The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

“CANTON” DAN VS.“CAN’T PASS” GUS

The story of Sunday is about the dichotomy between “Canton” Dan and “Can’t Pass” Gus. On the one hand, was the well-deserved halftime tribute to Hall of Famer Dan Marino. On the other hand, there was Frerotte’s inability to do that which Danny made a name for himself doing for 17 wondrous years.

It’s unfortunate, but the most memorable pass thrown by a Dolphins’ quarterback on Sunday was Danny’s halftime toss to Duper. Oh how we long for those days . . . .

The least memorable pass of the day was the one that shouldn’t have been thrown at all. Jason Taylor sacked Michael Vick at the 5-yard line to force a punt that would enable the Dolphins’ to take possession at the Falcons’ 42-yard line. Several plays later the stage was set: Dolphins’ trailed by 7, three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Dolphins’ ball at the Falcons’ 8-yard line, third down and a long two to go, running game working well, Ricky (10 carries for 52 yards) and Ronnie (12 carries for 67 yards) both still with fresh legs. The Dolphins dynamic duo had average 5.4 yards per carry to that point. The Dolphins had marched 35 yards to the Falcon’s 8-yard line on the strength of the running game. There were signs that Atlanta’s run defense was tired. What does Scott Linehan call? He calls for a pass. What does Frerotte do? He throws a game-ending interception.

It was a pass that should not have been called. It was a pass that once called, still should not have been thrown. Game, set, match!

The call was weird. The running game was clicking and the Dolphins needed only a little over 2 yards on two plays to get a first and goal that would have been at or inside the Falcons’ 5-yard line. To this point the Fins were getting over 5 yards a pop on the ground. Moreover, they essentially needed only 8 yards on six plays to get the game-tying touchdown (two shots at getting a first down at or inside the 5-yard line and four shots to run it in from there). But that’s when offensive coordinator Scott Linehan went brain dead. That’s when he put the game in the hands of Gus Frerotte. That’s when the game ended.

What a shame to spoil Dan’s special day. What a way to be reminded just how much we miss him. What a way to be reminded (as if Dolfans needed a reminder) that the Fins have real problems with their passing game.

The truly scary thing is that the game could have left Dolfans wondering whether the Fins have problems with their offensive coordinator, too. That great season-opening game against the Broncos (which now seems so long ago) had Dolfans marveling at Linehan’s play-calling. Sunday, Dolfans were left to wonder about it instead. And it wasn’t just the pass that should not have been that left them wondering.

For some reason, Linehan has continued to use the end around even though opposing teams are clearly looking for it. It has not been producing the results it produced in that magical season opener against the Broncos. On Sunday, even after it was obvious that it wouldn’t fool the Falcons, Linehan ran it again. It resulted in a 12-yard loss and turned out to be a drive killer. That’s a play that needs to go on the shelf. Perhaps after several weeks on the shelf it might work again, but clearly not now. Why doesn’t Scott Linehan seem to understand?

The truth about Sunday is that the Dolphins did not deserve to win. For the seventh consecutive game, the opponent scored on its first possession. This is not good, especially for a Fins team that lacks come-from-behind offensive firepower. The Dolphin defense was horrible on third down as the Falcons managed to convert 11 of 17 third down opportunities. The Falcons out-gained the Dolphins 384-208 while holding possession for 34:15. But with it all, the Fins still had a chance to tie the game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. But then came the pass that should never have been.

Well, at least Dolfans got to cheer “Canton” Dan throwing one more pass to Duper at Joe Robbie Stadium. Too bad they also got to boo “Can’t Pass” Gus for throwing one that should never have been.

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