The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE AT SUN LIFE

Playing under threatening skies on Sunday afternoon, the Fins once again learned that there ain’t no sunshine at Sun Life Stadium, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers (and the zebras) 23-22, thus keeping intact their imperfect 2010 home record. While the Fins extended their home record to 0-3, they are oddly 3-0 on the road this year. At least this is better then 2007 when the Fins couldn’t win anywhere!

The biggest story of the day was how the zebras gave Pittsburgh the game. With the Fins leading 22-20 and the clock showing two and one-half minutes remaining the Steelers line up on a third down and goal. Ben Roethlisberger ran a QB draw and was hit by Chris Clemons and fumbled before the goal line and the Fins clearly appeared to pounce on the ball in the end zone. But the zebras didn’t see it that way. That fumble recovery should have given the Fins the ball at the Steelers’ 20, needing a single first down to run out the clock, but it was the fumble recovery that wasn’t according to the zebras who apparently didn’t see it at all.

After reviewing the play the zebras admitted that they made the wrong call on the field because there was clearly a fumble in the field of play and not a touchdown. Even with this stark admission, the zebras gave the ball back to the Steelers—not because they had ANY evidence that the Steelers came up with the recovery—but because they did not have conclusive evidence that the Fins made the recovery. Strange! All football fans know that a call does not get reversed on review unless the error was indisputable, yet in this case even though there was indisputable evidence that there was a fumble, the officials awarded the ball to the Steelers where there was NO evidence that the Steelers recovered the fumble (and where the replays confirmed that the Fins had jumped on the loose ball in the end zone). It didn’t seem to matter that is was Fins’ linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis who handed the ball to the officials after getting up out of the end zone pileup. Strange!

Perhaps this was best summed up by Channing Crowder who said: “The refs called a wonderful game—for the Steelers!”

All Pittsburgh had to do from there was kick a 19-yard go-ahead field goal and then stop the Fins’ offense which was working without any time outs left. Unfortunately, Chad Henne had no magic left by that time and the game ended 23-22.

It was a shame for the Fins to lose a game they had fought so hard to win. Other than allowing too many chunk passing plays including a 53-yard touchdown reception by Mike Wallace, the defense played fairly well. They were great against the run, holding the Steelers to 58 yards on 27 carries (2.1 per attempt).

Although the Fins could not get their running attack going (21 carries for 64 yards), Chad Henne played well against a very tough Steelers’ defense. He completed 23 of 36 (63.9%) for 257 yards with 1 TD and no interceptions. If Henne ends up the franchise quarterback the Fins had hoped when he was drafted out of Michigan in 2008, this game will be seen as an important step in his development. Yes, he sometimes had happy feet under the Pittsburgh rush, but there were definite signs of his growth. And yes, if this same game were played 2 years from now when Henne had time to further mature in the toughest position on an NFL field, it is very likely that Henne would have been able to turn some of Dan Carpenter’s 5 field goals into touchdowns and deprived the zebras of the opportunity to determine the outcome of the game (through their sheer incompetence).

The two biggest problems on the day were the kick coverage and the inability to put up touchdowns against the Steelers. The kick overage team gave up 144 yards on 5 kickoffs. We’ll have to see who gets fired or cut this week! On the other hand, 5 of the Fins’ 6 scores on the day were field goals. That’s no way to beat a team like the Steelers who came into the game 4-1. Of course, credit goes to the Steelers who came into the game leading the league in points against. Clearly, the Fins aren’t the only team forced to settle for 3 pointers against the Black and Gold. But even with all those drives coming up short, the Fins were still only one horrendous call from pulling off the upset win.

And so the Fins remain winless at home. So here’s a thought: Fins’ Owner Stephen Ross should have the team board an airplane the day before their next home game, order the pilot to circle for an hour or two before landing, and then take the team by bus directly from the airport to a hotel so the players think they are on the road. Maybe that way they can actually bring some sunshine to Sun Life Stadium and get a win at home!

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