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Miami Dolphins: Playing tough; playing scared

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On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins stood toe-to-toe with the Pittsburgh Steelers; the team many are calling "the best team in the league" right now.  They battled it out; traded blow for blow; and hung with this championship caliber team right to the bitter end.

It was bitter because they lost.

We've heard all the cliches:

  • "They came in second in a two horse race." 
  • "Second place = first loser." 
  • "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades".... yada yada yada....

As a Miami Dolphins fan, last season "almost", in this situation, might have still carried a bit of satisfaction.

This year.... not so much.

It is just too painful to go back and re-watch the game to get specific details this week, but here are some impressions from the game:

- The Dolphins had the game won in the first four minutes.  By playing tough, they forced two turnovers in Pittsburgh's first two possessions - one at the Steelers 22 yard line, the other at the Steelers 13, gathering the momentum and energizing the crowd.

- The Dolphins lost the game in the first four minutes.  By playing scared, they failed to take a single shot at the end zone, or throw a single pass to their best offensive playmaker, Brandon Marshall.  Immediately after these first two take aways, on an extremely short field, the Dolphins ran the ball 4 times, threw one short pass to a running back, and threw short pass incomplete - accumulating a grand total of 9 yards and settling for two field goals instead of two touchdowns.

- Jason Allen got burned by Mike Wallace on that long TD pass in the 2nd quarter, but it wasn't really Allen's fault.  Wallace just flat-out outran him.  Where was the over-the-top safety help?

- Why was Chris Clemons (9 Tckls, 2 FF, 1/2 Sack by the way) playing up on the line so often, with Yeremiah Bell as the deep safety help?

- It has already been said, but I'll say it once more - the game should never have come down to that last controversial call be the refs.

- Nolan Carroll is currently our best kick returner.  He always looks like he has a chance to break it for a big one.

Play calling is just off.  On both sides of the ball.  Again. 

Why?  Because on offense, Dan Henning is a power run oriented play caller - which worked in 2008 and (sort-of) in 2009.  But the Miami Dolphins have morphed into a pass oriented team, and the O-line is better at pass protection than run blocking.  Henning's play calls do not play to the Fins' new strengths.  Personally, I think it was a mistake to shake up the entire interior O-line this offseason, but what's done is done.  But now you have a pass oriented team, so call a pass oriented game!

Henning is still calling a game as if our O-line can knock people off the ball.   Pssst.... Dan.... they can't.

Play calling on Defense - what the heck is up with that?  How many times did the Fins have the Pittsburgh Steelers in 3rd and long and couldn't bring the heat or cover the WRs?  Dolphins fans where I was watching the game started rooting for 3rd and short... where we might have a chance to stop them!

It galls me to say so, but take a page from the New York Jets!  On 3rd and a million - Make a decision - Bring the heat, or fake it and drop 8 into coverage!  Rushing four just ain't gonna get it done.

Play calling, not lack of execution lost this game.  If you have a young team that is not consistent in their execution,
it is even MORE important to call a good game and play to their strengths. 


Many people say "give it time".  I ask, "How much time should it take?"  Usually, when a team goes through a rebuilding process, the hardest position to fill is QB.  As we all know, a team can go for years trying to find that guy who can lead an Offense through the playoffs.  But three years into a "rebuilding", after three complete Free Agency
periods, and three NFL Drafts, you would generally expect that the rest of the team is pretty solid.... wouldn't you?

So, what's the problem?  While you can question whether or not Chad Henne is the right guy at quarterback, I have a hard time deciding what to think when the coaching staff won't seem to turn him loose.  After the team goes out and gets a "go to" guy like Brandon Marshall, you would think they would want to unleash that big arm of Henne's and try to put some points on the board.

Do you believe that Dan Henning is just calling the wrong plays?

Or do you believe that the coaching staff just does not think Henne is the answer at QB? 

Because in the 3rd year of rebuilding, when most of the other pieces should be in place, including the big spending in Free Agency for two ELITE level players, one on each side of the ball, I would think that the coaching staff would want to find out whether or not Henne is "the guy"... and the only way to find out is to put the ball in his hands and see what he can do.


But either way, don't try to tell me that, because we only lost by 1 point to the Steelers, there is no problem.  It one
thing to be outclassed by another team, but for the past two seasons, the Dolphins have been developing a habit of losing games that are within their ability to win.

Let's call it like it is... the Fins will not take the next step to a serious playoff caliber team while they are playing scared... playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. 

And I am starting to believe it is becoming a part of their culture, being instilled by the coaching staff.  If they don't start learning how to "play to win" - how to take their foot off the brake and stomp on the accelerator right from the start of the game, and keep the pedal to the metal for a full 60 minutes - I just don't see how they will
ever be real contenders in this league.

What I wouldn't give to see the Miami Dolphins actually come out and CRUSH an opponent....