The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


The Dolphins’ road game in Houston this week proved to be a trip back to reality. A poor performance by special teams (which allowed a 70-yard punt return for a TD to get the Texans back in the game) and the pass defense (which surrendered 379 yards passing including 81 yards on a winning touchdown drive inside 2 minutes) ended a 2-game winning streak and all cause for optimism. Now, the Fins are 2-3 and shaking their heads at what might have been if only they could have kept the Texans out of the end zone. Ironically, the Texans’ last second touchdown was the first fourth-quarter score surrendered by the Fins’ defense this season.

Oddly, the outcome might have been different if Ronnie Brown hadn’t scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:46 remaining in the game. At the time, the Fins needed to chew up time and get a field goal even more than they needed a touchdown. Although Brown’s touchdown run made it so Houston needed a touchdown rather than a field goal to pull out the game, the reality is if Ronnie went down at the 1-yard line instead of running untouched into the end zone, then the Fins would have had a first down at the 1-yard line with only 1:46 remaining. They could have then taken a knee 3 times, thereby forcing Houston to take their final 2 timeouts. Then, on fourth down, with approximately 15 seconds left on the clock, the Fins could have kicked a short field goal to take the lead. At that point, Houston would have had about 10 seconds left on the game clock. Unless there was a serious kickoff return, Houston would have had only one play to get into field goal range. And that is how the Fins lost the game by getting a touchdown instead of a field goal.

Of course, you simply cannot blame Ronnie (who leads the NFL in touchdowns) for scoring a touchdown. After all, that is what he is paid to do. Besides, there is no need to blame him as there are plenty of others deserving of some blame. The secondary simply got torched. What makes this even tougher to swallow is that the D-line had good pressure on Matt Schaub most of the game. In particular, Joey Porter repeatedly harassed Schaub, forcing him into making some bad throws. But the secondary could not stay with the Texans’ receivers, particularly Andre Johnson, when it counted most.

Special teams also deserved much of the blame. In addition to the 70-yard punt return for a touchdown, special teams gave up a 50-yard kickoff return that resulted in a field goal. Thus, 10 of Houston’s 29 points were attributable to poor play by the special teams. This is unacceptable and clearly made the difference in this 1-point loss.

The Fins could not win this one no matter how hard Houston tried to give it to them. The game was seemingly over when Chad Pennington threw his first interception since the season opener. Ronnie Brown’s go ahead touchdown only occurred because a Texans’ defensive back intercepted a Chad Pennington third-down pass and instead of getting on the ground to ensure a Texans’ victory, tried to run with the ball and fumbled when he was blindsided. The Fins recovered, thereby getting new life, not to mention a first down. The Fins then took the ball downfield for the go-ahead touchdown.

One place that blame should not go is to Chad Pennington. His performance was again quite good, completing 76% of his passes (19 of 25) while throwing for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns. His only mistake, the fourth-quarter interception, proved to be of no consequence when the Texans gave the ball right back.

The loss came notwithstanding a new wrinkle to the Wildcat offense which resulted in a long touchdown. After lining up in the Wildcat formation, the Fins used a double reverse to get the ball in the hands of Pennington who then threw to a wide open Patrick Cobbs for a 53-yard touchdown. The loss also came notwithstanding a screen pass to Patrick Cobbs that he took for an 80-yard touchdown.

It may not be easy to lose when you score touchdowns on two long pass plays, but it becomes a lot easier when your defense consistently gives up big plays. The Fins’ bugaboo in the first couple of weeks was giving up plays longer than 25 yards. Against the Texans this problem resurfaced big time as they gave up 5 such plays. Overall, they gave up 9 plays of at least 20 yards. There is simply no excuse for such poor defense, particularly in the final 2 minutes when they gave up plays of 20, 23 and 30 yards, thus enabling the Texans to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. One can only hope that this ugly trend does not continue. For if it does continue, then these Fins will be going back to reality on a regular basis.

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