The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

THE FINS’ CURE?

During the pre-season of discontent, the Fins’ faithful wondered whether the curative powers of the regular season would be enough to carry the day when the bell rang. In Week 1, the Fins walked away with a win against the Bills, but it remains to be seen whether it was the curative powers of the regular season at work or was merely the curative powers of playing the lowly Bills. The 15-10 win that took a fourth-quarter stop to seal the deal against the Bills may itself prove to be the answer. However, with the Vikings, Jets and Patriots on the horizon, the true test of the curative powers of the regular season lies ahead. So stay tuned!

The Fins defense managed to stifle Trent Edwards and the Bills until the 4th quarter when the Bills made the game interesting by scoring their lone touchdown on an 80-yard drive in which Trent Edwards went 7 for 7. Up to that point, the Bills’ offense had only managed 72 total yards. And they didn’t fare any better after that drive either! With the defense playing so well under new coordinator Mike Nolan the question is: Why did the offense let the Bills hang around so long?

The running game certainly showed flashes with Ronnie Brown appearing fully recovered from last season’s foot injury. Ronnie ran 13 times for 65 yards (5.0 per carry); Ricky Williams ran 18 times for 62 yards.

Chad Henne, who was sacked 3 times, had a decent performance, but in eality not a very good one, leading the Dolphins to only 13 offensive points (the other 2 points coming on a safety that the Bills intentionally took in desperation hoping to recover the ensuing on-sides kick). Henne completed 21 of 34 for 182 yards and a mediocre 75.9 QB rating that was right in line with his 2009 performance. He connected with Brandon Marshall 8 times, but for only a total of 53 yards (and a number of those yards were after the catch). Although the receivers had a few drops (including Brandon Marshall who dropped 2, one of which being a long pass that Henne should have thrown a little longer), drops are always a part of the game. Perhaps Marshall’s best catch of the day was when he effectively ended the game by smartly electing to call for a fair catch of the Bills’ punter’s “kickoff” following the safety.

Henne managed the game well in terms of not making any key turnovers or other big mistakes, but he did not do anything to shine. In the final analysis, Henne did not win the game as much as he avoided losing it. However, when the Fins drafted him out of Michigan with their second pick in 2008, they were hoping to get more than a Jay Fiedler-type QB.  Fiedler, of course, was the king of “game-management” quarterbacks during Miami’s post-Marino era.  With Henne, the Fins were hoping to get their QB of the future.  The QB of the future needs to be someone who can win games rather than just manage not to lose them. Sunday against the Bills Henne looked to be more in the mold of Jay Fiedler than in the mold of Dan Marino.

But how about that defense! It was truly stellar except for the lone touchdown drive that made things uncomfortably close in the 4th quarter . The pass rush accounted for 3 sacks and a number of other pressures. The run defense was stout, an impressive performance considering the likes of Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller lining up across from scrimmage. Spiller failed to average 1 yard per attempt (and you probably remember how he smoked the Canes last season). The Bills as a team averaged a mere 2.9 per carry, gaining a total of 50 rushing yards on the day. Trent Edwards barely completed half of his passes, going 18 of 34 for 139 yards, with most of those yards coming during the Bills’ lone touchdown drive when they operated out of the 2-minute offense. The Bills had only 4 first downs in the first half, the last of which came in the final seconds with the Dolphins in a prevent defense. For the day, the Bills had 7 possessions in which they failed to get a single first down, going a mere 3 of 14 (21%) on third downs. It was not until their 4th quarter touchdown drive when they managed more than 2 first downs in a possession.

Too bad the Fins’ offense let the Bills hand around that long. On the other hand, the defense itself came close to putting the game out of reach on a couple of occasions. Benny Sapp dropped an easy pick-six in the 3rd quarter and Jason Allen dropped an even easier one in the 4th (when he could have walked into the end zone had he only held onto the ball). But you know the old saying about defensive backs, “if they could catch, they’d be wide outs!”

In the end, the Fins had their first season-opening win in 5 years. Now they will have to get ready for a trip to Minnesota to face Brett Favre. They better make sure not to leave their pass rush behind as Favre’s Vikings—having lost their opener on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champ Saints—will do all they can at home to even their record. Come to think of it, the Fins better make sure not to leave their offense or special teams behind either as the curative powers of the regular season are in reality no greater than the combined strength of a team’s offense, defense and special teams.

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