These Dolphins seem to defy logic, don't they? Last week, they won a game in which they held the ball for 17 fewer minutes than their opponent. This week, the Fins went on the road and won a game in which they allowed almost 500 yards of offense. Oh - and it was the coldest game the Miami Dolphins had ever played in.
And now, after winning just one game last year, the Miami Dolphins have 10 wins and are staring a division championship right in the face.
Onto the headlines:
PENNINGTON THE EPITOME OF THE TERM "MVP"
Chad Pennington is officially one of my heroes. It's that simple. And he needs to be heavily involved in the league MVP talk. Because there's no doubt in my mind that without him, this amazing turnaround doesn't happen.
On Sunday in Kansas City, Pennington led the Dolphins in freezing temperatures and subzero wind chills to one of their biggest wins in years. And he led his back from a halftime deficit. His stat-line may not be overly impressive - 26/34, 235, 3 TDs, 1 Int - though it's definitely nothing to brush off. But what's more important is how Pennington leads this team in key moments - making all the key plays.
And I have two specific moments to highlight.
The firs,t of course, is when he led the Dolphins on that epic, championship-caliber 13 play, 85 yard drive in the 4th quarter with the score tied at 31 - a drive that ate up 8:33 off of the clock and resulted in what would be the game-winning touchdown. Earlier this season, Pennington might have had to say something before the start of a drive like this. But this time was different. Pennington said after the game:
"I didn't have to say a word. I could see it in our guys' eyes. 'This is it. This is what we've gotta do.' Earlier in the season you didn't see that. Now you see that, guys having a sense of urgency, understanding what the situation's all about."
On this "championship-caliber" drive, Pennington was perfect - literally. He connected on all 7 of his pass attempts for 65 yards - including a 14 yard TD pass to Anthony Fasano on a play where the Chiefs were blitzing and Pennington read the defense and knew exactly where he had to go with the ball. He got rid of it quickly to Fasano, who made a terrific catch on a pass that was slightly behind him because of how quick Chad had to get rid of it, who then carried KC defenders into the endzone with him. What a way to cap a season-saving drive.
But that drive might not have been possible if not for the second "CP" moment I want to quickly highlight. The Chiefs had just kicked a FG on their first possession of the 2nd half to take a 7 point lead. The Dolphins were facing a 3rd & 10 after starting the drive off with two incompletions. That's when Pennington dropped back to pass and calmly connected with Davone Bess - who is quickly becoming a damn good receiver - for a 12 yard gain and a first down. Two play later, the Dolphins had tied the game up thanks to a Ricky Williams 4 yard TD run.
I don't even dare think about how this game plays out if Pennington doesn't convert that 3rd & 10 play. A "3 and out" there would have been absolutely disastrous. But leave it to CP to save the say - with a little help from D-Bess.
AT LEAST THE DEFENSE SHOWED UP FOR THE 2ND HALF
We all know that the defense was damn disappointing on Sunday. The first half was especially ugly. The Dolphins allowed 347 total yards in a half to a 2-win team - which resulted in 28 first-half points for the Chiefs.
But the 2nd half was different. The defense played much better - and you have to credit the coaching staff for whatever adjustments they made at halftime and whatever they said to the team at halftime. It worked. It worked tremendously.
The Chiefs gained just 145 yards in the 2nd half. Sure, that sounds like a lot. But following their opening possession of the 2nd half - which resulted in the only 3 points of the half for KC - the Dolphins allowed the Chiefs to gain just 71 yards on 19 plays the rest of the half. And the Chiefs converted just 1 third down in the entire half. The defense was able to make plays to get off the field in the 2nd half - especially in the 4th quarter, which helped the Dolphins have a 9 minute advantage in time of possession in the decisive final quarter.
And the one player who stood out defensively all game long was cornerback Andre Goodman. Goodman had as good of a game as I've seen all year from any Dolphin cornerback. His interception on KC's first possession set up the Fins for a field goal and an early 10-0 lead. And then for the rest of the game, Goodman played "lights out" defense, blanketing his man - whoever it happened to be at the time - for all 4 quarters. He ended the game with a career-high 5 pass deflections to go along with his interception. And whenever a Chiefs' receiver or tight end made a big play, I never noticed Goodman being the player at fault. That's when you know you had a stand-out game.
But other players also made some plays at key moments. Jason Ferguson, who might have played his worst game as a Dolphin in terms of his run-stuffing, made a huge play when he got in the face of Tyler Thigpen and forced Thigpen into a terrible throw that resulted in a Nathan Jones interception. That was a key moment - possibly the biggest defensive play all game. The Dolphins had just tied the game at 31 on the previous drive and the Chiefs were again driving on the Fins - down to Miami's 26 yard line at the time of Thigpen's hurried throw.
Matt Roth also made a huge play at a key moment, reading the rollout on 4th & 1 late in the 4th quarter and stopping Thigpen, who slipped down when trying to avoid Roth, to give the ball back to Miami. Roth even said after the game that he knew the bootleg was coming - yelling it out at the line of scrimmage to alert his teammates. That just goes to show you how prepared Tony Sparano and his staff have this team on gameday.
-Despite the win, there are still things that need to be said. First off, why did the Dolphins decide to single-cover Tony Gonzalez often with a linebacker? Gonzo easts linebackers for lunch. And even using Yeremiah Bell on Gonzalez isn't good enough. He should have been double-teamed all game long.
-I loved the idea to go for that 4th& 1 inside the 5 yard line late in the 2nd quarter. But I was hoping for either a run p the middle or a bootleg, rolling out Pennington and letting him look for one of their 3 tight ends rolling to the right as well. A fade pass to a third string TE? Terrible call - especially in that wind. But I'm sure Sparano and Dan Henning will learn from this mistake. Remember - Sparano is a rookie, too.
-Yes, Nathan Jones had a crucial interception (that fell right into his arms, basically, thanks to pressure up the middle). But he got beat a lot on Sunday. Same for Will Allen. Allen looked lost at times. And can somebody get that man some cleats that help him stay on his feet?
-Earth to Joey Porter and the rest of the pass rush. We could have used some pressure on Thigpen - who had all day and night to throw most of the time. Can't do that next week against Brett Favre.
-Enough with the gripes, though. Patrick "WildCobbs" is the prototypical "Parcells kind of player." He does it all - making big plays in many ways. It could be on the ground. It could be through the air. It could be as a return man. It could be as a member of the coverage unit. What a player!
-Anthony Fasano = Mark Bavaro. If you're too young, research Bavaro - the popular Giants' TE during the Parcells era in NY. They are eerily similar players.
-David Martin strikes again! Where was this last year?
-Kudos to this offensive line! They played well today. The blocking on that end-around to Ted Ginn was amazing. Same on the reverse to Cobbs. All told, the Fins ran for 168 yards and Chad Pennington was never sacked - and rarely touched. And here's something to keep in mind. The same 5 players played the entire game along the offensive line. That means Samson Satele was at center all game, Andy Alleman was at left guard. And Ike Ndukwe was at right guard. And it worked well. They might be gelling - finally.
-All of a sudden, Miami's special teams coverage units are damn good. Nice job by this front office to find key cogs to the coverage units during the season.
I could easily go on and one about this game and this team. It's been an amazing season - possibly the most enjoyable season in my lifetime. Their 9-game improvement over last season is the best turnaround ever for a 1-win team and is the second best single-season turnaround in history, regardless of record. The record is held by the Colts, who went from 3-13 to 13-3. A win next week matches that record.
Enjoy this next day or so. And then get ready to turn all of your attention to the Jets - a game that is quite possibly the biggest game the Dolphins have played in a decade!
One win stands in between the Dolphins and immortality!