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Phinfever - Jeopardy

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January 9th, 2000. I traveled home from a business trip in Virginia, knowing that the Dolphins playoff game I was missing while drove was being faithfully recorded on my VCR (remember those?) by my wife at home. I showed incredible self-control on that trip, refusing to search the A.M. dial for any sports radio stations that might bring me a report, determined to watch it from the beginning when I got home.

I arrived home, climbing out of my skin with anticipation. My wife had a strange, forlorn look on her face which she tried not to show me, but I ignored it. I remember her words. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I ignored the implications, popped in the tape and pressed play.

I watched it all, only fast-forwarding past the commercials. When the final seconds of the 62-7 disaster against the Jacksonville Jaguars mercifully ticked off, simultaneously ending the Dolphins playoff run and the careers of Jimmy Johnson and Dan Marino, I was numb. Disgusted, disappointed, shocked, yes, but mostly just numb.

The next day, I was as disinterested in football as I have ever been. I didn’t want to rehash the stats, analyze the causes of the travesty or even talk about it with my friends. Just let it fade into painful memory.

At about 24-0 this past Sunday against the Patriots, in a game many thought the Dolphins might steal from the Pats thanks to their injury and suspension woes, I revisited some of those emotions. Numb. Disgusted, disappointed, shocked, yes, but mostly just numb. And were it not for what followed those 24 points, I might be equally disinterested in football today.

Even though searching for positives in this past weekends’ travesty seems a little like saying “So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?” I am going to attempt to sift through the painful memories and provide us with something more valuable than gold to us Dolphin fans. I am going to attempt to surgically remove some shards of hope that can be found in the corpse of this past weekend’s game.

 Second half offense. Was it an ultimate decision to go no-huddle? The handing of the play-calling keys over to Ryan Tannehill? Or was it as Adam Gase says, a simple question of timing? Whatever it was, the Patriots had no answer for the Dolphins offense in the second half. Ryan Tannehill in the second half was 21 of 22 for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns until the last drive. 21 of 22. No misprint. In the last drive, he went 2 for 6 for 25 yards and the final interception, but to fair, one of the incompletions was a spike to stop the clock. The point is, this was working. Working well, and working easily. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this success was only because the Patriots were playing soft. They weren’t. They were crowding the line, taking away the short routes and forcing Ryan to throw long, which he did at will. If the offense can play anything like this in the remaining games it will take away the sting of these two losses. This provides some hope for fans that are desperate for some good news.

Welcome to the 2016 NFL season, Devante Parker and Jordan Cameron. After an early drop, Cameron went on to play a very good game as a receiver, catching 5 of 7 targets for 49 yards and a very impressive touchdown catch which might have been the best throw I’ve seen Ryan Tannehill make as a pro. Meanwhile, Parker caught 8 of 13 targets for 106 yards. They made plays. These two players had a coming out party that fans have been waiting for for 2 years. If they can continue to be effective, Miami’s offense will be very dangerous. They gave us reason for hope.

Heart. This is what was seemingly missing from the Philbin-lead Dolphins. Too many times, long-suffering fans like you and I were left wondering if the players on the team cared as much about the results of the game as we did. Even with the errors (of which there were many) the players never seemed to quit this week. Kiko Alonso whiffed on sacks, got turned around on pass defense and failed to finish on some plays. But there he was, running hard and making plays with intensity, especially (by my eyes) in the first half. He played like he cared. Jarvis Landry played like he always does, right on the border between intense and stupid. Still, I love seeing him flattening opposing defensive backs with blocks in the running game and punishing them after the catch. He challenges the opposition. Ndamukong Suh had 12 tackles in the game. As a defensive tackle, that is remarkable. He just kept grinding. The team didn’t give up, even when down by seemingly insurmountable odds. That tells me that Gase has the belief of the team. They are willing to fight, to scrap, to not give up and cash it in.

At 0-2 and with serious questions to answer about defensive strategies, the lack of a running game and depth just about everywhere, it’s good to identify a few places where we have reason to have hope in our future as a team. It helps take the sting out of a frustrating, disheartening loss like the one we just suffered. Now, a big win against a Cleveland team starting a rookie third string quarterback seems like just the tonic we need to strike gold.... and find hope.

Go Dolphins!

Back in June I lacked faith in Miami amounting to anything better than a six win team.  New coaches, new schemes and roster of prove-it young guys mixed with serviceable veterans.  There are Pro Bowl caliber talents as well, but I can count them on one hand.  I never expected Miami to win either of their first two games let alone be very competitive is such hostile environments.  The evidence suggests I and maybe many of you underestimated what this team is capable of accomplishing before the  year is over.  I believe this team going .500 would be a modest success given the overall situation (new coaching, suspect roster, tough schedule).


Here is what we know: Ryan Tannehill can keep this team reasonably competitive;  There isn't a running game worth mentioning;  The receivers are pretty good as a whole but desperately need Devante Parker to step up;  The blocking can't open up running lanes and has left Tannehill running for his life too often;  The defensive front seven is capable of getting to the QB but struggles against the run;  The secondary is decent, with Xavien Howard exceeding expectations to this point;  The coaches are still green and their gameplanning shows it.


As I re-read what I just wrote I wonder if that is a recipe for disaster?  Well there are a few things to keep in perspective when evaluating the current state of the team.  Miami faced two of the better defenses in this league and exceeded expectations in both cases, at least in clutch time.  They have not quit on their coaches and recognize that being close isn't enough.  They aren't buying into false hype or whining that they are close (remember Dave Wannstedt pleading to the media, "Guys, we're almost there!"  They know they are devoid of talent at several positions and cannot rely on 4th quarter glory drives every week.  At least there is an awareness of needed corrections, but as GI Joe used to say, knowing is half the battle.


Several posters have pointed out that Miami needs to implement schematic changes if they want to succeed.  So if Miami knows they need to change a few things they better get it done sooner than later.  It is obvious that putting Tannehill in charge of the up tempo, no huddle offense yields the best results.  Don't wait until the two minute drill in the 2nd quarter to accomplish that.  It is also obvious that teams recognize Miami's strength is rushing the passer, so they are going to gameplan quick throws and large doses of a ground game.  Stop having the secondary play 10 yards off the receivers and don't bull rush one side of the field leaving the other side completely vulnerable to a running back pitch.  The coaching needs to have better planning and faster adjustments going forward.


This week Miami finally gets a cupcake opponent starting either rookie QB Cody Kessler, or recently signed Passion of the Christ stand-in Charlie Whitehurst.  Cleveland appears to be playing for the right to draft Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer.  If Miami cannot beat these guys by double digits in a home opener then I might start drifting back to the pessimistic side.  I expect Tannehill to carve up their secondary (he plays better against 3-4 defenses) and the defense to force a lot of three and outs. 


The bye comes in week 8 and by that point we should know whether my new found optimism is real or another Miami mirage.  After hopefully demolishing the Browns, Miami has a short week at Cincinnati, and hosts Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Buffalo before catching their breath.  They need to be at least 3-4 by that point, or cross your fingers, 4-3 with an upset win over Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.  Yes, that means I expect home victories against Cleveland, Tennessee and Buffalo.


Go Fins!


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