Dolphins Watch

November 14, 2010 9:10 PM

A painful win for Miami

THIGPEN.bmpIt was not a good day to be a quarterback in Miami.

Tennessee starter Kerry Collins injured his calf without being touched late in the first half, giving way to former starter Vince Young, who was reduced to a backup role because of a high ankle sprain he had suffered two weeks ago.

But that was nothing compared to what befell the Dolphins.

Chad Pennington was hit on his first play of the game, and his right arm struck left tackle Jake Long as he threw an incomplete pass. On the next play, Pennington hit Brian Hartline for a 19-yard gain, but he called timeout to remove himself from the contest, favoring his surgically repaired right shoulder.

So, in what would be considered an awkward moment, Chad Henne, the man who was benched in favor of Pennington for his erratic play, came in and finished the Dolphins' first drive with a touchdown (well, Ronnie Brown did, that is).

Henne played fine, completing 19-of-28 passes for 240 yards, a TD and an INT, but he too was forced out after a hit by Tony Brown injured his left knee.

Enter Tyler Thigpen, last seen in a meaningful game nearly bringing the Dolphins back from a 14-point deficit against Pittsburgh in the last game of the 2009 season.

Thigpen gave the Dolphins offense an instant spark, leading the team on the game-clinching 85-yard TD drive that he capped with a beautiful strike to tight end Anthony Fasano from nine yards out.

For the game, Thigpen was 4-of-6 for 64 yards, and most importantly, no interceptions.

Then, the Dolphins defense, struggling of late, finally looked like the unit that had baffled opposing offenses through the first month of the season.

Rookie safety Reshad Jones made his first big contribution of the season, sacking Young, then intercepting his desperation pass on the next play to secure the 29-17 victory.

It was one of three turnovers the defense forced. On the Ttians' first possession, Karlos Dansby set the offense up in great field position when he knocked the ball out of Bo Scaife's hands, and Chris Clemons made the recovery. Brown's TD came shortly afterward.

The second turnover was just as big, as Yeremiah Bell hit Young on a blitz, and Randy Starks fell on the ball again at the Tennessee 13-yarline. Two plays later, Henne threw a perfect pass to Patrick Cobbs cutting towards the sideline, and the Dolphins' third-down back turned it upfield for the score to make it a 20-10 game.

The Dolphins did not play a great offensive game, sputtering for much of the first half. But Fasano (five catches, 107 yards) and Hartline (five catches, 98 yards) proved there is more to the passing game than Davone Bess and Brandon Marshall.

Ricky Williams also came alive with 64 yards on only 11 carries.

And oh, yes, the Dolphins finally won their first home game of the 2010 season, and vaulted themsevles into the playoff conversation at 5-4.

There isn't much time to celebrate this win though, as Miami hosts the Bears Thursday night, giving them a short week of preparation, and ensuring that Thigpen will start his first game as a Dolphin.

Early reports are that Pennington is again done for the season, and Henne may be too with an injured knee.

If that's the case, it's on Thigpen's shoulders to lead this team into the playoffs.

And how many major injuries can a team suffer in back-to-back seasons like the Dolphins have? Last year, they lost their starting nose tackle, cornerback, quarterback, running back, and later linebacker for the year. Now, it's the two starting quarterbacks, Philip Merling in the preseason, to go with Will Allen, who was placed on injured reserve, as well as offensive lineman Nate Garner.

If this team could somehow avoid the injury bug, we would really see what Tony Sparano and company have.

As it is, this was still a pretty big win.

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