A 6 hour drive through the desert at night gives a man time to reflect. Sometimes that reflection can be painful or hopeful, but often not both. Well this time, I had both occur and I had a lot to be happy and positive about following a tough loss to the Arizona Cardinals on sunday.
Lets go back in time a bit... On my way to the game, my thought process led me to think that our best chance at winning this game was to have a solid run attack and stingy defense. I would not have guessed that our "weaknesses" would be our strength against an undeafeted Cardinal team.
Arriving at University of Phoenix Stadium went failry uneventful. Leaving LA at 4am and arriving in Phoenix at 10:30am, the drive went smooth and was full of conversations about where this team is and where it is going. I took a friend who is a 49er fan, and by the end of the day, we had a new believer in this team.
The Arizona Cardinal fans started the day comically over confident in how badly we were going to get beat and how silly it is for so many Miami Dolphin fans to show up for this foregone conclusion of a blow out victory. The game featured a fantastic showing of support for the Miami Dolphins. Ther were Dolphin fans as far as the eye could see and that was a comforting sight.
Through the first half, the Dolphins played a steady, efficient game on offense with Tanne putting up 200 yrds passing in the first half. Davone Bess made play after play against the highly touted Patrick Peterson. Hartline catches EVERYTHING that comes his way and had a solid first half as well. But the defense...oh boy the defense.. That unit looked to be the best in the NFL that first half. Holding the Cardinals to a season low 68 total yards of offense in the first half.
Cardinal fans began realizing that they grossly underrated their foe today. While the majority of fans remained hopeful for a comeback, many had accepted defeat too early. The most common thing heard was; "How is this team looked at so negatively" and "Where the hell did Tannehill come from" and "This defense is phenomenal". It is unfortunate that we couldnt have just ended the game at the half after dominating the Cardinals in every aspect of the game.
The second half began and it appeared that the Cardinals came out with new found motivation and a new found ability to beat the soft coverage of the Dolphins secondary in the second half. While the defensive line was still able to generate pressure, it appeared that the defensive playcalling got too conservative in coverage. That conservative playcalling allowed for the Cardinals to chip away short yardage plays and eventually to find the endzone.
The offense looked to continue to dominate, but a couple of guys were unable to step up at the end to secure a win. After some of the most exciting football i have ever seen live, we came out on the short end of a over-time loss. The classy Arizona fans seemed to be silenced at the end and the obnoxious fans who started so sure of a win came back with a "never had a doubt" attitude. The walk of shame back to my car was a long one and more often than not i was forced to bite my tongue.
One story for you from the game. We were surrounded by great Arizona fans who were respectfully excited for their team throughout the game, but there is always that one guy... This guy is one of the fans who talked shit prior to the game and apologized to me for making the drive for what he originally determine to be a "Fish Fry". I ignored this gentleman for the vast majority of the game and wrote him off as a typical douchbag. At one point I asked him at what point did he switch from being a Jets fan (his behavior and speech was awfully reminiscent of their fans). Everytime the Cardinals scored in the second half, high fives were going flying around in excitement, and this guy, this guy...each time tried to fake high five me and my friend. We blew this off and remianed focused on the next drive. Well, after Tanne threw the pick in overtime, he turns to us and says "Sucks to be you, you are getting ready to watch your team lose another game in overtime because that is exactly what Miami does, find ways to lose...hahaha." I asked him a simple question..."Do you have a good dentist?" He responded with bewilderment and said "I guess, why?" My response "because if you turn around to talk shit one more time, I am going knock for f$$king teeth out." He remained silent the rest of the game...
Thats enough for the experience, now lets talk about the game! I loved that I had the first hand experience of seeing what the future holds for our beloved Miami Dolphins! Ryan mutha f$$king Tannehill! The kid has it. As one of Tanne's biggest critics, I am a changed man! This kid can make all of the throws. This kid steps up in the pocket and finds the open receivers. This kid is going to bring a title back to Miami in the next 4 years. I am confident of this.
To anyone who continues to bash Hartline, Bess, and Fasano... stop it! These guys are awesome! They are not the flashy popular guys around the league, but at this moment, i wouldnt trade them for much of anything. Fasano does it all. His blocking is amoungst the best in the NFL for TEs. He catches almost everything that comes his way and has that it factor that drives him to fall forward and to seek out the endzone every chance he gets. Hartline, he is appearing to be damn near unstoppable. He has been the most productive WR in football this year in getting yards and is one of the best #2 options in the league. Davone, the dude is amazing. He was covered well all day by Peterson, but Bess still made the tough catches and kept the chains moving. These three options for Tanne will help him develop into a top end passer in this league.
Our defense. This unit played elite most of the game. Sean Smith help Fitzgerald to a bellow average day. Smith had two very very good ints, but did blow a huge play at the end of the 4th to allow the game to go to overtime. Wake was unstoppable. He was held on almost every play, and the refs didnt make the calls. The whole front 7 dominated the whole game.
The secondary looked very very good in the first half, and i wonder if the converage got softer in the second half due to play calling, tiredness, or nerves. Not really sure, but the first 10 yards were open on almost every play in the second half. When Kolb had time to throw, he had someone open every time. Had we not generated the pressure in the second half, Kolb would have tore us apart.
Lets talk about the bad for a brief moment. First and foremost, one thing that most of the undefeated teams have in common (along with most of the teams percieved to be the best in the league) is consistent kicking. DCnotso$ technically cost us another win this weekend. He is no longer reliable and has become a liability. With his missed field goal, the Cardinals not only had the chance to tie the game at the end, but we game them a short field after the miss. I dont remember at the moment how the Cardinals did on that particular drive, but a made field goal would have put us up three scores at that point.
Playcalling. Playcalling gave us the chance to win, and cost us the game at the same time. Why on earth Sherman decided to try and throw with less than 3 miuntes to go in the game is beyond me. All we needed to do was run the clock down a bit and pin them deep. We would have kept them out of the endzone. Their team was deflated after Hartline's score and I fully believe that they would have stalled out on that last drive with so far to go. Instead, a pass play is called, Tanne gets bum rushed, fumbles the ball, and gives them a very short field and almost 3 minutes to tie the game.
Charles Clay. Unreliable. Useless. We drafted a rookie TE by the name of Egnew. Even though Egnew is not up to the nfl speed yet, what is the point of stifling him so that Clay can keep dropping balls. I just dont see the point of him in the lineup anymore.
Nanee, gotta go. Its simple.
The 6 hour drive back to LA provided me with ample time to think about what is to come. I feel very good about where this team is. I say that this team that can beat any team in the NFL. On Sunday, I saw a team that with more experience and better coaching could be a Superbowl Champion sooner than later. I still feel that this season will leave us somewhere in the 8-8 range, and we will have plenty more games like this one to win and lose this year. In time, players will step up at the end and make the game ending plays. In time, the coaches will get to know the players so well that the right play will be called and the right result will come of it. Ryan Tannehill is going to put up big numbers in his career. My biggest hope for him is that his decision making will continue to improve and that he will start winning with his mind and not try to win them with his arm.
Great game Arizona! you all earned the win. Arizona did everything right to win, but they needed us to make that last big mistake. All in all, I am the most excited about the Miami Dolphins that i have been in a long time. Its going to be a frustrating year, but in my heart of hearts, i truly see us winning the Superbowl in the next 4 years. This is our Miami Dolphins be proud and hold your heads up high! Good things are coming!