The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


Football coaches who preach about the importance of special teams can stop preaching; all they have to do is flick on the game film of the Fins’ embarrassing 41-14 loss to the Patriots to make their point for them. This week’s loss, which will likely have the Fins’ brass once again checking the waiver wires, was the direct result of the Fins’ not-so-special teams.

Following a first half in which the Fins worked hard to get a 7-6 lead (which would have been bigger but for Chad Henne’s 2 interceptions), a 103-yard kickoff return to start the second-half erased that lead in a manner of seconds. After the Fins went 3-and-out on their ensuing drive, the Patriots blocked Brandon Fields’ punt and recovered the ball on the Fins’ 15-yard line. Two plays later the score was 20-7. The Fins were shell-shocked . . . and it didn’t stop there.

The Dolphins then traded touchdowns with the Pats and found themselves in a 27-14 hole as the 3rd quarter ended. After an incompletion on 3rd and 17, the Fins lined up for a 53-yard field goal attempt. Another special teams’ breakdown resulted in the field goal attempt being blocked and, consistent with this night of horrors, the Patriots scooped up the loose ball and ran it in for a backbreaking touchdown. Instead of a field goal narrowing the deficit to 27-17, the Fins found themselves down 34-14.

With their backs against the wall, the Fins were forced to go into desperation catch-up mode. And thus Chad Henne’s 3rd interception of the game was born. That pick-six earned him the hook as Tyler Thigpen came in on the Fins’ next (and last) possession. Unfortunately, Tyler fared no better. His pass intended for Brian Hartline should have been caught, but instead the Patriots came up with the tipped ball to close out the Fins.

Statistically, this game was all Miami, unless you count the not-so-special teams. Offensively, the Fins out-gained the Patriots 400 yards to 265 yards. The Fins converted 10 of 15 3rd downs and averaged 6.0 yards per offensive play (to the Patriots 4.5 yards per play). Henne himself started out well, going 7 for 7 en route to a 7-0 lead. For the night Henne was 29 of 39 (74.4%) for 302 yards with 2 TDS along with his 3 INTs. The difference was all in the special teams which accounted for 21 points in the second half when the Fins gave away the game.

When the Patriots closed the lead to 7-6 just before the half, it didn’t take much to understand the importance of what the Patriots would do when they got the ball to start the second half. The kickoff return which gave them the lead was quite a statement, but the touchdown that followed the blocked punt shortly thereafter spoke even louder. At that point the Fins’ were reeling and simply could not recover. Although the 4 interceptions hurt, the Patriots clearly delivered their knockout blows on special teams.

Suddenly this season which started with 2 great road wins has come full circle with 2 home losses to division rivals. This is a bitter pill to swallow going into the bye week. And as this loss demonstrates, right now the Fins are simply not a special team.

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