The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

BARE SURVIVAL

A desperate Miami Dolphins team got a “W” on Sunday, barely surviving the Tampa Bay Bucs, a team that was coming off its only win of the season just last week. At 4-5, the win represents nothing more than bare survival as the Fins’ playoff chances are about as marginal as Ted Ginn’s talent as a receiver. It was one of those truly ugly wins with the Fins letting the Bucs hang around in the second half until the Bucs took the lead following a brain-dead pass attempt by Chad Henne. Henne inexplicably threw the ball right into the arms of the surprised defender (who will surely have to file a gift tax return this coming April), thus allowing Tampa Bay to score the go-ahead touchdown on a short field with 1:09 remaining in the game.

But Henne gave with one hand before taking with the other, leading the Fins on a two-minute drill that culminated with a Dan Carpenter game-winning field goal with seconds remaining on the game clock. Thus, the Fins survived 25-23.

This one had disaster written all over it before Carpenter delivered the winner. The Fins let the Bucs overcome a 19-6 halftime deficit to get back into the game with the help of 2 fourth quarter touchdowns. Worse yet, Ronnie Brown went down in the fourth quarter with a right ankle injury. No word was released immediately after the game about the extent of his injury or his status for Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers, but it sure looks like he will miss at least that game. There goes the Fins’ best offensive threat and the key to the Wildcat formation.

Meanwhile, Coach Sparano kept his lips tight about why Joey Porter was banished from the team for a few days, including the game against the Bucs. In his post-game comments he kept repeating that it was “a coach’s decision” and finally added that “I’m not going to give you anything more” when reporters continued to hound him about the subject.

In Joey’s absence, Charlie Anderson made some big plays, twice batting the ball away from Bucs’ QB Josh Freeman after he came from the blind side to get clean shots at the QB. Unfortunately, the Fins did not recover either of those fumbles. Those were not the only quality plays Anderson made on the day and he received some praise from Sparano in the Coach’s post-game interview.

Newly activated tight end Kory Sperry caught Henne’s only touchdown pass and had a couple of other receptions as well (for a total of 31 yards). Joey Haynos also had 3 catches, but he managed a total of only 17 yards on the day.

The winning field goal drive notwithstanding, Chad Henne put up rather pedestrian numbers against the Bucs. He was 17 of 30 (56.7%) for 175 yards with a touchdown down to match his near-fatal interception. Among the receivers, Davone Bess was the brightest catching 4 passes for 72 yards. Ted Ginn was shut out once again and dropped a deep ball into his hands on the Fins’ first play from scrimmage in the process. I guess you could say he picked up where he left off considering his drop on 4th and 15 to seal the Fins’ fate last week.

Before getting hurt, Ronnie Brown was having a rather nice day, gaining 82 yards on 12 carries (6.8 yards per rush). The injury unfortunately came at the end of a long rush that was further marred by a fumble that was recovered by the Bucs. Ricky Williams also had a good day, gaining 102 yards on 20 carries. Perhaps his biggest carry of the day was a 27-yarder that set up Dan Carpenter’s game winning field goal. It was Ricky’s run that turned what would have been a long field goal attempt to a mere 25-yarder. Of course, a 25-yarder is a chip shot for Carpenter who not only has a strong leg, but is also now 15 of 16 (93.8%) on the season.

Meanwhile, the Fins are now staring down a visit to the Carolina Panthers on a very short week. And considering the way they barely survived against the now 1-8 Bucs, the task on Thursday night is not going to be a walk in the park against a Panthers’ team that defeated the Falcons 28-19 Sunday. The losing team Thursday night will see their season crash and burn; the winning team will still be in a dogfight for bare survival.