The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

WINNING IS A BEAUTIFUL THING, EVEN WHEN IT’S UGLY

Imagine the ugliness of a game in which one team loses time of possession 38:13 to 21:47, total yards 318 to 248, first downs 24 to 11, third down conversions 47% to 14%, and penalties 8 (for 66 yards) to 4 (for 22 yards) while being shut out in the second half. But with all this ugliness against the Niners on Sunday, the Dolphins still managed a “W” and kept their improbable playoff drive alive. With playoff hopes surviving for yet another Sunday, the Fins indeed proved that winning is a beautiful thing, even when it’s ugly.

With this win, ugly though it was, the Fins earned the right to go to Kansas City next Sunday where a win will earn them the right to go to the Meadowlands the following Sunday to play the Jets for the AFC East title. All this coming from a team that was 0-14 at the same stage last season.

And a win next week really sets the stage for the showdown of the year. Chad Pennington will face the team that JETtisoned him right before the season when they signed Brett Favre (and what a “favre” that was for these Dolphins!).

So how did the Fins get a “W” when the stats were so one-sided? First, they did it with a defense that gave up yards and time of possession, but not touchdowns. The defense has not surrendered a touchdown in any of its last 3 games (although it should be noted those games came against the down-trodden Rams, Bills and Niners). Second, they did it with an efficient offense that scored touchdowns rather than field goals. Chad Pennington threw a 61-yard touchdown to David Martin in the first quarter and a 19-yarder to tight end Joey Haynos in the second quarter. That more than made up for Dan Carpenter’s 48-yard field goal miss in his only attempt of the day. Meanwhile, former Dolphin Joe Nedney was 3 for 3 in his attempts. Thus, the Dolphins “efficiently” outscored San Francisco 14-9 by scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. Third, they did it by getting outstanding play by the coverage teams which had been a problem this season until the calendar hit December. Fourth, they did it by avoiding turning the ball over. Finally, they did it by getting a big play from a big-time playmaker when the game was on the line. No play was bigger than Joey Porter’s sack of Niner QB Shaun Hill on a fourth-and-ten at the Dolphins’ 21 yard line with just over a minute left in the game. Porter, who had been shut down by the Niners who were double teaming him throughout the day, was not to be denied when he decisively put Shaun Hill onto the turf for his league-leading sack (he now has 17.5 for the season) that ended the game.

And don’t look at Coach Sparano to reprimand Joey for being assessed a major penalty for throwing his helmet in excitement after his game-clinching sack. All that did was change the spot from which Chad Pennington would twice take a knee to run the clock down to 0:00.

Once again Chad Pennington played a solid game. He is more known for his game management skills than big flashy passing days. And on this day he not only effectively managed the game, but he also threw 2 touchdown passes in the process. He once again refrained from committing any turnovers and that easily proved to be the difference. When all is said and done, that is the beauty of having Chad Pennington. He plays smart and playing smart keeps the “W’s coming in the NFL. As a result, the Fins are 9-5 and tied with the Jets and Pats for the division lead. Most importantly, they have their destiny in their own hands; the division title is theirs with wins against the Chiefs and the Jets in the last 2 regular season games over the next 14 days.

It was a big day for the Fins’ tight ends who collectively caught 5 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns. David Martin’s 61-yard touchdown grab was a thing of beauty as he snatched the ball away from the defensive back and then outran everyone to the end zone. Seldom-active rookie Joey Haynos not only caught his first career touchdown pass, but it came on his very first career reception.

Meanwhile, Ted Ginn had another disappointing day, catching only 2 passes for 6 yards and dropping one fourth-quarter pass that was right in his hands. With his grossly inconsistent play, he is dashing the high hopes that emerged following what was hoped to be his breakout game against the Bills earlier this season when he caught 7 passes for 175 yards.

Through all the ugliness, the Fins did enough to send the loudest and largest Dolphins’ crowd in recent memory home happy. You see, it may have been ugly, but winning remains a beautiful thing.

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