons ship. The level of bandwagon jumping was so high, I gave up and left the post game commenting. You would have thought we just blew the National Championship, the World Series, and the Super Bowl all at once. I don't understand it. Are we fans of the team, or are we simply fans of winning? I'm beginning to question that.
This team has won 11 of 19 games since the 1-15 season. Three games over .500 after being 14 games under. Yes, this team has lost its last three games. I fully acknowledge that. But, the fact that you are able to be this upset over those three losses, individually and combined, should show you how far this team has come.
Instead, the blog exploded into a cascade of comments on how over this year is. It started during the final drive, with comments on how horrible the "two-minute drill" was for the team. Was it? Was it really that bad? Let's look at it for just a second. The Dolphins got the ball back with 3:18 to go, down by four.
Patrick Cobbs returned the kickoff 24 yards to the 18-yard line. At this point, I was wondering why. Why on Earth do you take that ball from 6-yards deep in the endzone and run with it. Kneel, keep the 7 seconds it took to complete that play and get the ball at the 20-yard line. Seems pretty straight forward.
As the offense took the field, the Dolphins had 3:11 to travel 82 yards, something the Colts had just done in 32-seconds. Miami's first play was a one yard run by Ronnie Brown. Here came the questions. "What?" "Why are we running the ball?" Even the commentators seemed confused.
But, the Dolphins had run the ball well all day. The team still held two time outs and the two-minute warning. If the Colts could not stop the run all day, why abandon it when moving the ball is a necessity?
Here is really the only questionable moment that I had during this drive. Chad Pennington called a timeout after letting the play clock run all the way down. Why? What was the thought process here? Either keep the clock running and run a play, or call the time out earlier. I am still confused by this time out.
Following the time out, Brown was again handed the ball with 2:26 remaining, as he gained 5 yards. The clock ran down to the 2:00 Warning, with Miami at its own 24-yard line.
After the 2:00 Warning, Pennington found Ted Ginn, Jr. over the middle for 11 yards. Running to the line, Pennington again found Ginn , who got out of bound after 9-yards.
With 1:33 left, Pennington hit Anthony Fasano for 1-yard. Again going on huddle, the Dolphins snapped the ball only to have Chad Pennington sacked for a nine-yard loss. With 0:56 remaining, Miami called their final time out.
The Dolphins then came out throwing, as Pennington connected with Davone Bess for 18-yards. Bess ran out of bounds at the Indianapolis 46-yard line. Pennington ran the ball up the middle for four yards on the next play, then spiked the ball on the resulting first down, stopping the clock with 0:41 seconds left.
From the Indianapolis 42-yard line, Chad Pennington missed Ginn on a deep ball, but hit him on the next play for 12 yards, down to the Colts' 30-yard line. Pennington then spiked the clock, leaving 0:12 to take a shot at winning the game with a touchdown pass.
So, what was ugly with all of that? What's the point of the hurry-up/2:00 minute drill? To get the team into scoring position, able to take a shot at winning the game, right? Well, the Dolphins just accomplished that.
So, with 0:12 second, Chad Pennington dropped back and threw the ball toward Ted Ginn, Jr. Let the debate of whether Ginn should have caught that ball begin. I still think that was a tough catch. Suddenly, people were screaming that Ginn is a worthless, horrible wide receiver. Ignoring all three cathes he had made to get the team to the Indy 30-yard line in the first place, not to mention his 11-catches for 108 yards earlier in the game.
The Dolphins got one more shot at the endzone, but the ball was intercepted as time ran out.
So, two shots at the endzone as time runs out to win the game. What's the problem with the last drive?
Now, let's look at the point to running down the clock. Indianapolis scored on five drives during the game. They had a 0:12 touchdown drive, a 4:07 field goal drive, 0:43 field goal drive (the infamous "What can happen in :08?" drive), 3:17 touchdown drive, and a 0:32 touchdown drive. What's that mean? Peyton Manning could have directed a game tying or winning drive with any amount of time left on the clock. Why take the chance? If you can drive down the field and score to win the game, while leaving Manning no time to respond, why wouldn't you? I fully believe that truly explains the decisions during the "2:00 drill" (except maybe that first timeout).
So, now we start seeing the comments explode. Suddenly everyone is questioning everything from Chad Pennington to Pat White. From Dan Henning to Tony Sparano. From Jason Taylor to Gibril Wilson. Everything. There were comments that we needed to fire coaches, bench players, cut receivers. All because of one loss. One loss out of 16 games.
What are your expectations of this year? Mine are that the team looks good, plays hard, and we should come out somewhere around 9&7, in the hunt for a wildcard berth. I don't think this team is looking at a Super Bowl run. I don't think this team is looking at a deep playoff run. I'm not even sure this team makes the playoffs. I am hopeful. I want them to get there. But, I'm not living or dying on if they make it or not. Remember, we are only one year removed from a single win season.
I don't mean to preach, and I know that's what it seems like I am doing, but I am sick and tired of hearing people bash the team, the players, the coaches because of a loss. The 2009 Miami Dolphins are not a great team. They are a good team. I would say they are a very good team. They are not a great team. The Indianapolis Colts, as long as they have Peyton Manning, are a great team. The fact that the Dolphins took Indianapolis to the final play of the game, the fact that the Dolphins showed that the offense can move the ball and the defense can shut down the run, proves this team is improving and starting to reach higher levels of play. But, they aren't there yet.
Give it time. Let the team develop. This team is still incredibly young. Check out this article by ESPN.com's Tim Graham to see what I mean. To give you a taste of it, "Also of note, the Dolphins kept more rookie or first-year players than anybody else with 14."
So this team is young and developing. They aren't going to be an undefeated, untouchable team today; but tomorrow, they might be. Let's get to tomorrow.
Targets of Opportunity
Guess we should have been watching "Joe Buck Live." Namath, Elway, and Marino on one stage talking about today's quarterbacks. Yeah, we should have watched that.
Really? Tony Sparano spent all of last year in the 90% range for Coaching Ratings. Now, he has a 66%. Have we really jumped ship that badly after two games?
What's going on in Miami? Not the Dolphins, but the ‘Canes. Congrats to all of your Hurricanes fans. Good to see Florida has two Top 10 teams again. A couple of years from now, we could be back to the three powerhouse schools in Florida, all beating the crap out of each other. Should be fun!
Finally, I think the real culprit of this loss we just endured was the 3rd and 6 play, where the Dolphins ran a draw play to the middle of the field to set-up the go ahead field goal. Way too conservative against Peyton Manning and the Colts, especially with the obvious ease with which Peyton was picking apart the secondary. Go for the first down there. It's the only way to prevent what ultimately happened.