Dolphins Watch

December 20, 2010 1:13 PM

Playoff run ends against Bills

CARPENTER.bmpIt was another desultory performance by the Dolphins offense at home, and this time it cost them their last shot at a playoff berth.

Against the 29th-ranked rush defense in the league, the Dolphins ran for only 65 yards in a 17-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Chad Henne's numbers looked good on paper: 33-of-45 for 276 yards and a TD, but he threw a key interception that set up Buffalo's first score, and he continues to exhibit little pocket awareness.

Former Raiders All-Pro quarterback Rich Gannon called the game for CBS, and he spent most of the game enumerating Henne's many flaws: Focusing too much on his primary read so he didn't have time to go through his progression, holding on to the ball too long, and being unable to read blitzes coming from one side of the defense, often resulting in sacks.

Well, Henne was sacked three times, and though he did locate Brandon Marshall 11 times for 106 yards, he was unable to connect with Marshall for any big plays down the field.

That was another interesting point Gannon brought up, that the Dolphins ran Marshall on too many short and intermediate patterns, and never let him go deep like he used to. The statistic that backed up his claim showed that Marshall was averaging 2.2 yards after the catch this season, less than half his total in 2009.

While Gannon's performance was the best by a color commentator I had seen in a Dolphins game this year, the offense delivered another of the worst.

Miami never could open running lanes for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams all season, as the offense bogged down into a series of predictable short passes and the inevitable field goal try.

But Dan Carpenter, who had been the Dolphins' best offensive player for my money this season, finally proved fallible, as he missed all four of his field goal tries, including one from 48 yards late in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.

When Miami got the ball back from the Bills with 51 seconds left, Henne inexplicably threw short, gobbling up much of the remaining time, then threw another short pass to Marshall, who clumsily lateraled it backwards before a Bills player fell on it, ending the game.

Henne showed no grasp of clock management, proving once again that he is not the quarterback of the future in Miami.

And offensive coordinator Dan Henning must shoulder much of the blame for the offensive woes. His timid playcalling -- often times going conservative when the team crosses midfield so he could set up for another Carpenter FG attempt -- and his inability to exploit any defense with the deep pass were as much a problem as Henne's ineffective play.

The Dolphins showed what a fine coordinator can do when they fired Paul Pasqualoni last year and hired Mike Nolan, who lifted the defense from 18th overall to fifth. Now, they must do the same with Henning, whose 1980s-style playbook is out of touch with the go-go new century.

Also, there are rumblings that Bill Cowher may end up taking Tony Sparano's job after a second straight playoff-less season.

Personally, I like Sparano. The Dolphins always seem prepared and motivated for every game they play in, and he made the right move in bringing in Nolan. The team is a coordinator -- and quarterback -- away from contention.

But will Sparano be the one to make that call?

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