Let's be honest - Sunday's game between the Dolphins and Browns was a snooze-fest. Then when the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins could not execute. Miami's 13-10 loss to the Browns now essentially makes the rest of the season a snooze-fest for Dolphin fans - as it all but officially kills whatever small playoff hopes the team had entering the weekend.
Now all that we are left with to close out the season are a few opportunities to play spoilers against two division rivals and try to make their playoff run a little more difficult.
Let's get to the hot topics from Sunday's loss.
Henne's future very much in question
This will likely be the story line of the weekend - and for good reason. Against one of the lowest ranked passing defenses in the league, Chad Henne had his worst game as a professional on Sunday - completing just 50% of his passes for 174 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, resulting in a putrid passer rating of 37.8.
Even more important than just his numbers, we saw more reasons to believe that Henne might not be anything more than a mediocre quarterback. We saw inaccurate throws - highlighted by his underthrow of an open Brian Hartline that resulted in an interception. Hartline had a good five yards on the defender and it's the kind of pass good quarterbacks can deliver - and probably would have went for six points. Instead, Henne grossly underthrew his target, allowing Joe Haden to make the pick.
We saw poor field vision and decision making - highlighted by his second interception of the game, a pass that was intended for Davone Bess. But Bess was blanketed by defenders and even a perfect throw probably isn't completed. Henne's throw sailed badly and allowed Abram Elam to intercept it. Making things worse, it was clear upon further review that Henne missed an open Anthony Fasano on that play - a fact Tony Sparano mentioned after the game when he told the media that "the ball should've gone to a different place and didn't."
That's about as much of a public criticism you'll ever hear Sparano say about one of his players.
Henne's third interception - and the one that cost the Dolphins the game - came when Henne again had a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage. This is something that has quietly been an issue a lot this season. After the game, players on the Browns even mentioned how part of the game plan was to get their hands up along the defensive line because of Henne's tendency to have low release points.
Perhaps the biggest of all of Henne's issues is his lack of confidence or fear of making the wrong decision. What do I mean? After the game, Henne explained that it was his decision to run the football on that 3rd & 10 play on the opening drive of the game. He had a run/pass option at the line of scrimmage and he went with the run because he read at the line that the Browns would be dropping eight into coverage.
That's right - our quarterback chose not to pass the football on a 3rd & 10. That is a very telling mindset, in my opinion. I'm not sure I want a quarterback who doesn't want to throw the football.
Of course, I also don't want an offensive coordinator that decides to give a second-year starting quarterback the ability to make that decision rather than simply being aggressive and calling a pass play that might get the first down. But that's a discussion for another time - though it's unlikely Dan Henning will be back after this season anyway.
The bottom line is that it's time to seriously begin considering other options for the starting quarterback job of the Miami Dolphins after this season. I wanted Henne to be the guy. I believed the benching actually might have helped Henne take another step towards being the guy. But his inconsistency and his now glaring weaknesses are making me realize that Henne probably isn't going to ever be anything more than an average quarterback in this league.
And average quarterbacks do not win championships.
Big decisions loom for this organization - and much of it centers around the man under center.
Mike Nolan's defense does its part
Outside of one horrendous drive where the Browns went 94 yards on 6 plays, Miami's defense was outstanding. If there's one thing we should be excited about, it's that this defense got both younger and better in 2010. Sunday's effort against the Browns really was excellent.
The Browns had fourteen possessions on Sunday. If you take away the aforementioned touchdown drive and also their final possession, where the Browns did nothing more than position the game-winning field goal, the Dolphins held the Browns to just 162 yards of offense - or just 13.5 yards per possession. Five of those possessions were three-and-outs and only one of those twelve possessions saw the Browns gain more than 20 yards.
All told, the Dolphins surrendered just 252 yards of offense and 13 points - which should be good enough to win. But the offense simply could not get it done.
More quick thoughts on the game:
- Paul Soliai earned himself some cash on Sunday with his dominating performance in the center of that Dolphin defense - a unit that yielded only 57 yards rushing to Peyton Hillis (3.2 yards per carry). Just the fact that the big nose tackle had four tackles should tell you a lot about his performance. But numbers aside, the man just ate up blockers and gave Cleveland no where to run up the middle. Soliai is a free agent after the season. And his asking price definitely just went up after Sunday's performance.
- Cameron Wake is making a push not just for the Pro Bowl but also to be named All-Pro. His outstanding season continued yesterday when he picked up another sack and a half. He was again active in run support as well and has really become one of the most complete outside linebackers in the entire league. And by the way, Wake now leads the NFL in sacks with 12.
- Yes, that was Sean Smith actually making some tackles out there this week. Now if only the kid would learn to stay on his feet in coverage.
- Another ineffective game on the ground for the Dolphins. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for just 98 yards on 26 carries (3.77 ypc). I still don't know how much blame to put on the backs. What I do know is that the interior of Miami's line is really bad. Joe Berger is a below-average starting center (at best). And all three interior linemen got owned by Shaun Rogers all game long.
- Congrats to Dan Carpenter on connecting from 60 yards out to set a new franchise record. DC$ also became just the 8th player in NFL history to make a 60+ yard field goal.
- Why can't anyone else on this defense get pressure on the quarterback other than Wake?
- Do the Dolphins lead the league in dropped interceptions? I'm not going to go ahead and blame the loss on Nolan Carroll for dropping that would-be interception late in the game. It's just getting ridiculous how this team continues missing opportunities.
- Strange usage of timeouts by Tony Sparano. If there's one thing I can't stand about Sparano, it's how he uses his timeouts.