The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

NOT THERE YET

In the first truly big game for the Dolphins in years, Dolfans were looking to see the Fins come of age. However, they are clearly not there yet. On this Sunday it was Tom Brady’s understudy, Matt Cassel, that came of age behind a Pat’s game plan that featured his arm. He threw for 400+ yards for the second week in a row. The Pats will now have to figure out if they can afford to keep Cassel next year, who will be a free agent, given that Brady will be back from injury and only a large contract will keep Matt Cassel in Foxboro.

Meanwhile, the Fins got a reminder that although they are on their way back, they’re not there yet. The pass defense was particularly inept as Matt Cassel threw for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 48-28 thumping of the Dolphins. The Pats had just about double the yardage and time of possession of the Fins in the first half, but the Fins managed to stay in the game thanks to 2 Pats’ turnovers. The halftime score was only 17-14 in favor of the Patriots. But things went south in the second half, even though the Fins’ offense put up 2 more touchdowns. The Pats more than answered these scores as they put up 31 points after halftime.

The game proved costly not only because it dropped the Fins into third place and seriously damaged any thought of a playoff appearance, but also because both Jake Long and Greg Camarillo went down with injuries. Long came back after injuring his ankle, but looked fairly immobile; Camarillo did not return from his knee injury and may be seriously injured. With no possession receiver to replace Camarillo, the passing game will be hurting. Here’s hoping Camarillo is able to return. Otherwise, Davone Bess will need to step up.

All in all, this game was a reality check for this team. It should not be forgotten that at this point last season the Fins stood at 0-11. The 6-4 record going into the Pats’ game reflected a marked improvement from last season, but this team has holes which rear their ugly head from time to time. Sunday showed just how true this sad fact is for the Fins.

The Pats picked apart the Fins’ secondary and were able to do so because their offensive line was able to handle the Fins defense quite well. The Pats were in shotgun formation most of the day without anyone in the backfield to help out on pass protection. They didn’t need any help as the Fins could not put consistent pressure on Matt Cassel. And when they did get some heat on him, Cassel made some great plays. For the most part, Cassel was able to get rid of the ball quickly, thereby frustrating the Fins’ pass rush.

The Pats were not the only team flinging the ball on Sunday. Chad Pennington threw for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns, which would have proven more than enough on most Sundays, but he was playing uphill all day long thanks to the Fins’ pure inability to stop the Patriots’ passing game. Notwithstanding the fourth quarter interception Chad threw, this loss cannot be pinned on his shoulders. It falls squarely upon the defense. Giving up 48 points and 530 total yards is plainly not enough to walk away with a win. It’s clearly why they lost. More to the point, it’s clearly why they are not there yet.

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