Dolphins thoroughly defeated by Ravens; fall back to .500

I don't even know where to begin. Usually it's easy to figure out where a game was won or lost. But in Sunday's 26-10 loss to the Ravens, there wasn't one obvious issue that cost the Dolphins any chance of winning. Instead, the Dolphins were thoroughly defeated in pretty much every way possible.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall summed it up pretty well after the game:

"I think it's obvious right now we can't beat the great teams. We can't beat the good teams. ...We just shoot ourselves in the foot when we're on a big stage."

I don't want to sound like the proverbial "hater" that many fans get labeled as when they point out the flaws of their team. But it's getting to the point where we all need to take a good long look at this team and wonder just what exactly is wrong.

Because something's wrong with this team.

We're now three years into this era - the Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano era - and while I see a younger team on the field, I don't necessarily see a better team than the one we all enjoyed back in 2008 during the first year under this regime.

But enough of this. Let's talk about what we all had to sit through yesterday.

Defense? What defense?

Was this really the same defense that entered the game as a top ten unit? Was it the same defense that forced the Bengals to punt nine times last week? Anyone know how many times the Ravens punted yesterday? Not one time.

In fact, the only time Baltimore's punter was on the field, he threw a pass to a wide open receiver for a completion (something Chad Henne struggled to do himself late in the first half - but we'll get to that later).

The defense wasn't entirely bad. They did keep the Ravens out of the endzone on a number of occasions - particularly impressive when they drove the Ravens backwards following Henne's first interception.

But the numbers tell the story. The Ravens put up over 400 yards of offense and converted far too many third downs - particularly long third downs. I think back to the third and ten pass completion to Derrick Mason - with Vontae Davis in coverage - in the first quarter. I think back to two key conversions courtesy of Anquan Boldin in the fourth quarter as well.

Tony Sparano highlighted a big part of the problem after the game when he told the media,"We didn't tackle worth a crap today."

Channing Crowder shared his thoughts as well, calling his unit's play "a ridiculous performance by the defense."

But don't put it all on the players, either. You have to wonder about the coaching staff's decision not to shadow Ray Rice. After the game, linebacker Karlos Dansby was asked about how the defense handled Rice. Dansby responded:

"No, for what? Why would we shadow him? He didn't do anything. They checked down to him, but he was the last resort. Why would we need to shadow him?"

Why make it a point to contain Ray Rice? Hmmm - I'd say to prevent him from picking up 180 yards of offense all by himself. But what do I know?

Doubt starting to creep in regarding Henne

I was one of those who wasn't very fond of the selection of Chad Henne back in 2008. But like any fan, I bought into this regime. And Henne has looked very promising at this during his 21 career starts here in Miami. But there comes a point in time where your young quarterback has to prove he's the long-term solution at the sport's most vital position.

Chad Henne failed to prove anything on Sunday, giving critics more ammo for why he isn't the answer.

For me, there are two problems I continually see week in and week out. I see consistently inconsistent pass accuracy - as highlighted by his ugly overthrow to a wide open Anthony Fasano for a would-be touchdown just before halftime. The Dolphins could have taken a 14-13 lead into the half. But Henne misfired badly.

After the game, Henne took responsibility for that missed opportunity, saying, "That's a throw I need to make...I've got to make that play."

Which brings me to my second issue with Henne. I know Henne's calm demeanor on the field ccan be misleading. He rarely shows emotion - good or bad - during the course of the game. But I can't help but wonder if Henne has what it takes to be the kind of leader a quarterback needs to be. I don't see any "Chad Pennington leadership skills" in him at this point - and that's a huge issue, in my opinion.

Like I said, Henne is now 21 starts into his NFL career. Quite frankly, I thought I'd know a lot more about him by now. Instead I have more questions than answers. And I'm not as sure as I once was that Henne should be given enough time to answer these questions.

QUICK HITS
A few more quick thoughts on this game, as I'm frankly worn out even thinking about this disaster that was:

  • Interesting thoughts from Ed Reed after the game, saying that the strategy for defending the Dolphins - and Henne in particular, was to "be disciplined." He added, "[Henne] follows what he's supposed to do on every play and that helps a lot." So how much of Henne's struggles - and the offense's struggles - should be blamed on the coaching staff?
  • Speaking of coaches, you have to love Dan Henning, right? Ronnie Brown is fed the ball six times for 45 yards on the opening drive - a drive culminating in a 12 yard touchdown run. Then Ronnie gets just three more carries all game? Hmmm...
  • Ray Lewis had an interesting quote as well after the game, saying "We made them do what they didn't want to do, which is throw downfield." Get ready for every other team remaining on the schedule to employ similar tactics.
  • At least Cameron Wake showed up for this Miami defense. Wake registered two more sacks during an 8 tackle day - a day that includes two more quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss. Cameron has become a complete linebacker and will only get better as he gains more and more experience.
  • I really don't want to hear about this Channing Crowder/Le'Ron McClain incident. If McClain did really intentionally spit in Channing's face, then he's a turd. That's fair to say. But man - the Dolphins sounded like a bunch of thugs in the locker room after the game.
  • A hell of a quote from Brandon Marshall after the game: "This is my first year here and coach Henning and coach Sparano's formula for winning might be a little different than where I come from. I'm fine with that, but it becomes a problem when we're losing." For once, I'll take the side of the "diva receiver." The Dolphins gave up two second round picks and handed him a huge contract. How about we actually get Brandon involved a little bit more. How about Dan Henning and company actually work with Marshall; perhaps ask him for some suggestions on how to utilize his abilities as effectively as possible. But again - what do I know? I'm just a lowly fan - and Dan Henning is all-knowing.
  • What a huge missed opportunity when Sean Smith dropped that likely pick six. Smith had an outstanding break on the ball. But you have to make those kinds of plays. That could have been a game-changer. Instead it was a routine incompletion.

Final Thought

I'm fearing that this team might be exactly what their record says they are. Some fans were probably hoping that the Dolphins would make it out of their first eight games with a 4-4 record. But it's clear that this team can't beat those upper echelon NFL teams.

Now the Dolphins are in a situation where even winning six of their final eight to get to 10-6 might not be good enough to make the playoffs. And I keep reading about how Miami's schedule gets "easy" now to close out the year. But that's not the case from where I'm sitting.

The Titans? 5-3. The Bears? 5-3. Games on the road against the Jets and Patriots? Both are 6-2 and have already beaten the Dolphins in Miami. Going to Oakland? 5-4 and looking better each week. Even home games against the Lions and Browns suddenly look more challenging.

Going 6-2 over these final eight games is going to be immensely difficult - that's a fact.

But the Dolphins have only themselves to blame for being in this position in the first place. Their backs are against the wall. How will they respond?

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