This season, our beloved Miami Dolphins came in with much hope, much anticipation, and much potential. We had a top 6 defense, with all but 1 starter returning, which could have been considered an upgrade (Burnett over Crowder). We had an improved, and completed WR core, Gates being the final piece to the puzzle as the speedster. We had a revamped, younger backfield with speedster Reggie Bush and bruiser Daniel Thomas. We had, what many fin fans considered, the deepest D-Line in the league, and in Dolphins' history. We had an up-and-coming great CB tandem in Sean Smith and Vontae Davis. All this, and more, have been somehow made irrelevant.
Now, if I told you that through three games, the Dolphins would have zero wins, you would tell me it's because we don't have a good quarterback; but that's where it gets confusing... Make the jump.
Chad Henne has been playing very well this season. He has thrown for 841 yards, which is good for 280 yards per game, and puts him on pace for 4,480 yards this season. He has thrown 4 TDs, and 3 INTs (two of which either didn't matter, or were not his fault), which puts him on pace for over 21 TDs, and 16 INTs on the season.
But stats do not say the whole story. Chad has displayed leadership qualities, and much improved QB play. In fact, he is even occasionally taking matters into his own hands by tucking and running! He already has 111 rushing yards, which is over double of what he had all of last year! This puts him on pace for 592 rushing yards this year.
Anyway, let me get to the point of this post: What cost us all of our games (including the Pats game) is Sloppy play by the players AND coaches. Let me show you what I mean...
Week 1 vs. New England Patriots (I was at this game):
This has been a common theme for the Dolphins for the past few years, and it continues on this year. Lack of red zone success. This goes under the ?missed opportunities" category. When your offense is in the red zone, you must score a TD, especially against a high-power offense like that of the Patriots. The first big example of failure to pull-through in the red zone is with just under 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. We had the ball on first down on the 10 yard line of the Patriots. All we needed to do was in four plays, generate 10 yards, and here is how it went:
1st down, 10 yds to paydirt, check-down to Reggie Bush for 3 yards. 2nd down, 7 yards for 6 points, pass incomplete intended for Marshall (miscommunication). 3rd and 7 to goal, pass to Davone Bess for 6 yards (just short), 4th and a yard to go we pass the ball to Brian Hartline in the corner of the endzone. BRIAN HARTLINE? REALLY???
We have multiple red-zone targets such as Brandon Marshall either on a screen, jump-ball, slant, pass in the flats, the list goes on, we have Bess, who has made it a specialty of his to get yardage after a short catch, we have Reggie Bush who can make things happen in space (screen), and we throw a jump-ball to the short white guy??? To make matters worse, on the next play, Brady and Welker hook-up with the longest reception in NFL history.
Funny enough, on our next red zone visit, we throw it to the flat to Reggie who scores a TD.
Finally, although this didn't cost us the game, in the last two minutes, the Dolphins showed no urgency to try and score quickly. We have seen many strange things happen in the NFL of teams coming back in improbably ways, and the Fins seemed to want to have no part of a comeback win on MNF.
Week 2 vs. Houston Texans:
Early in this game, we were inside the Texan's 30, when our drive stalled and we had to settle for a signature Tony Sparano FG fist-pump. While this doesn't qualify as a red zone failure, its close enough.
Next drive, we are backed up inside the 10 and we decide to run Reggie Bush (instead of Daniel Thomas) up the gut; no gain. Next play the offensive line breaks down, allows the pressure to et to Henne, and as he is making his throw, he is hit, the ball floats in the air and gets intercepted. Of course, 2 plays later, the opportunistic Texans score a TD.
Next, we are deep in the red zone, on the Texan's 9 yard line, we can only manage 4 yards, and settle for a blocked FG instead of a TD.
Now, at the Houston 16, we fail to score a TD and decide to miss a FG instead.
On the next drive, Brandon Marshall drops a beautifully thrown pass (44 yds), which would have been a TD. The drive stalls and ends in another punt by Dolphin's All-Star Brandon Fields.
Two drives later, following a Marshall TD and a great defensive series including a 3-and-out and a JT sack, we feel like we are getting the momentum back. Daniel Thomas executes a great run for 13 yards, but coughs up the ball at the end, ruining all that momentum.
After another good defensive outing, we come out, drive the ball all the way down the field from our own 9 to the Texan's 16, we fail on 3 straight plays to gain any yardage at all, and accept 3 pts instead of 7.
All these combine for a total of 36 points. Now, I know that stuff i gonna happen during games, and you are going to make mistakes, but we lost this game so many times through missed opportunities, we could have easily had this game!
Week 3 @ Cleveland Browns:
We get into the Browns red zone for the second time, coming off of a great drive, and Reggie Bush fumbles the ball away, ruining a perfect opportunity to take a 2 possession lead, something the Dolphins have not had ALL YEAR LONG!
On the next series, Carpenter misses a 51 yard FG. While I understand that 51 yards in no chip-shot, we lost this game by 1 point. That one play could have been the difference.
Two possessions later, we get a first down inside the 10 (8 yd line), and we fail to come up with 8 yards on 3 plays, so we settle for another fist-pump, and move on.
Ensuing possession, we have the ball on a first down on Cleveland's 7, fail to convert AGAIN, and settle for 4 less than we should have had.
We have the ball again near the red zone on the next drive (23 yard line), only produce 3 yards, and the pattern continues, FG from Danny Carpenter.
The next defensive series is highlighted (or shall I say, low-lighted) by lax defense, poor coverage, and dumb penalties, which all help Colt McCoy lead his team to a TD drive, bringing them up by 1.
The Dolphins are now given a golden opportunity, not only did they get 15 yards on the kickoff due to excessive celebration of the Browns, but they also get a nice return by Gates and a horse-collar penalty to add 15 more yards. All the Dolphins needed were a few yards to put it in the Dolphin's favorite part of the field, the part that can deliver Tony Sparano fist-pumps: field goal range. And in four plays, we fail to generate a single yard, a singe completion. The only player who caught the ball on this drive was Brown's defender Mike Adams.
In case you haven't sensed the pattern yet, the Dolphins could have had all 3 of these games (realistically, the Pats game was a little out of reach either way, but still), but they were hindered by questionable coaching and flat out sloppy play which led to to a total of 68 points in collateral damage, in just 3 games!!!
Obviously, every team is going to have their "we could have done this or that", but I firmly believe that if we would have cut these costly incidents in half, we would be AT LEAST 2-1 right now...