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Miami Dolphins: A young team growing up

Well, it was a heartbreaking loss.

What else can you say?  Against all odds, a young Miami Dolphins team went on a two game, season opening, road trip - and managed to come back open for their home opener with a perfect 2-0 record.

And in their home opener, against a divisional opponent - NOT ONLY A DIVISION RIVAL, BUT ARGUABLY THE MOST HATED DIVISION RIVAL - they let the game (and a 3-0 season start) slip away from them.

But you know what?  As a fan, I wasn't as upset about it as I have been about other losses over the past few years.  In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the game!  It was a hard fought game that wasn't decided until the last 34 seconds!  And as much as it galls me to admit it, it was played against a very good football team.  Of course I was disappointed that they didn't come away with the win, but there was something very satisfying about seeing these young Dolphins start to come together on offense.

As a matter of fact, I am really liking our playoff chances right now, in spite of the loss.

Here's why:

By now, I have seen quite a few different opinions about the game... one of the bad things about writing a Wednesday article is that all of the emotional, obvious, topics have been pretty well covered by the middle of the week.  But the good thing about the timing is that I have a little more of a chance to take another look at the game and put it in the proper perspective.

There is nothing good about a loss. I don't care how you slice it, no coach comes out of a game with a big "W" and thinks, "Boy, we would be in better shape right now if we had lost!" (except that guy that kept talking about "fail forward fast" - maybe THAT guy might say something like it). 

In fact, the only folks you hear talking about the positives obtained from a loss (learning experiences, team development, keeping our egos in check, yada yada yada) are the LOSERS.  So I am not about to try to blow sunshine up your skirt by telling you that somehow this loss is a GOOD thing.  It's not.  A win would have put the team in a better position within a tough division.

But the Miami Dolphins didn't win; they lost.  End of story.  Get over it.

However, we learned something about the team that we suspected, but didn't know.  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I thought this Dolphins Offense - while preferring to grind it out on the ground - was built to be able to compete in a shootout.  While it wasn't a particularly high scoring affair, the passing game racked up 363 passing yards.

Not too shabby.

And watching the game, I was very impressed with our young Quarterback, Glen Quagmire.


Seriously though, Chad Henne handled the pressure the Jets brought without flinching.  He made some nice throws and he kept from making critical mistakes.  And we finally saw Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline deliver the types of performances we have been hoping for from those two (not forgetting about Davone Bess here, but there is not much to say about him - he did great, but he always does great. He is consistently consistent, and I don't think most people had many questions about him in the first place).  It would have been awesome if Henne had connected with Anthony Fasano on that last throw for a TD, but it's hard to place the loss on his shoulders because he couldn't cap a potential game winning drive with a score, after the Defense put them in that position by caving in to the Jets in the second half.

Yes, the Miami Defense has to bear most of the blame for a few critical mistakes that directly led to the New York Jets putting up a couple of scores.  There is hardly a doubt in my mind that if the Defense doesn't let Braylon Edwards stroll into the end zone on the Jason Allen missed tackle; OR catch the critical 20 yard pass on 3rd and 10 with four and a half minutes to go in the game, that led directly to another touchdown; OR probably just keeping Dustin Keller in check during the first half, the game turns out to be a Miami win on the strength of the passing game (personally, I think that Interference call on Jason Allen in the end zone near the end of the game was bogus.  the commentators kept saying "if he had just got his head around" and watching the replay several times, it is clear that he did get his head around and was mugged by Edwards.  I just had to get that out there.)

But unlike last season, we have seen that this Miami Defense has the ability to close out a game.  They dropped the ball (literally Kendall Langford) against the Jets, but that doesn't mean they suck.  They will regroup and play better football in the days to come.

The main thing that excited me about this game was that now, through the first three games, we have seen all of the individual pieces that we were all pretty much worried about at different times in the offseason, show that they have the potential to play at a playoff caliber level.  D-line, Pass rush, Secondary, O-line, Quarterback play, Wide Receivers - they have all stepped up at different times.  This is still a young team, and obviously still not quite in sync.  But it has given us a glimpse of what this team CAN be.  And looking ahead you can clearly see a time in the near future when all of these pieces come together, and the Miami Dolphins start to play championship caliber football.  I don't think it is too far away - as a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see them dismantle the New England Patriots next week.  All it would take is the Defense to play like they did in Minnesota, and the Offense to play like they did against the Jets (and hopefully Special Teams to just stick to the Hippocratic Oath and try to "do no harm").

No, I didn't like to see them lose - especially to the bloody Jets.  But I REALLY enjoyed see Chad Henne, Brandon Marshall, and Brian Hartline answer some of the last few questions we had about whether this Offense really has the ability to compete through the air.  It does.

Now let's see if they can put it all together and crush the Pats next week!