So I was wrong. Last week I declared that this Dolphins team was going to the playoffs. Many called me crazy, saying that too much had to happen for the Fins to squeak in. On Sunday, everything that had to happen did happen. The only problem was that the Dolphins failed to do their own part. And now these players only have themselves to blame for missing the postseason. A single win against either the Bills, Titans, or Texans would have been enough for Miami to control their own destiny next week. Instead, the Dolphins will play the Steelers next Sunday and then head home for the offseason.
Quite frankly, I'm disgusted. I'm absolutely sick to my stomach. Yes, this team is headed in the right direction and that's a huge positive. But to come so close to a second consecutive postseason and then fall short in the fashion they have this season just makes me angry. Playoff experience would have been huge for some of Miami's key young players. But now we're just going to have to wait.
First half kills Dolphins
I've read a lot already about who everyone blames for Sunday's disaster. Some will say it's the coaching staff. Others want to blame the referees - which is totally bogus to me. Personally, I blame every single player who stepped on that football field today. Want to know who to blame? Tell any player in a Miami uniform to look into the mirror. The face they see staring back is who is at fault.
The defense in the first half was just pitiful. And no - their performance in the second half does not make up for their piss-poor display in the first. There's just no excuse for allowing a team to gain 306 yards of offense and 27 points in a single half. Matt Schaub had open receivers all over the field in the first half. Sean Smith got burnt. Vontae Davis got burnt. The safeties were never around to to help out these corners. At one point in the first, Schaub had connected on 10 of 11 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. In less than one half, people - less than one half. Twenty yards per completion? Really? That's how you play in a "do or die" late-season game? I'm not sure what's worse - that stat or the fact that one of the NFL's worst rushing teams gained 67 yards rushing on just 14 carries in the first half. That's a 4.8 yards-per-carry average that Miami gave up against a below-average rushing team. Inexcusable, in my opinion. And the number of missed tackles by this team all game long was just ridiculous.
The offense wasn't any better in the first half. The running game never got going. Ricky Williams ran for just 22 yards on 7 carries. And we can't forget yet another turnover by Williams - as he had a pass bounce right off his hands and into a defender's arm deep inside Miami territory. Chad Henne was wildly inaccurate and just looked totally uncomfortable out there in the first half, throwing for 82 yards on 11 of 23 passing. The offensive line got no push and didn't protect very well, either.
Point blank - it was just terrible. I don't recall seeing a worse half of football since 2007 than what I had to witness on Sunday. This team played like they didn't even care.
Just a few more thoughts about this dreadful performance:
- Let me just say that Ted Ginn gets some crappy blocking on his kick returns. I don't think any return man could put together consistently good returns with this kind of blocking.
- Speaking of Ginn, though, we have to give the man props. He played very well on Sunday. He looked like the receiver we saw flashes of over the past two seasons. It's an encouraging sign. But we need to see this more consistently. Maybe he can build on Sunday's performance, close out the year with another solid game, and take some positive momentum into the offseason.
- You have to wonder what exactly Tony Sparano said in that locker room on Sunday. We saw an entirely different team in the second half. But it was just too little too l late. Why did they have to wait so long before playing with some urgency?
- As poor as the defense played in the first half, the second half performance by that unit was pretty impressive. They held Schaub to just 6 of 13 passing for 39 yards and an interception. All told, Houston gained just 100 yards of offense on 29 offensive plays - an average of 3.4 yards per play. In the end, though, the hole was too big to dig out of.
- As inaccurate and uncomfortable as Chad Henne looked in the first half, he looked much better in the second half - completing 24 of 32 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. He did miss on too many throws in this game, though. But if we can just get more consistency out of him (and better weapons around him), Henne really looks like he could be the long-term answer.
- I've been very disappointed in the play of the offensive line these past few weeks. I know Vernon Carey is battling an injury but the entire line has had issues at times the past two or three games.
- It seems like a lot of people are debating the decision by the Dolphins to punt the ball on that 4th & 5 play with 5:22 to play. While some will argue that it would have been a bad idea to go for it from their own 21 yard line, I still believe you have got to be aggressive and go for it. When you're down 10 points with 5 minutes left, you can't afford to punt it away. This offense is not an explosive offense and takes time to move the ball. And I just don't think you can ever play for the onside kick. That's what Tony Sparano did here by punting with 5 minutes left. It was a bad decision.
I'm as angry as any of you about Sunday's performance. But we need to keep things in perspective. This team is certainly on their way towards becoming a very good team for a long time. I'm fully confident in Tony Sparano as head coach. This team loves playing for him and despite a few hiccups this year, he has what it takes to be a very good head coach (I can't say the same about the coordinators, but I'll save that for another time). I'm getting more and more confident that we have our long-term answer at quarterback. I think the offensive line is pretty darn good and just needs to get - and stay - healthy. I really like the complimentary receivers this team has (but they need a number one receiver). Their defensive line is good, young, and deep (though they may need a nose tackle). And despite their struggles, I think Vontae Davis and Sean Smith will be a very good cornerback tandem in the near future.
Those are a ton of pieces to the puzzle that this franchise has in place. Now let's hope for a good effort next Sunday and prepare for a very entertaining offseason.