Miami Dolphins: Playing like they want it!

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 14: Running Back Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates a touchdown with teammate Anthony Fasano #80 against the Tennessee Titans at Sun Life Stadium on November 14 2010 in Miami Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

I liked what I saw Sunday against the Tennessee Titans!

All of it... except the injuries. 

  • - Fake Punt?  Check!
  • - Al Harris?  Check!
  • - Spread Formation?  Check!
  • - Tyler Thigpen?  Check check!

Let me start with the fake punt - I know it was not a smart "football strategy" move, strictly speaking.  I get that, and I have read many of the opinions criticizing the decision.

And I agree with that. 

You just can't realistically justify that play call, unless it is late in the 4th quarter, with time running down, and you are playing from behind.

And I still liked it!   And I liked the play call at the time, and not just after the game was won.

You see, if you have been reading any of my commentaries regarding the general game play of the Miami Dolphins, you will know that one of my main complaints has been this "playing not to lose" mentality.

I wrote this after the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Let's call it like it is... the Fins will not take the next step to a serious playoff caliber team while they are playing scared... playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. 

And I am starting to believe it is becoming a part of their culture, being instilled by the coaching staff.  If they don't start learning how to "play to win" - how to take their foot off the brake and stomp on the accelerator right from the start of the game, and keep the pedal to the metal for a full 60 minutes - I just don't see how they will
ever be real contenders in this league.

What I wouldn't give to see the Miami Dolphins actually come out and CRUSH an opponent....

So now, let me ask you a question:

Setting aside the issue of whether or not the "fake punt" play call was logical in the traditional sense, in what universe can that play called, at that point in the game, from that position on the field, be considered "scared", "timid", "wimpy", or otherwise "playing not to lose"?

It might not have been "smart", but I think it was born of desperation.  I believe that Tony Sparano finally got a special delivery, overnight, urgent message from the Clue Fairy, and it simply said, "Your season, and possibly your job, is finished unless your football team starts playing like they want it!"

Despite the fact that the play execution didn't succeed, I honestly believe that, as a team, the Miami Dolphins woke up at that moment and said, "Hey!  We don't have to be scared anymore!".  And they played the entire game that way!  AND WON!  BY SCORING POINTS!  HOW ABOUT THAT?

The 64 Thousand Dollar Question?  Will they continue to play this way or, now having won a game and gotten back above .500, will they revert to the old, conservative style of offense they have played every other game so far this season?

We shall see tomorrow!

 

Al Harris?  I didn't see this coming!

I mean, he's old, coming off injury, dumped by his team, and only acquired a few days before the game - if anyone had told me that Al Harris would even play, I might have been a bit skeptical - but he looked good! 

And Reshad Jones?  Does anyone think he might be the future replacement for Yeremiah Bell?  The kid can damn sure play, huh?  Sure, he should have batted that ball down in the end zone on a Tennessee 4th down from their own territory - but anyone who saw the end of the Jacksonville-Houston game knows that there's no such thing as a "sure thing".

And even with the injuries, you have a positive side to things - at least as far as the Chad Pennington and Chad Henne injuries are concerned.

Last week there was an uproar from the fan base when Chad Henne was "benched" in favor of Chad Pennington for this game.  The opinions went both ways, but the general consensus among most fans was that, in some way Henne earned the benching.  There were a lot of questions regarding the general offensive play calling, and whether or not that was the cause of Henne's struggles.  There was even some speculation that swapping QBs was a method of determining which it was - the QB or the play calling?

Well, for once, it looks like we have more answers than questions this week!

First off, the entire offensive philosophy was different for this game.  It was aggressive and oriented toward the Miami Dolphins "actual" strengths, and not toward the "wannabe" strengths that O.C. Dan Henning has seemed to be imagining so far this season.  I also wrote this bit after the loss to the Steelers:

Dan Henning is a power run oriented play caller - which worked in 2008 and (sort-of) in 2009.  But the Miami Dolphins have morphed into a pass oriented team, and the O-line is better at pass protection than run blocking.  Henning's play calls do not play to the Fins' new strengths.  Personally, I think it was a mistake to shake up the entire interior O-line this offseason, but what's done is done.  But now you have a pass oriented team, so call a pass oriented game! Henning is still calling a game as if our O-line can knock people off the ball.   Pssst.... Dan.... they can't.

WELL GUESS WHAT?  THE MIAMI DOLPHINS RAN A PASS ORIENTED GAME PLAN!

And not just any old two WR sets - they emptied the backfield and spread the field!

AND IT WORKED!

But, what would we have learned if Pennington had continued to play?  Nothing.  CP would probably have executed this game plan well, but being a completely different offense, we would still be left wondering about Chad Henne.  But we got some answers about Henne, and from my point of view, they are pretty positive answers!  Henne appeared aggressive, aside from the play calling.  He flat out looked pissed!  And he played very well - in this different offense.

Nothing is proven, but I think it is pretty strong evidence that the offensive play calling has been a big part of the problem!

Now it stinks that Henne is out for a little while due to injury, but it gave us a chance to look at Tyler Thigpen.  And he looked pretty good!  Last week, in talking about Henne's struggles, I asked:

Here's the punch line: If Henne is NOT THE GUY, then who is? 

I think most everyone can agree that it isn't Pennington.  And there are a bunch of folks (myself included) that think Tyler Thigpen has potential to be good.

I am not ready to anoint Thigpen as anything other than a backup with potential, but one of the frustrations that many Dolphins fans, myself included, have expressed over the years is over the lack of an investment in the QB position.  Well, we all knew that CP was not the long term answer, but he was obviously Tony's security blanket, and was effectively standing in the way of giving Thigpen an opportunity.  I mean, let's face it, do any of us believe in the old "training camp competition" any more?  I don't.

But unless something miraculous happens with Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen will start for the Miami Dolphins tomorrow night at quarterback against the Chicago Bears.  And we will find out whether Thigpen can pick up where he left off Sunday.

And whether or not the Miami Dolphins will keep playing like they want it!

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