The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

TENNESSEE “TITANS” THE NOOSE ON THE FINS’ PLAYOFF HOPES

With the help of Chad Henne’s third interception of the day and a blatantly bad call by an official, Tennessee all but ended the Fins’ playoff hopes with an overtime win, 27-24. Following that interception, the Titans took over at the Miami 27-yard line needing only a field goal to win.

But the Titan who intercepted the pass was actually down at the Miami 42-yard line, still not exactly field goal range, even for strong-legged Titans kicker Rob Bironas. That’s where the official’s bad call came into play. The interception was made by Michael Griffin who went down at the 42 without ever being touched. Smartly, Greg Camarillo ran towards him to touch him while he was on the ground to officially end the play. Although Camarillo did not hit him with his helmet or even land on top of him, the officials called a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. Camarillo cannot be faulted; he merely ran over to the down player and touched him. There was neither anything unnecessary nor rough about it. The play was still live and Camarillo did exactly what he should have done in that situation. It was the officials who made the mistake; the replay was just that clear.

Although the Titans proceeded to lose a yard on their ensuing 3 downs, Bironas made the 46-yard game winner on fourth down. Had the blatantly wrong penalty not been called, the Titans would not have had the option of basically sitting on the ball until fourth down and kicking the game-winning field goal. With that egregious call, the Titans had the luxury to do so, especially with dependable Rob Bironas on the sideline waiting to end the game with his right foot. With that game-winning kick, Tennessee had “Titan-ed” the noose around the Fins’ playoff hopes. The Fins now are all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season tournament.

This horrible ending was a terrible way to conclude a game that could have been known for one of the greatest comebacks in Fins’ history. The Fins were down 24-6 in the fourth quarter with things looked quite bleak. But somehow they managed to turn the game around. First, they marched 80 yards to bring the score to 24-13 with 7:41 remaining. Then, after stopping the Titans for the 5th straight possession, they drove 90 yards for a touchdown inside the 2-minute warning to make it 24-22.
Chad Henne trotted off the field as Pat White came in for the 2-point attempt. It was as if Coach Sparano was telling the Titans, “we are running the ball and you can’t stop us.” White predictably handed off to Ricky Williams who ran right and got into the end zone for the tie. The Fins had all the momentum, and then proceeded to shut down the Titans once again to send the game into overtime.

Considering the statistics on sudden-death overtime games, it appeared that the momentum was still with the Dolphins when they won the coin toss. However, on third and six from the Miami 27, Henne threw his third pick of the day. If that wasn’t the death knell, then the officials’ bad penalty call against Camarillo was. The game would end as a result and, with it, the hopes for the playoffs went down the drain.

It wasn’t just the interceptions that hurt; Ricky Williams contributed a first-half fumble as well. That fumble, like Henne’s first 2 picks, came as the Fins were driving in Tennessee territory. Those turnovers cost at least 9 points and could have made the difference in the game.

It’s not that Chad Henne didn’t do some good things against Tennessee, he had 349 yards passing on the day, completing 29 of 46 (63%) with a touchdown. However, a 3-1 INT-TD ratio is clearly not good. And the truth is that the tying touchdown would not have occurred at all if Tennessee defensive back Michael Griffin hadn’t missed an interception that was in his hands which enabled Brian Hartline to pick the ball out of the air for a 57-yard completion to the 11-yard line. By all rights, the play should have been a game-ending interception rather than a reception that paved the way for the Fins’ to score and send the game into overtime. Considering that play, perhaps it was fitting that Griffin would again get the opportunity for the Titans’ third interception and thereby effectively end the game in overtime.

The final two home games could have been very interesting had the Fins pulled the game out in Tennessee. But now the playoff chase is over, even if the mathematicians say otherwise. At this point, the Fins’ need too much help to make the playoffs and it just isn’t going to happen. And they really don’t deserve to go to the playoffs either. Not after losing to the Bills 3 weeks ago when that would have set up a battle (which the Fins’ won) against the Patriots the following week for first place. And not after losing to the Titans this week. With the loss to the Bills, the Fins had to win out and still get some help. And now with the loss in Tennessee, the noose has been “Titan-ed” on the Fins’ last real playoff hopes.

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