The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

FINS LONG ON THE ROAD

A week after being shut out at home, the Fins went long on the road, scoring touchdowns from 29, 45 and 57 yards out to beat the Raiders, while upping their road record to an impressive 5-1.  Too bad they are a miserable 1-4 at home, thus leaving them 2 games and a tie-breaker behind the Steelers (thanks to the bizarre officiating at the end of the Steelers’ game earlier this season).  But for that zebras’ blunder, the Fins would find themselves with the same record as the Steelers, but would enjoy a tie-breaker edge.  Instead, they face a truly uphill climb as they effectively need to pick up 3 games with only 5 to go to finish ahead of the Steelers in the wild card race. 

There was lots of good news this Sunday.  The defense smothered the Raiders’ rushing attach which entered the game as the second best in the NFL, yielding only 16 yards on 12 attempts.  The defense also accounted for 3 turnovers with Chris Clemons coming up with an INT and Yeremiah Bell coming up with both an INT and a fumble recovery.  The only rough spot was when Benny Sapp got beat on a touchdown pass that paved the way for the Raiders’ 14-13 halftime lead.  Perhaps the only surprise is that Cameron Wake was limited to one sack given that the Raiders were forced to resort to the pass when their running game was stopped cold. 

Chad Henne returned to the lineup and got the offense going.  Operating without injured star Brandon Marshall, Henne had touchdown passes of 29 yards to Patrick Cobbs and 57 yards to rookie Marlon Moore.  The 57-yarder was the longest of the season.  Henne threw for 307 yards on the day, although his completion percentage of 56.7% was below his season average of 63.9%.  He could have had a third TD pass, but for throwing an INT into the end zone, his one glaring mistake of the day.  The running game was also more effective, gaining 186 yards on the day.    Almost half of Ricky Williams’ 95 yards came on his 45-yard touchdown run in the second half.  Ronnie Brown contributed 85 yards, but his average per carry was a mere 3.5, below his 3.9 season average.  The offensive line was somewhat productive, but it was not nearly as dominant as the Fins’ defensive line that smothered Raiders’ running backs all day long. 

The best indicators of how one-sided this game turned out to be are total yards and time of possession.  The Fins outgained the Raiders 471 to 263 and held a laughable time of possession advantage of 41:38 to 18:22. Another telling stat was the third/fourth down conversion rates, with the Fins converting 50% and the Raiders converting only 18.2% of the time.

The only phase of the Fins’ game which had any real breakdowns was special teams, which haven’t been too special this season.  It started when the Raiders returned the opening kickoff 101-yards for a 7-point lead 13 seconds into the game.  Dan Carpenter was only 4 of 6 on his field goal attempts, although his misses came from 48 and 50 yards.  One positive note for special teams was a 47-yard punt return by Davone Bess.  Bess, of course, had quite a game as he also had 6 receptions for 111 yards.  He is one player who got a big new contract and continues to perform.  Given how hard he worked to make the team as an undrafted player a few seasons ago and how he continued to work so hard that he has positioned himself as one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, there was little doubt that his new contract would not leave him fat and happy.

There’s no danger of the Fins getting fat and happy this year as their 6-5 record represents nothing more than the upper end of mediocrity.  Given their home horrors, the Fins probably aren’t looking forward to having to stay at home next Sunday.  And their impressive win in Oakland can only leave them longing for the road once again.

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