The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

AWAY

The title doesn’t say much but it really says it all.  At the stadium most fittingly known as Joe Robbie, the Fins not only gave the game away, but it also looked like they were playing away.  They gave the game away to the Patriots by turnovers and turnover-like plays.  They looked like they were playing away because there were more Patriots’ fans in the stadium than there were Dolfans.

How did they give the game away.  For starters, they opened the game with an offensive three-and-out and followed that with a long snap that Brandon Fields could not seem to handle, resulting in him being tackled at the Fins’ 12 yard line.  Not a good place to give The Brady Bunch the ball.  Not surprisingly, they rather quickly took a 7-0 lead.  Then to start the second quarter with the Patriots leading 7-3, the Fins’ defense seemingly held the Pats to a three-and-out.  However, Jimmy Wilson roughed the punter giving the Patriots a first down.  Brady took advantage of that miscue and led his team down the field culminating the penalty-saved drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Wes Welker.  On the Fins’ next possession, Tannehill got the ball knocked out of his hand just before he started his throwing motion and the Patriots’ took over at the Fins’ 25-yard line.  The defense managed to hold the Pats to a field goal, but they still expanded their lead to 17-3.  So much for the give away thing.

Meanwhile, the Pats fans outnumbered the Dolfans in the stands  to the point that it really seemed like the Fins were playing away.  One thing about this town, when the team doesn’t protect its house, the fans don’t protect it either.  There was certainly no home field advantage for the Fins.

Back to the game.  The Fins managed to make it close at halftime thanks to an 80-yard touchdown drive.  With the Fins down 17-10, they had a chance in the second half.  The third quarter saw each drive end with a punt which meant that the Fins would enter the fourth quarter down by only 1 score.  But the Pats drew first blood in the final quarter with a field goal that made the score 20-10.  Dan Carpenter answered on the Fins’ next possession to get them back within a touchdown with 8:50 remaining.  But then the Pats did what the Pats do so well—they played keep-away.  They drove the ball 77 yards in 7:18 to go back up by 10 points with only 1:10 remaining.

The Fins fought the odds and brought the ball downfield quickly and lined up for a 42-yard field goal on second down.  Dan Carpenter made the kick and the Fins trailed 23-16 with 00:31 on the game clock.  They would still need to recover the obvious on-sides kick and then get the ball to the end zone just to force overtime.  It was not to be as the Pats recovered the kick and then ended the game by taking a knee.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Dolphins’ defense gave up the killer Patriots’ drive that ate up most of the last half of the fourth quarter, this loss really falls upon the shoulders of the Fins’ special teams and offense.  The special teams handed the Pats’ their first touchdown (with the bad snap on a punt deep in Fins’ territory) and kept alive their second touchdown drive (with a roughing the punter penalty at a time when the defense had really forced a three-and-out).  Meanwhile the offense only put up 16 points, 3 of which came after the defense picked off Tom Brady (only his 4th interception of the season), which is never enough to beat Brady.  The offense also managed only 277 total yards, with 56 of those coming in desperation time.  They converted only 3 of 13 first-down attempts.  Tannehill was only 13 of 29 (44.8%) for 186 yards which translated to an unimpressive 66.2 QB Rating.

On the other hand, the defense held The Brady Bunch to 321 yards, their lowest total of the season, and 23 points, their second lowest total of the season.  They sacked Brady 4 times while holding him to 1 TD pass.  It was a very uncharacteristic day for Brady in that he would have as many interceptions as he would have touchdowns.

Jake Long went down with what turned out to be a serious arm injury in the first quarter.  He did not return (and the early word is he may not return this season).  In what may be a preview of next season, Jonathan Martin took over at left tackle.  And by the way, that move is not what cost the Fins this game.  But with Jake Long not looking at all like Jake Long this season—and now with him out due to injury once again—don’t be surprised if it turns out that he has played his last down as a Miami Dolphin.

In the final analysis, there is yet another meaning to the title.  For not only did the Fins give the game away in what looked like an away game, but this season has now gone away, too!

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