Another week, another let down. Yet again, the Dolphins, in a winnable game, did just enough to lose. Make no mistake about it. The Giants didn't win this game. No, no. The Dolphins lost the game. Bad teams simply can't overcome all of these miscues and miss opportunities and win a game against a good team. And this would have been an impressive win, as the Giants are a good team. But mistakes and penalties really cost the Dolphins.
To be honest, I'm not sure which of one the many mistakes/miss opportunities were the most costly. When you really think about it, if any one of these didn't happen, the end result would have likely been much different. First, you got the missed field goal on the opening drive. I won't kill Jay Feely, as he has been solid all year and it was a poor playing surface he was kicking off of, but that miss was certainly costly. Then you got the 3rd and 1 play with Marty Booker under center on the next possession. Why try to get fancy in that situation? I've defended Cam Cameron all year, but that one was a bad play call. It wasn't needed. Just sneak it with Cleo Lemon or give it to Jesse Chatman, who played well all game. No need to use trickery and put a player who has never, to my knowledge, taken a snap from center in the NFL under center in those playing conditions on a simple 3rd and 1. Who knows if the Dolphins would have scored on that drive, but it was just another negative play in a game filled with them. Bad decision by Cam on that one.
There's really nothing left to say about Cleo. He's shown what kind of player he is in the NFL. And that is a career back-up. I think he'd make a very good #2 quarterback because he does have the ability to make plays at times, which is all you can really ask out of a back-up QB. But he's not a starter.
And this brings me to the 2 other big mistakes, both committed by Lemon. First of all, you got the the real killer. Of course I'm talking about the Lemon "untouched" fumble, when the ball just slipped out of his "small" hand at midfield with under a minute to play in the first half. Basically, Cleo just gift-wrapped the Giants a free 3 points to close the half. That's not how you want to ever close out a half. Thanks, Cleo.
The other big blunder by Lemon was the bobbled snap with about 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and with the Fins trailing 13-0. It's 2nd and goal from the two after a drive in which the Giants had to answer for Jesse Chatman. I think it's safe to assume that he would have scored if he ever got the ball handed off to him on that 2nd down play. But Cleo bobbles the snap badly, causing the play to break down. He rolls out to the right and gets tackled for a 7 yard loss. Derek Hagan nearly hauls in a fade that would have been a TD on 3rd down and the Fins are forced to settle for a field goal. A big-time missed opportunity on that drive thansk to Lemon.
The thing about Lemon, though, is that he also makes bad decisions and/or throws when he does actually hold onto the ball. He underthrew Ted Ginn badly on what would have been a 56 yard touchdown. Ginn was behind the New York secondary by at least 5 yards on that play, but Cleo couldn't make the throw. He made a number of poor reads during the game as well. Too many times he dumped it off to a back or tight end when there were open receivers down field...especially Ginn (who we'll talk about in a few). Sure, Lemon made some nice throws as well, but he's too inconsistent with his accuracy. Enough of Cleo. Let's see what Beck has following the bye.
The backs and OL
The ground game was rather efficient. Jesse Chatman had some very nice runs, ending the day with a 4.9 ypc average. Patrick Cobbs also ran effectively in his 4 carries, picking up 19. I loved Jesse's tough running throughout the game, especially on that 22 yard run which should have resulted in a loss of a couple. I think he's proving that he's a very good #2 running back to have on your team. Man, I just wish we could have seen what Ronnie Brown could have done in this game.
The real unsung heroes of this game, though, were the big guys up front. This offensive line played extremely well, opening up holes for the backs all game long. They also did a pretty good job against this talented Giants pass rush. There were a number of times when Lemon had all kinds of time but simply didn't make any plays. In my opinion, this unit passed a huge test today and, when considering starting John Beck, pass protection should not be a concern. This group is gelling nicely and Cam and Hudson Houck need to be commended for the great job done.
For a defense that was without their best player, this unit did play relatively well, especially the secondary. Sure, they were helped by numerous dropped passes, but they did make plays. Will Allen and Michael Lehan each made great plays on long passes to Plaxico Burress in one-on-one coverage. Jason Allen and Cameron Worrell both played well at safety. Could there be hope for Jason Allen afterall? Possibly. Today was a step in the right direction, that's for sure.
However, yet again the defense couldn't stop the run. Too often, a Giants running back was breaking tackles and picking up chunks of yards. No matter how well you defend the pass, you will lose when you allow your opponent to pick up 5.1 yards per carry on the ground. Not having Zach Thomas definitely hurt, but you still have to step up and make plays. Channing Crowder looked better today than he has most of the season, but too many times guys like Joey Porter and Derrick Pope were out of position to stop the run. With all that said, though, the heat is off the defense for now. This loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Cleo Lemon and not the defense. In fact, this is just the 2nd time all year in which you can't blame the defense for the loss. So there's a bright spot, I suppose.
Odds & Ends
-Ted Ginn is going to be a very, very good player. Yes, he only made one catch, but it was a tough catch and it was for a score. But that one catch isn't why I am praising Teddy. For the second straight week, Ginn was open deep for what likely would have resulted in an easy score. But the QB couldn't make the throw. I think we'll see these passes succeed once Cleo is out of there. Also, despite being only thrown to twice (at least I think it was twice, but I'll find out when I do the passing break down later in the week), Ginn was open more times than not. I think that he's shown that the two biggest questions about him (route running and hands) aren't really that big of an issue. Big things ahead for this kid.
-Derek Hagan is going to develop into a good possession receiver in time. He's shown good hands and he has a knack for getting open on 3rd down. He was targeted on 3rd down about 3 or 4 times, catching one. Those others were poor throws or good defensive plays. He also really knows how to use that 6'2 frame of his. I'm very excited for the Ted Ginn/Derek Hagan combination in the future.
-The hot topic this week will be if the Dolphins make the switch to Beck at QB. I posted the article by Jason Cole about a "source" saying a switch was likely. I also just heard Steve Mariucci say in NFL Gameday that he thinks they should make the switch. We'll see what happens.
That's all I got for now. As always, your thoughts below...