The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

DOLPHINS PLAYING FOR NEXT YEAR

With the loss to the Texans, a franchise the Fins have never beaten, the Fins have been relegated to playing for next year. Oh sure, there is a scenario that the Dolphins could still make the playoffs, but that scenario is too far-fetched to give it any serious consideration. Make no mistake about it; despite what Tony Sparano might say to the press, the only thing to play for at this point is next year. Anyone believing otherwise qualifies for reasonable suspicion drug testing.

At 7-8, the Fins are staring down at a finish no better than 8-8. But considering that the Steelers, next Sunday’s opponent, have turned things around with a couple of wins, it looks more and more like these Fins are headed to a 7-9 finish. Perhaps the only thing saving the Fins from a first place to last place embarrassment appears to be the woeful (5-10) Bills of Buffalo.

Sunday’s game was a disgrace. The Fins fell behind 27-0 at home to a team that entered the game at 7-7 and could, at best, be described as mediocre. Just how a Fins’ team that had so much on the line could come out so flat is hard to explain. It was the third time in the last month that the Fins lost a crucial game against a no better than middle of the pack team (Buffalo, Tennessee, Houston) that could have almost assured them a playoff spot. Just how a Fins’ team could choke this much this often is difficult to explain. Or is it? Perhaps the explanation is one that Dolfans don’t want to accept. Perhaps the explanation is simply that the only pretty thing about this team is that it is pretty mediocre. Or perhaps it is simply that the team lacks sufficient depth to withstand the fairly significant injury toll of the 2009 season.

Sunday was filled with mostly question marks, especially in the first half which Jason Taylor fittingly labeled “pretty despicable.” Where do you start? Houston scored the first 27 unanswered points before the Fins got a field goal to make the halftime score 27-3. The Fins made third-string running back Arian Foster look like an all-star as he ran 19 times for 97 yards (5.1 average). Matt Schaub, anything but an all-star, was 14 of 18 (77.7%) for 247 yards and 2 TDs in the first half. At one point the Texans had out-gained the Fins 237-37. Houston averaged 8.7 yards per offensive play in the first half and did not punt a single time.

That pretty despicable first half is what forced the Fins to put the ball in Henne’s hands in the second half when he made the final score a more respectable 27-20. After completing only 11 of 23 (47.8%) for a scant 72 yards (3.1 yards per attempt) in the first half, Henne completed 24 of 32 (75%) for 250 yards in the second half. But respectable scores in must win situations don’t get you into the playoffs. This team really needs to find an answer to its maddening inconsistency.

Whatever the answer, those players who don’t want to be deemed expendable parts of the implosion of 2009 must dig in and play hard for next year. At this point you know that jobs are at stake and that the Czarcells’ team will be looking very carefully at which of the current members of the Fins’ roster want next year bad enough. This coming Sunday these Dolphins, or at least those who care about having a job thereafter, will be playing their hearts out for next season.

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