In a game that was a lot closer than most would have hoped, the Miami Dolphins held on, made just enough plays, and escaped with a 2 point victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
It was a very entertaining game - if by entertaining, I mean a stressful, "too close for comfort" kind of game. But a win is a win - and in this league, you take wins however you can get them.
Let's talk about some of the headlines:
A LESSON LEARNED
If nothing else, here's what we, as fans, learned about the Dolphins: don't ever "expect" a win.
I don't think the players themselves took this game for granted - mainly because I don't think this coaching staff would ever let them - but I know I was one of many fans who probably did think of this game as an easy win. But we learned today that nothing about this potentially improbable season will come easy. Somebody said during the game thread that the Dolphins are the kind of team that these struggling teams will really get up to play against - and I agree 100%. These struggling teams will certainly circle the Dolphins on their schedule as a potential win - and might be a bit sharper against the Fins than against a team that is clearly better than them. That makes these teams even more dangerous against the Dolphins than some of the better teams that this Fins team has played or will play.
And though it isn't likely that the players would ever admit it, it sure does seem like the Dolphins either play up to their competition (when they face good teams) or down to their competition (when they play the not-so-good teams). But this shouldn't come as any shock to us Dolphin fans. In fact, this game on Sunday was the 6th straight time that the Dolphins - as favorites - failed to cover the point spread. And all that shows is that when the Dolphins are "supposed" to win, they tend to struggle a little bit more than typical "Vegas favorites."
But I think this game will prove to be beneficial to the Dolphins in the long run. It was a game that they could have easily lost - but they stepped up when they had to. For a team that is learning how to win, games like these tend to be invaluable to the rebuilding process. And this game will also likely prove to be a benefit in terms of preparation for upcoming games. I fully expect the coaching staff - despite the win - to really chew this team out and get on them in practice this week.
Let's just hope the players themselves learned from this game - just as the fans did.
A DAY OF BIG PLAYS
There were moments during this game that were downright ugly for the Dolphins. But we're seeing an encouraging sign out of this team this season - the tendency to create big plays when absolutely necessary.
Obviously, two plays that stick out are the Ted Ginn TD catch and Ricky Williams' long TD run. And both were tremendous plays - especially Teddy's. He had no right catching that pass, but showed great concentration despite being surrounded by 2 defenders. He located the ball beautifully, made a terrific catch with his hands, and made sure he got both of his feet in when he could have easily have made a mental error and stepped out of the back of the endzone. And even Ginn himself confessed that he'd "never made a catch like that." It was a thing of beauty - which was aided by a perfectly placed pass by Chad Pennington.
But some of the game's biggest plays occurred during that 4th quarter. And yet again, the Dolphins showed that killer instinct and put together a drive that they absolutely had to put together. It was a 16 play, 9 minute drive and it provided the breathing room that this team would ultimately need to escape with the win. And that drive saw the Dolphins convert a 4th down (I love Tony Sparano's guts these last 2 weeks, passing up on FGs to help put the game away during these 4th quarter drives) and 3 3rd downs. And none were bigger than that 3rd & 8 pass from Pennington to Davone Bess. Pennington did an amazing job of avoiding the pass rush, rolled out to his left, and found an alert Bess - who was coming back towards Chad to make the play. It went for 12 yards and quite possibly saved the game for the Dolphins. And then that drive would be capped off with another big play - a bruising 16 yard TD run out of the Wildcat formation for Ronnie Brown, who was patient and let his teammates set up their blocks on that left side. Big plays by these guys on offense - especially late in the game.
Of course, not to be outdone, the defense - especially the secondary - made some big plays in key moments. Yeremiah Bell's breakup of that 2-point conversion pass attempt to John Carlson was huge and really shows how valuable Bell is to this secondary. Bell also contributed 9 tackles (8 solo). Time to lock up Bell with a contract extension, eh?
Will Allen also made a huge play, diving to break up a long pass on 3rd down from Seneca Wallace to Bobby Engram on 3rd down of that final Seattle possession. Allen was beat on the play, but got a little lucky with a slightly underthrown ball and was able to make a lunging pass deflection to keep the ball from the hands of Engram. Big, big, big play from Allen.
CHAD PENNINGTON LIKES BIG MOMENTS
Pennington got off to a good start, throwing for 59 yards on that first drive that resulted in Ginn's TD off of the flea-flicker. But he got cold after that and struggled. Entering the 4th, Chad was just 16/27 for 152 yards. He missed some spots and made one very bad decision - which resulted in a pick 6 for Seattle.
But Pennington stepped up in a big way yet again - leading the key 4th quarter scoring drive. He was 3/3 on 3rd down during that drive and, in total, accounted for 49 of the 79 yards on that drive - going 5/8. And we can't forget that remarkable play that we talked about above, avoiding the rush and making the perfect throw to Bess. This is why we brought CP10 to Miami and he hasn't disappointed.
-You have to feel bad for Ted Ginn, having a kickoff return for a TD called back for the 3rd time in his young career. But even still, you have to love the excitement Teddy brings as our returner. On the other two returns he had, Ginn picked up 37 yards and 31 yards. Not too shabby. He needs to be back there for every single kickoff return.
-Speaking of returns, I like having D-Bess back there because he is better at making defenders miss than Teddy is. But what the hell was he thinking when he fielded a punt from his own 3 yard line? Let the ball bounce and hope it finds the endzone, my man.
-The offensive line is really worrying me. Vernon Carey seems to be really struggling - and that's my biggest concern. We know this team's RG, whoever it is, will struggle this year. And the line as a whole just seems to be struggling to pick up some blitzes. Improvement is needed. Oh - but Jake Long is still going to be a beast. I'm impressed with him every time I see him.
-Who said the Wildcat was dead? For those scoring at home, the formation was used on 6 plays and resulted in 80 yards and two touchdowns. I love the new wrinkles. Ricky's TD run was nice because all of his previous handoffs from that formation went outside of the right tackle. The TD run was well designed - as the defense was shifting to the right to defend Ricky and the play was designed for him to hit it up the middle. Great blocking on that one, too. And the TD run by Ronnie was equally as impressive from a design standpoint. Having Ronnie flanked by two backs makes a 3-headed monster back there. And getting Cobbs out in front to block was a great idea.
-Speaking of Patrick Cobbs, I'll admit that my "mancrush" on him grows each week. He gets involved in the passing game. He throws blocks left and right. And he makes terrific tackles on special teams. He's definitely a "Parcells type of player."
-Brandon Fields is looking better - but Dan Carpenter is really impressing me. His first 3 kickoffs were all beauties. One was a touchback, one was taken out from the endzone, and the other landed at Seattle's 3 yard line. His last kickoff, though, only landed at the 13, as I think the Dolphins were trying to help cover up their coverage deficiencies.
-Speaking of which, this team's special teams coverage is atrocious - and that's probably an under-statement.
-Run Ricky Run. It was nice to see a rejuvenated Ricky Williams out there today. But even still, Ronnie Brown needs more than just 14 touches - with many of them coming in 3rd and short situations which don't allow Brown to get out in space.
-Good news: the Dolphins were 7/15 on 3rd downs. Bad news: the Seahawks were 7/15 on 3rd downs as well.
-I had a feeling that Seattle's ground game would be a problem, which is why I highlighted it a couple different times this past week. But I didn't think it would be that effective. Average yards per carry for Seattle: 5.5.
-Walter Jones is a beast - and that's why Joey Porter only picked up a half sack. But his 12 is still a league high.
Make no mistake about it. The Dolphins might have been lucky to win this game. They were aided by about 6 or 7 Seattle dropped passes - one of which would have been a key 3rd down conversion and the other would have been a touchdown. But that's the way this game is. And sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good. After all, this team lost 6 games by 3 points or less last year - so karma still owes us.
But you take a win any way you can get it. In this league, at this stage in the season, there's no wrong way to win a football game. But I think the most interesting thing about this game will be how the Dolphins respond to it next week at home against another team that the Fins "should" defeat. Their response next week, in a game that is the very definition of a "trap game" - as New England comes to town in two weeks - should tell us a lot about this team, its players, and its coaches.
As always, your thoughts below...