The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


Wasn’t it just last week the Dolphins, down by 7 points, were moving the ball in the red zone against the Falcons in the last two minutes of regulation when Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan’s play-calling started to resemble something out of the Twilight Zone? New week, different opponent, same result. It really looked like a scene out of the movie Groundhog Day.

The Dolphins had moved the ball 70 yards and had a first down at the Patriots 5-yard line. The Patriots were clinging to a 23-16 lead. On first down Linehan called a fade pass to the corner of the end zone. Why was this such an odd call? Simply because the corner of the end zone to which the ball was thrown was the only portion of the field where the sun was shining brightly and the receiver would be looking directly into the sun trying to locate the ball. Moreover, the ball would be coming out of the shade, making it even tougher to pick up. Amazingly, when this play predictably failed, Linehan called for another fade route to the same corner of the end zone on second down. On third down Linehan called a pass that was completed for a 5-yard loss. A predictable fourth down blitz by the Patriots followed and resulted in a predictable game-ending incompletion.

Why did Linehan make these calls when he had four downs to get five yards to tie the game? With two time outs in his pocket, he still had the luxury of being able to call running plays. However, he wasted half of the remaining plays trying to make his receivers squint! It was downhill from there as his third down call succeeded in doing nothing more than doubling the distance Frerotte would have to go on fourth down to tie the game. Sorry, but Frerotte is not an effective “fourth and goal at the 10-yard line” type of quarterback!

For sure, it should never have come down to this. The Dolphins had taken the lead on a touchdown with 2:59 left, only to see the lead disappear when the Patriots scored on a two-play, 76-yard drive. The Dolphins themselves had squandered a number of scoring opportunities in the first half. After a drive stalled at the 14-yard line in the second quarter, Olindo Mare missed a 31-yard field goal attempt. Then, Randy McMichael fumbled after catching a pass that would have given the Dolphins a first and goal in the final two minutes. As a result, the Dolphins walked off at the half with a 7-3 lead which could easily have been a 17-3 lead.

Gus Frerotte managed 360 yards passing against the Patriots’, but then everyone has toasted the Patriots’ pass defense this season. He also completed 53.2% of his attempts. Although such a number is not impressive against the porous Patriots’ defense, it would have been higher had it not been for some key drops by his receivers, most notably Chris Chambers who has certainly been inconsistent this season.

The one thing you can always say about Gus Frerotte is that he is Gus Frerotte. He is not Peyton Manning or Tom Brady; he is, after all, Gus Frerotte. He is a journeyman quarterback who looks best with a clipboard in his hand. He was available last off-season; Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were not. There are reasons why he was available, too, undoubtedly the very same reasons he figures to be available again next off-season!

Ronnie Brown had another good effort, running 14 times for 64 yards (a 4.6-yard average) and catching 4 passes for 28 yards. Ricky Williams, on the other hand, had a rough outing gaining a mere 13 yards on 11 carries (a 1.2-yard average). He added 19 yards on his only reception of the day.

In the receiving department, Marty Booker had 102 yards on 5 catches. Randy McMichael’s 7 catches for 81 yards did not quite make up for his fumble before the half. Chris Chambers had 6 catches for 69 yards (including two touchdowns), but had he not had the dropsy’s, he would have far surpassed the hundred yard mark for the day (not to mention a game-winning touchdown in the final minute of play). Once again, Wes Welker contributed on offense with two catches for 61 yards in his limited paying time. With his speed, his ability to get open and his hands, one begins to wonder why hasn’t he earned a starting job at wide receiver.

After two rough home games, the Dolphins hit the road next week against the lowly Browns. Perhaps another soft game is just what the doctor ordered. After all, the Dolphins’ only win in their last 6 games came against the lowly Saints. Let’s just hope the final two minutes against the Browns does not bring with it another scene from Groundhog Day.

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