the Dolphins repeat their sorry season-opening performance on offense this Monday
night against the Colts, they will lose the game. Guaranteed.
take that a step further. If they are only half
as bad as they were against the Falcons, they will lose the game. Guaranteed.
is, when you turn the ball over four times and suffer four sacks, thereís a lot
of improving thatís needed in a very short amount of time, especially when Peyton
Manningís pulling the trigger for the other guys. With Manning, it doesnít take
many three-and-outs to get left in the dust. Thatís why the offense must find
answers and soon.
good news, if you will, is that what unfolded against Atlanta was uncharacteristic. As such, one
cannot help but believe that improvement will be forthcoming. The worry is
whether or not the fixes will be swift enough, timely enough, including those
coming from unexpected places.
tackle Jake Long giving up two sacks? Preposterous!
end Anthony Fasano catching two and fumbling two? Fuggedaboutit!
Chad Pennington forgetting pocket presence and field vision? Impossible!
use these interjections when I talk about Long, Fasano, and Pennington because
they are the rocks of the offense, amongst the most dependable players the
Dolphins have. You know youíve got troubles when they go wrong.
why it was so shocking to watch the proceedings on offense in the Georgia Dome.
It wasnít so much what the Falcon defense did, a unit which isnít exactly a
premier bunch, but what the Dolphin stalwarts failed to do that literally gift
wrapped the win for the opponent.
cannot remember a Dolphin game where three fundamentally sound players like
Long, Fasano, and Pennington went so bad at the same time. Take Long for
example. That was probably his worst game in six seasons, college and pro, this
after whiffing on at least two occasions during the preseason.
John Abraham, his primary antagonist, is good; very good. But is he two sacks
better than Long? Good enough to embarrass Long by bullrushing him into the
ground? Not a chance. So one would think a healthy Long would be better against
speed rushers than he was against Abraham.
Long injured, or did he just lack mental focus? Long says the latter. Sparano,
after pulling out what little hair he has left, would probably agree.
what about Fasano? Yeah, Mike Peterson stuck him pretty good on the first
fumble, but that wasnít the first hard lick Fasanoís ever taken. In fact, his
two cough-ups were his first dating back to before Notre Dame. Notre Dame! This,
too, must make Sparano nuts.
just wasn't our brand of football," Fasano lamented.
it wasnít. Not when your offense features a $155 million line, a league MVP runner-up
at QB, two Pro Bowl runners, and some good receivers. Not when they can only manage
7 points late in the fourth quarter against a mediocre defense.
friends, is a beat down. If it were the Ravens or Steelers, Iíd understand it.
But the Falcons?
saw warning signs during the preseason that the passing offense wasnít coming
along smartly. Game 3 versus the Bucs would be a good example to look at. Could
the Dolphins be choking on their own food? By this I mean that they are struggling
to prepare for everything thatís in their playbook and, in the process, not
doing much of it well.
symptom of what ails the offense these days is plain and simple inconsistency. No
two ways about it.
his Falcon postgame press conferences, coach Tony Sparano cited turnovers as
the big reason for the loss, quoting a statistic about how you only have a 10%
chance of winning when you turn the ball over four times.
assume he knows this because one of his stat guys studied every game where one
or more teams turned the ball over four times. Actually, itís amazing that he
even knew it at all.
he didnít say is if he knows how to
fix the cause of the ills against Atlanta
in time to defeat Indy. I write this not out of disrespect for Sparano, but in
reference to certain other nagging areas on the roster, like special teams, which
thus far seem impervious to his corrective actions.
surprisingly, this weekís practice was not a pleasant affair. Call it Sparanoís
way of getting peopleís attention. Don Shula used to handle things the same way
on the heels of a loss, and you know how his career went.
there is a silver lining here because the Dolphins did a lot of very good
things against the Falcons. They ran the ball and stopped the other team from
doing the same, and they got after the quarterback pretty good. These are all
foundational elements of a championship team.
defense? Still a bit of a worry considering the opportunities that Matt Ryan
missed on. You can bet the ranch that Manning wonít miss those same
opportunities. Heís not perfect, but the secondary will have to better than
they were against Ryan if the Dolphins want a prayer of a chance in this one.
goes for the offense. Both quarterbacks, Pennington and Pat White, have to do a
better job deciding and passing. The entire line has to remember their
technique on every play. Receivers need to break off routes the right way on
the blitz. Runners need to make sure they are solid in pass protection.
everyone does their job, Monday Night will be a party. If not, itíll be 0-2 and
a trip to San Diego
with far too many unanswered questions.