The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

WINNING IS EVERYTHING

When Vince Lombardi said “winning isn’t everything,” he surely did not envision Sunday’s game against the 49ers in which it was everything. Not only was it a win (only the Dolphins’ second of this most difficult season), but it was a loss, too–a loss of the pole position for the top pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

With all eyes on A.J. Feeley Sunday, there were no definitive answers to the ever-present question: Is he the Dolphins’ quarterback of the future? Although Feeley again proved that he is one tough football player, that’s all he proved. We certainly knew from the Seahawks’ game that Feeley was tough. Those of us who were looking for him to show some progress in his development as a quarterback, saw little in his performance against a San Francisco defense playing with all second string cornerbacks. He was only 17 of 33 (51.5%) with 4.8 yards per attempt and 9.4 yards per completion in a 24-17 win. These are hardly impressive numbers. The starting point for the offense on the two touchdown drives he engineered was only the 49ers 25 yard line.

Feeley threw two touchdown passes, a 25-yarder to Chris Chambers in the first quarter and a 15-yarder to Randy McMichael in the fourth quarter. The first touchdown pass was especially impressive, coming as it did immediately after Feeley came out for all of one play with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand. This is one tough football player!

Feeley was lucky, too; lucky he only had one interception as the 49ers missed several opportunities to come up with additional picks. For the game he had two touchdown passes and only one interception, marking the first time this season that his TD/INT ratio was positive for the game. He did have a second turnover—a fumble resulting in a touchdown—but the defense bailed him out after that mistake. He still has a way to go to get into the plus column for the season given his 5 touchdowns against 9 interceptions to date.

Of course, it would be nice to see Feeley perform behind an offensive line that wasn’t pathetic, but he would have to change uniforms to do so (and Spielman isn’t about to trade him now). It is truly difficult to fairly evaluate him as long as he has to play hurt behind this porous line. He is banged up because they can’t protect him and he doesn’t ever seem to get any time in the pocket. He was hit again and again on Sunday, spending more time on the ground than an airplane in a blizzard.

The real story of this win was the performance of the defense, although it must be remembered it came against the 49ers, a truly poor team whose 1-9 record coming in was well deserved. The defense overcame a potentially devastating turnover by Feeley early in the fourth quarter when he fumbled during an attempted hand-off, the ball was recovered by the 49ers and was run back 46 yards for a touchdown (and a 10-7 lead). The defense caused three turnovers after that which led to 17 unanswered points. They also sacked QB Tim Rattay 8 times for the day and pretty much shut down the 49ers all afternoon. The lone touchdown they gave up came with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter when the game was all but over.

Of course, this was not only a win, but it was a loss, too, as the Dolphins have all but lost their shot at the top pick in the draft this coming April. The 49ers now have a two game advantage (when you include the first tie-breaker) over the Dolphins in this all important race. Thus, the real story of this game is that it was everything–both a Dolphins’ win and a Dolphins’ loss all wrapped in one!

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