The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

J.T. WINS IT FOR DAUNTE

Before this season started, Daunte Culpepper circled this week’s game against his former team on the schedule. Before the game on Sunday, Dolphins’ team leader, Jason Taylor, dedicated the game to his injured-teammate Daunte Culpepper. J.T. then proceeded to back up his words. In a close game, Taylor had two sacks, a forced fumble, two deflected passes and a fourth-quarter interception which he returned 51 yards for the game winning touchdown.

If the question is how can a team possibly win when it has negative rushing yards for the day (-3 yards on 14 carries) and loses the time of possession battle by 12 minutes (36:00 to 24:00), the answer is to have J.T. wreaking havoc and leading the defense to 14 fourth quarter points. That is just what happened as the Fins beat the Vikings 24-20 at Dolphins Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are now 4-6 for the season, but the difference is that the Fins are on a 3-game winning streak that is likely to continue when they travel to Detroit to face the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The Vikings have now dropped 4 straight.

Undoubtedly the sports show callers will once again talk of the playoffs (even though the Fins would probably have to finish the season with a 9-game winning streak to make it), but the reality is that the playoffs remain an extreme long-shot. Rather than giving realistic-minded Dolfans hope that the playoffs are a reachable goal this season, Sunday’s game provides solid evidence why that is not the case.

J.T.’s unreal fourth-quarter performance cannot be expected on a weekly basis. What can be expected on a weekly basis is Joey Harrington throwing for under 50% and 100 yards in the second half. After a strong first half in which he threw for over 70% completions and 193 yards, he completed fewer than half his passes for a meager total of only 61 yards in the second half. It was reminiscent of last week’s game against the Chiefs. This kind of offensive inconsistency is not the stuff that leads to 9-game winning streaks. The stellar defensive performance that enabled the Fins to walk away with a “W” for the third week in a row cannot be counted on week in, week out. The bottom line is that even with J.T. this defense is not capable of scoring 14 points each and every week; no defense is capable of such heroics. However, with this offense, it would be the only way to even think about winning 9 straight. No defense should be asked to outscore its own offense in a game and hold the opposition to a field goal after a Joey Harrington interception gave the Vikings the ball at the Fins’ 3-yard line, but that is what enabled the Fins to get their fourth win of the season. Joey and his boys only put up 10 points on Sunday while J.T. and his crew put up 14 points. Without those 14 points the Dolphins would have come up short against the Vikings. So, don’t look for any 9-gane winning streaks; and don’t look for the playoffs either.

Another problem for the Fins as they face a short week before flying to Detroit to take on the Lions is the injury list. With Daunte still donning a visor, the Truck still out after his second knee surgery in a month and Ronnie nursing a sore groin, the Fins had a bunch of other players get banged up in the game on Sunday. The list includes David Bowens (knee), Wes Welker (ankle), Channing Crowder (hip), Will Allen (groin), Tavares Tillman (hand) and Michael Lehan (nose). Speaking of players under the weather, one has to wonder what is wrong with Olindo Mare who missed his career-high ninth field goal on Sunday, this time from a distance of 44 yards.

One player who isn’t looking hurt in the least is Jason Taylor (although he has had back problems this season). His pick-six on Sunday was his seventh career touchdown, tying him for the NFL career record for touchdowns by a defensive lineman. J.T. may not be able to put the Fins on his shoulders and take them to the playoffs, but he is trying his hardest to do so. In the process, he is leaving opposing coaches scratching their heads looking for a way to slow him down. However, it surely looks like no one is going to slow him down on his way to Canton.

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