The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


The Dolphin Defense turned in another superlative effort stopping the Kansas City Chiefs cold in a 13-10 win on Sunday. The defense had to be strong at the end thanks to a bonehead call by offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey that resulted in a fumble and let the Chiefs back into the game when it should have been essentially over.

The Dolphins’ defense absolutely smothered the Chiefs in the first half enabling the Dolphins to go into the locker room with a 13-0 lead. The Chiefs went three-and-out on their first five possessions before coming up with a couple of harmless first downs. The Fins did an excellent job of containing the Chiefs’ powerful running back, Larry Johnson, and their star tight end, Tony Gonzalez. They held a team which had averaged 32 points during their recent three-game winning streak to 83 first-half yards and only 3 first downs, one of which coming on a meaningless 17-yard pass on the last play of the first half. The Chiefs were scoreless until finally got on the board with a field goal in the final period.

But it was in the fourth quarter when the defense really had to bail out offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Half way into the fourth quarter, with the defense still holding the Chiefs in check and the Fins holding a 10-point lead, Mularkey made a truly bonehead call, a reverse, which required a lot of ball handling in the backfield. After Joey Harrington handed off to Ronnie Brown, Ronnie botched the handoff to Chris Chambers and it gave the Chiefs the ball at the Dolphins’ 20-yard line. Four plays later the Chiefs cut the Fins’ lead to 13-10 with 6 minutes remaining.

The Mularkey call came at a time when the Dolphins had a 10-point lead, good field position and an opportunity to run down the clock. A few first downs and the game would have been over, even without another Fins’ score. But the Malarkey call not only let the Chiefs back into the game, it energized them and had the home crowd nervous. Not to worry as the Fins’ defense saved the day with a stop inside the two-minute warning. From there all Joey Harrington had to do was take a knee and the game was over.

This defense was so dominating that the Dolphins won for the first time in 3 years when they lost the turnover battle as Kansas City did not turn over the ball once, recovering their only fumble of the day. Former Dolphins’ backup QB Damon Huard completed only 15 of 38 attempts, a mere 39.5%. The Fins held the Chiefs offense to their lowest time of possession this season.

Until the unfortunate call, the Fins’ offensive game plan looked pretty good. Harrington was allowed to throw a few deep balls and he actually completed one to Chris Chambers on a flea flicker which gave the Dolphins a first down at the Chief’s 1-yard line. On the next play Ronnie Brown ran it into the end zone for the Dolphins’ only touchdown of the day. Harrington completed 19 of 35 (54.3%) for 201 yards. The key is that he was not intercepted at all and he was only sacked once. The offensive line played well, even after Jeno James’ knee required him to leave the game. Ronnie Brown, who was slowed by a groin injury, ran 25 times for 89 yards (a 3.6 yard average).

Chris Chambers reached the 5,000 yard plateau for his career in the game, becoming only the fourth Fins receiver to do so. The other three, Mark Clayton, Mark Duper and Nat Moore, are all members of the Dolphins’ Ring of Honor. Randy McMichael is now the Dolphins’ career leader in yardage and receptions for a tight end. Olindo Mare, who is suddenly having trouble with field goals in the 50-yard range, became the 39th NFL player to score 1000 points (37 of whom are kickers).

Mularkey wasn’t the only one to make a bad call that hurt the Dolphins on Sunday. The Fins would have had a second touchdown in the game, but for an official calling Chris Chambers out of the end zone following a catch. Although Chambers did come down beyond the back line of the end zone, he was clearly forced out by a defender, thus, it should have been ruled a touchdown. Instead, the Fins had to settle for 3 points.

The disappointing aspect of this game was that the Fins only scored 13 points at home in a game in which its defense was so dominant. For this team to really go on a roll the defense is either going to have to be flawless or the offense is going to have to find a way to score more points. It is just not reasonable to think the defense can win the game week in and week out. At some point the offense has to step up. But can Joey respond when the Fins find themselves behind in the second half? Or will he revert to the form that frustrated Lions’ fans?

For now, let’s just be glad the defense was able to bail out Mularkey on Sunday and hope he doesn’t call on them to do so again any time soon.

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