RealClearSports
Advertisement

Dolphins Watch


November 30, 2009 1:39 AM

Dolphins melt down against Bills


It was there for the taking.

The Dolphins were ahead of the Bills 14-7 in the fourth quarter, and were outplaying Buffalo.

Then, everything went wrong.

Buffalo mounted a 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Fred Jackson's 3-yard TD run to tie the game.

And on the Bills' next possession, interim coach Perry Fewell rolled the dice and let Rian Lindell try a 56-yard field goal.

He made it, and momentum was squarely on Buffalo's side.

Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne tried to respond, but he sailed a pass under pressure for Brian Hartline, and Drayton Florence intercepted at the Buffalo 49-yardline.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who kept his team in the game with some resourceful play, went for the jugular, and found Terrell Owens deep for the clinching 51-yard TD pass.

The rest of the fourth quarter was a nightmare for Miami, particularly Henne, who was intercepted twice more.

A stout Dolphins defense that had fought hard all game had nothing left to give, and Jackson's second TD ended the scoring at 31-14.

This was a potentially devastating loss for the Dolphins, who fell to 5-6, yet remain one game out of a Wild Card spot in an increasingly crowded AFC.

But, how did this happen?

Miami had control of the game, and dominated a first half that somehow ended with a tied score at 7-7.

The Dolphins came out fast on their opening posession, as Ricky Williams rushed for 32 yards to move Miami to the Buffalo 3-yardline.

But once there, Miami made a disatrous play call.

Instead of letting Williams pound the ball the rest of the way -- as he had done successuflly the entire drive -- the Dolphins decided to try some trickery.

Williams took the shotgun snap and rolled right. He seemed to have tight end Joey Haynos open in the end zone.

But, a Bills defender hit Ricky's arm as he threw, and linebacker Chris Draft made a drive-killing interception.

Williams ran for nearly 100 yards in the first half, but he seemed to tire as the game wore down, and he finished with just 115 yards on the day. Unfortunately, no one else could pick up the slack offensively.

Another key play impaced the outcome of the game, this one coming with Miami up 7-0 and threatening for more. Nate Jones intercepted a Fitzpatrick pass, setting the offense up at the Buffalo 49. It should have been a scoring opportunity that would have taken the Bills out of their game plan early.

But, after three plays gained just nine yards, Coach Tony Sparano went four it on fourth down. Fullback Lusaka Politte rammed through the line for three yards, but offensive guard Nate Garner was called for holding, negating the run and forcing the Dolphins to punt.

While the offense was passing up golden opportunities, the defense was holding up its end in the first half, allowing next to nothing until Fitzpatrick took advantage of an overload on the left side to run right for a 31-yard score that tied the game.

In the second half, the Dolphins weakened under the pressure of Jackson and Owens, who was largely silent in the first half, but ended up with five catches for 96 yards.

Jackson took over the running duties from an ineffective Marshawn Lynch and gained 75 yards on just 15 carries.

Meanwhile, after a small sample size of games to work with, a disturbing trend about Henne is starting to emerge.

When the offense is balanced, Henne can be very good, as he showed in his first start against the Jets.

But, when the running game needs to be abandoned, and especially when he's under pressure, Henne is often wild and inaccurate.

All three of his interceptions resulted from Buffalo pressure that forced him to throw the ball before he wanted to, and each pass sailed over the head of his intended trget and into the hands of a Buffalo Bill.

Henne and Williams combined for all four of Miami's turnovers, far too many for a team with as small a margin of victory as the Dolphins have.

It's clear the Dolphins have several issues that likely won't be resolved this season. The team needs a playmaking receiver, more help in the secondary, a running back to help Ricky shoulder the load, and a more mature Henne to have any chance to compete with the best teams in the NFL.

The same old problems continue to manifest themselves, and that's why the Dolphins are watching their season spin down the drain as we speak.FITZY.jpg

A Member Of