While it was great to see the Dolphins get a win against a hated division rival and thrust themselves right back into the AFC East race after a tough 0-3 start, the story of the night from Monday might just have been about Chad Henne and his "arrival" onto the NFL scene. Little was known about Henne by many outside of South Florida and Ann Arbor. But on a national stage, Henne proved to the country that he is indeed up to the challenge of earning the title of "franchise quarterback."
Of course, this is just the first step to really earning that title. There's still a long way to go and a lot to prove. But that huge fourth quarter performance by Henne was the absolute perfect way to start begin making a name for himself in this league.
His performance over the entire game was obviously special. He completed 20 of 26 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns - good for a QB rating of 130.4. But it was Henne's fourth quarter performance that made the night such a special one. And without it, the Dolphins don't win that football game.
In that final quarter, Henne completed 9 of 11 passes for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns against one of the top 5 defenses in the NFL. His fourth quarter QB rating of 152.1 is almost off the charts good. And we can't forget about some of those tremendous throws he made on the most critical of downs - 3rd down.
Henne faced four 3rd downs in the final quarter. He converted three of them. The first one was a bullet thrown to Anthony Fasano on a 3rd & 3 play where Henne showed the ability to look a defender off and then accurately deliver a laser to Fasano - who made a great catch, by the way. The next play? Henne's 53 yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn. That play never happens if not for Henne's third down conversion.
The other two 3rd downs Henne faced were on the final game-winning drive of the night. The first was Henne's best pass of the night - a perfect touch pass out left to Greg Camarillo that he dropped in right over the defender. The second was the critical roll-out to the right and rocket to Camarillo to put the Dolphins inside New York's five yard line.
Those were all big-time throws in big-time moments. And you can't help but be very impressed with Henne's outstanding performance in the biggest game of his life. He was poised all game long regardless of the game's situation. His throws were all accurate - outside of two misses. He showed he can make all kinds of throws - fling the ball with authority into tight spots, put touch on the football, and go deep. But I might have been most impressed with how Henne stood in the pocket against various complex blitzes and kept his eyes downfield while showing the pocket awareness to move around when necessary.
But I wasn't the only one who was impressed. His teammates were as well.
Greg Camarillo said about Henne:
"He doesn't have ups and downs. He's not yelling at you, or screaming at you. He'll give you a quick motivational word and then he's a matter of business. That's what you need. You need a stoic leader."
"We knew what he was capable of. It's just a matter of time before the world knew."
So what's a "quick motivational word" in the huddle? Ronnie Brown gives an example:
"He'd come in and say, 'Block 'em up. This is what we're going to do.'"
But Henne wasn't just like that during the game. Says Ronnie:
"He wasn't just calm and cool out there on the field. He was like that all week. He's just very comfortable."
Joey Porter raved after the game about the throw Henne made to Camarillo on that critical final 3rd down conversion to get the Dolphins inside the five yard line:
"I heard the ball pop off Camarillo's chest 45 yards on the other side of the field. Some quarterbacks might be nervous and not really throw it."
The bottom line here is that Henne not only gained some national exposure by playing brilliantly in only his second career start, but he also proved to his teammates the kind of quarterback he is - and might become one day. It's that kind of trust that is most important for a young quarterback to establish. And he's done just that.
Added Camarillo, summing up Henne's night:
"I'm super proud of the guy. He played great. He led the offense well and I hope he can keep it up. The coaches have faith in him, and now even the defense has faith in him. He's a heck of a quarterback, and a heck of an athlete. I'm excited to see what he does in the future."
But it's Henne himself who said it best. Other than the win, what's the best thing to come out of Monday night's performance?
"The whole offense can look me in the eye and know I can take them down the field in tight situations."