The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


In the battle of draft picks at Indianapolis on Sunday, Number 1 beat Number 8.  It’s not that Ryan Tannehill failed to impress, it’s simply that Andrew Luck was plainly more impressive.  Luck threw for an NFL rookie record 433 yards against the Fins and in the process converted 12 of 18 third down plays, a number of which were in excess of 10 yards.  It was clearly not one of the Fins’ most impressive defensive performances, but Andrew Luck figures to leave a lot of defensive coordinators scratching their heads over the next 15 years or so .

In actuality, the two QB went head-to-head in the first half, a half in which no punter took the field until the 29th minute.  The Fins not only had a 17-13 lead at halftime, but they also got the ball to start the second half.  The problem is that they managed only one first down in that possession and none in their next.  Meanwhile, the Colts would score a third-quarter touchdown to take a 20-17 lead on a play that Sean Smith would surely like to have back.  What should have been an easy interception in the end zone turned out to be a touchdown when diminutive receiver TY Hilton (who is only 5’9”) was able to catch a ball that Smith (who is 6’3”) clearly should have been able to pick off.  That alone could have provided the difference in this 23-20 Fins’ loss.

The game might also have ended differently had Sean Smith not also dropped an interception that would have set up the Fins’  in field goal range with 2:52 left in the game.  That would have given them a clear chance to either go ahead with a touchdown on a short field or tie the game with a field goal.  But Smith dropped what should have been an easy catch.  Dolfans have seen Smith drop sure picks earlier in his career, but he seemed to be getting better at bringing the ball in this year . . . until now.

At the halfway point of Ryan Tannehill’s rookie season the Fins are 4-4, having squandered a chance to tie the New England Patriots who sit atop the AFC East at 5-3.  And they certainly had a chance to win this game, just as Tannehill had a chance to upstage the performance of Andrew Luck when they got the ball back following a Colts’ punt with 2:52 remaining in the game, needing a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win.  Things started bleakly as Marlon Moore was called for a penalty that nullified a Marcus Thigpen punt return to the 45-yard line and forced the Fins to start at their own 17 yard line instead.  Replays showed that the penalty call was in error, Moore being the victim rather than the perpetrator.  While Fins’ special teams coach, Darren Rizzi,  vehemently argued about the call, it was to no avail as such penalties are not reviewable.

Thus, the Fins had to start their crucial final drive in a hole.  Tannehill started quickly completing 3 straight passes for 33 yards, giving the Fins a first down at the midfield stripe at the 2-minute warning.  At that point things were looking up, but Tannehill would then thrice overthrow his receivers before facing a 4th and 15 (thanks to a Mike Pouncey illegal motion penalty on 3rd down).  On 4th down Tannehill rolled to his right and threw across the field for a 14-yard completion.  It would not even have mattered much had the pass gone the extra yard to the first down marker because Jake Long was flagged for holding on the play.  Since the play fell short of the first down, the Colts were able to effectively end the game by declining the penalty and take over possession with only 1:37 remaining on the game clock.

Jake Long had a tough day.  Not only did he get penalized on the Fins’ final offensive play, but he was also flagged earlier in the game and gave up a sack and some other quarterback pressures.  He may be a four-time All-Star, but he is not necessarily playing like one in this his 5th season.  Unfortunately for him, he is in a contract year and thus far the Fins have not opened up negotiations.  One has to wonder if the Fins might decide not to pay him the kind of money he will be seeking next season , move rookie right-tackle Jonathan Martin to the left side (which was his collegiate position) instead and put the significant savings of salary cap dollars elsewhere into the roster.  What was once thought to be heresy in Finlandia may yet come to pass.

Even at 4-4 the Fins are ahead of where most thought they would be at the season’s mid-point.  Their 4 wins thus far equal the number many thought they would have won this entire year.  There is little doubt that Ryan Tannehill will lead them to more W’s in the second half of this season.  There is also little doubt that he will lead them to some 4th quarter comebacks in the months and years ahead, but on Sunday there was No Such Luck.

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