The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


The euphoria of last week seems so far removed now that the Fins’ 3-game winning streak was ended in dramatic fashion by the Detroit Lions who scored the game winning touchdown with 29 seconds left on the game clock.  Although the final score was 20-16, there was much about this game that didn’t seem that close.  Yet just as with the Packers’ game 3 weeks ago, the Fins would have won had they been able to get first downs to kill the last 3:47 of the game.  But they went three-and-out instead and proceeded to get mowed down in Motown in the process.

The game started in rather drastic fashion.  Before you could finish your first beverage the Fins were down 10-0.  They went three-and-out in both of their first quarter possessions and managed a total of only 1 yard of offense in the game’s first 15 minutes.  At that point it looked a lot more like the Fins’ were going to be on the wrong end of the same kind of lopsided beating they dished out on the Chargers last week than battling for the win at the end of the game.  But that’s when the defense started to make its stand and the offense began to show some signs of life.

The defense forced a three-and-out on the Lions’ third possession, stopped a fake punt on their fourth possession and stopped the Lions on an incredible interception in the end zone by Brent Grimes on their fifth possession.  Meanwhile, the Fins managed a field goal just before halftime and went off down 10-3 knowing they would have a chance to tie the score since they would be receiving the second half kickoff.

The second half stared off with a great return by Jarvis Landry that set the Fins up nicely at their own 42-yard line.  A first down completion took the ball into Lions’ territory.  But then Daniel Thomas reminded everyone why he was cut in training camp, getting stripped to end what could have been a game tying drive.  The 3.7-yard average he came into the game with was unimpressive enough, but on this day he underwhelmed everyone with his performance.  Besides that horrific fumble that gave the Lions the ball at their own 44-yard line, he managed a mere 14 yards on 5 carries (for an even more unimpressive 2.8-yard average).

But the Fins defense bailed them out of Thomas’ incompetence on the Lions’ ensuing possession by coming up with a key sack which forced the Lions to punt.  Caleb Sturgis then brought the Fins closer with a 50-yard field goal.  On the Lions’ next possession the Fins blocked a field goal attempt, ran it downfield 70 yards and took over at the Lions’ 4-yard line.  From there Mike Wallace scored on a 4-yard TD pass which gave the Fins their first lead of the game, 13-10.  The teams then traded field goals which set up the last minute dramatics.

Much has been written about the Fins’ success when Ryan Tannehill has a QB rating of at least 90.0 and their lack of success when he does not.  That was certainly a part of the story against the Lions, but credit their D-line for pressuring him constantly and holding him to a QB Rating of only 81.1.  He completed 27 of 28 passes for 201 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  Perhaps even more significant was that he got held to zero yards rushing on 2 attempts.  It was his ability to rush the ball that in large part sparked the Fins now ended 3-game winning streak.  The Lions stopped him cold in this regard and limited the Fins’ to a total of 63 yards rushing.

A bright spot on the day was that Brandon Fields appears to have resolved whatever problems he was having punting the ball for a good part of the first half of the season.  He had 4 punts for a gross average of 47.0 yards and a net average of 43.0 yards with 1 punt inside the 20.

For the game the Fins were outgained 351-222.  Most telling was the difference in the average gain per play with the Lions holding a significant 5.5-3.7 advantage.

The Fins had their difficulty in the red zone, converting only 1 time in 4 tries.  The most painful was when Charles Clay got stripped in the end zone on third down just before the Fins’ last field goal.  A 7-point lead would have at least assured them of overtime, but the 3-point lead assured them of little.

The game was costly for the Fins in more ways than the standings as Branden Albert and Cortland Finnegan both went down with injuries.  Albert’s knee injury looked likely to be a season-ending injury that the Fins’ surely cannot afford.  On the other hand, Finnegan’s injury did not appear to be very serious.

And so these Fins stand at 5-4, albeit only 2 plays short of 7-2.  But they did not make those 2 plays and all Dolfans can say now is “if only.”  The reality for at this juncture is that the Fins are 5-4 after having been mowed down in Motown.

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