The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

FINS HANGING ON TO THEIR PLAYOFF DREAMS

The Miami Dolphins started strong against the Jaguars taking a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and then had to hang on to keep their playoff dreams alive. A sterling defensive effort overcame 3 turnovers that helped Jacksonville remain in the game until they failed to convert a 4th and 2 inside the 2-minute warning. Fumbles by Davone Bess and Ricky Williams and an interception by Chad Henne remarkably resulted in no points by the Jaguars as the Fins’ defense held Jacksonville to a single first down on its 3 possessions following those turnovers. For the game, the Fins held Jacksonville without any first downs on 7 of their 12 possessions. The only time Jacksonville had more than a single first down on any possession was during the Jag’s only touchdown drive which came in the second quarter when the Fins already had a 14-0 lead. And that was the story of this game.

For the second week in a row, Coach Tony Sparano unleashed Chad Henne, allowing him to throw the ball frequently. For the second week in a row, the Fins did not run a single Wildcat play and this time, Pat White never even got on the field. The game was left totally in the hands of Chad Penne. And except for his fourth quarter interception, which the defense proceeded to render meaningless, he performed quite well. For the game he was 21 of 29 (72.4%) for 220 yards. At one point, Henne completed 17 consecutive passes, the most ever by a Dolphins’ quarterback in a single game. His favorite target was Greg Camarillo who caught 7 passes for 110 yards. Rookie Brian Hartline had 3 receptions for 34 yards. Ted Ginn managed only one catch for 16 yards. Although Henne led 2 long touchdown drives, he failed to throw a single touchdown pass.

The black mark this week was that the offense seemed to fizzle after coming out so strong. They had two first downs on their opening drive and then had 67 and 74 yard touchdown drives on their next two possessions. Although the halftime score was only 14-7, the halftime statistics were very one-sided. The Fins out-gained the Jaguars 222-82 while holding a time of possession edge of 19:14 to 10:46.

The second half was quite a different story. The Fins ended one drive on a missed 38-yard field goal attempt by Dan Carpenter, only his second miss in 21 tries this season. Two other second half drives ended with turnovers. That’s how the Fins’ offense got shut out in the second half and why the defense had to snatch this game from the jaws of defeat.

Meanwhile, the Patriots ended their 2-game losing streak to remain atop the AFC East. The Patriots’ destiny remains in their own hands as they will be the AFC East Division Champs if they win their last 3 games. On the other hand, the Fins improved their chances at a wildcard spot by beating the Jags, whom they had trailed by a game in the hunt for the final wildcard spot. With that win, the Fins leapfrogged the Jaguars in the wildcard race by virtue of the head-to-head tie-breaker. The Fins now have a good shot at a wildcard spot if they win out their last three games which are on the road at Tennessee (5-7) and then at home against Houston (5-7) and Pittsburgh (6-7), respectively. They can clinch the Division only with the help of a Patriots’ loss against an AFC opponent.

Although the win kept the Fins in line for some post-season play, it was disappointing that they could not put the game away. They certainly had opportunities to do so, but they seem to lack the killer instinct, or perhaps more accurately, they seem to lack the talent to put away even mediocre teams like the Jaguars away when they have the opportunity to do so. Although they came out and played with real focus, the offense seemed to lose a bit of its focus after going up by 2 touchdowns in the first half. Their overall performance gave the Fins a look of a team that might make the playoffs, but won’t survive the first round. This would be all too reminiscent of last season when they were embarrassed by the Ravens after their triumphant first place finish.

Nevertheless, in the modern day NFL, a win is a win, and especially when it’s on the road. And with this road win in Jacksonville the Fins’ can continue to hang on to their playoff dreams.

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