The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

DOLPHINS GET THEIR “A”-GAME DOWN PAT

They may have entered the game a disappointing 5-7 this season, but the Miami Dolphins brought their “A”-game on Sunday, shutting out the first-place Pats 21-0 and handing them their first road loss of the season. The last time the Fins shut out the Pats was in their prized ’72 perfect season. This time it was just in a perfect game!

The defense was spectacular (limiting the Patriots to 189 total net yards) and so were the special teams which consistently gave the offense good field position. The offensive line played very well, paving the way for 123 yards by Sammy Morris (25 carries for a 4.9 yard average) against the Patriots’ third-ranked run defense. It was Sammy’s first 100-yard game of his career and he added 2 catches for another 39 yards of offense.

The whole team played essentially mistake-free football. The offense didn’t turn the ball over at all and only got flagged a single time (for holding by Randy McMichael in the first quarter). Meanwhile the defense stopped Tom Brady cold (holding him to 12 of 48 for 78 yards) and the special teams backed up the Pats inside their own 5-yard line 3 times. The defense recovered 3 fumbles and had 5 sacks.

It was a real team effort to the delight of those Fins faithful who did not sell their tickets to Patriots’ fans. There were a lot of Pats’ fans in the seats normally occupied by Dolfans, but they had little to cheer about after the pre-game introductions.

Joey made some big throws in the game, including a couple he threw away so that he would not be sacked or risk an interception. There was no need for him to be a hero today as the defense had Brady and the Pats under control all afternoon. Joey was 18 of 30 (60%) for 190 yards. He had some big completions to Marty Booker, one going for a 32-yard touchdown that gave the Fins a 13-0 third quarter lead they would not relinquish. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. His new favorite receiver, Marty Booker, had 8 catches for 103 yards on the day.

It is a shame that a team capable of dominating the then-undefeated Bears on the road and the first-place Patriots could lose to the Texans on the road and to Buffalo and Green Bay at home. Those September and October losses are really haunting the Dolphins now who were essentially eliminated from the playoffs last week when they suffered a home loss to the Jaguars. Even so, this group showed a lot of pride in giving such an outstanding effort in a game against the Pats which otherwise had no meaning. And unlike the last game of last season when the Patriots had nothing to gain and kept most of their starters on the bench, this time the Patriots were trying to lock up first place and shoot for home-field in the playoffs.

Give the coaches credit, too. The offensive and defensive game plans were well thought out. Offensively, they refused to abandon the run and had more and more success as they continued to chip away. The success in the running game opened up a couple of deep passes, although at one point Harrington did miss a wide open Chris Chambers on what should have been a touchdown. Defensively, the Dolphins mixed up their blitzes and kept the pressure on Tom Brady all day, making him look like just another rattled quarterback. In fact, Belichick pulled him with 5 minutes remaining in the game.

Interestingly, while Tom Brady’s career record against the rest of the league is 70-20 (a .778 winning percentage), his career record against the Fins is only 7-5 (a .583 winning percentage). They say that on any given Sunday any one team can beat any other team. This Sunday the Dolphins truly brought their “A”-game and beat New England. Looks like the Fins finally had their “A”-game down Pat.

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