The Dolphins opened their final pre-season game of the 2002
season with an onsides kick by Olindo Mare' and closed it with a
kneel-down by Sage Rosenfels. In between, they managed to make some
big plays, give up some big plays and score just enough points to beat
the Bears 24-22 in Miami on Thursday night.
It was a wild game from the start, as the Dolphins executed an
onsides kick with the first play and recovered the ball at the Miami
44. From there, the Dolphins drove down the field on Fiedler's
passing and Ricky's running to score on a 34 yard field goal that
opened a 3-0 lead.
After the ensuing kickoff, which was a touchback, the Bears
completed an 80 yard pass on the first play from scrimmage for a
touchdown. It was a repeat of some of the plays last week against the
Texans when the Dolphins' secondary got fooled and allowed a receiver
to get deep behind them down the middle of the field.
So, after 3:50 in the first quarter, the score was 7-3 in
favor of the Bears.
Sidebar: There has been a lot of speculation about who is to
blame for the long touchdown. The radio team said that it was Jamar
Fletcher and Shawn Wooden who were beaten, but the Miami Herald
reported that it was actually Antonio Freeman who bit on the pump-fake
by Jim Miller and let the receiver run by him. Also, the Dolphins
were blitzing the cornerback on that side, so Patrick Surtain, who
would normally have had that coverage, was trying to get to Miller,
instead of covering the receiver.
After the long touchdown, the game settled down a little as
Miami took their offensive starters out after only one series. The
Bears left theirs in for two series, but couldn't duplicate their one
play opening drive.
The Dolphins controlled the rest of the first quarter, scoring
two more touchdowns. One came after Adewale Ogunleye sacked Jim
Miller at the Bears' 18 yard line on a draw by Travis Minor. The
other happened on the next offensive series after Ray Lucas drove the
team down the field and finished the drive with a 9 yard pass to James
McKnight for the score.
After the second Miami touchdown gave the Dolphins a 17-7 lead
in the 2nd quarter, the Bears responded by engineering a drive with
their second stringers against the Dolphins' second stringers that
used the running attack to ram the ball down the Dolphins' throat.
However, the Dolphins managed to stop the Bears on the Dolphins' 3
yard line after the Bears attempted to go for it on 4th and 1 rather
than kick the field goal.
The half ended with the score 17-7 in favor of Miami, but the
Bears had put together a couple of strong drives based on the running
game and were opening big holes for their running backs against the
Miami backup defensive line.
The second half opened with both teams putting their
last-stringers in the game. At first, it looked as if the Bears were
more powerful as they ran the ball almost at will right through
Miami's defense. They scored on their first two possessions of the
2nd half, mostly by running the ball.
Miami responded with a long drive of their own, and scored a
touchdown on an 8 yard run by Obafemi Ayanbadejo to end the third
The Bears had pulled within 2 points in the middle of the 4th
and it looked like they might drive down and take the lead, but the
defense finally managed to stop the Bears running game at midfield and
the Dolphins used their own running game to run out the clock and end
Overall, it was a pretty good win for the Dolphins, although
there were a number of things that they could have done better. But
given the fact that the starters only played one series on offense and
two on defense, and the rest of the game was all about the backups and
the final test for players to make the team, the Dolphins did a pretty
The most glaring positive aspect of the game for Miami was the
offensive game plan, which allowed the Dolphins to do a good job of
moving the ball against the Bears. The play selection and execution
on offense was excellent as Miami definitely earned the 24 points they
The running game was inconsistent, but towards the end of the
game when the Dolphins had to run 3:45 off the clock to win and the
Bears had all their timeouts, the running game came through. And two
of the three Dolphins' touchdowns were scored on running plays.
The passing game was very efficient, with Dolphins'
quarterbacks completing 67% of their passes for 237 yards with no
interceptions. In fact, the offense did not turn the ball over at
On defense, the pass defense was actually pretty good, with
the notable exception of the single 80 yard completion for a
touchdown. Other than the long play, the Bears had only 92 passing
The run defense by the starters was good, but they only got
one series to really show what they could do, so it's hard to draw any
conclusions about it.
The special teams did a fine job, for the most part. The
onsides kick was a thing of beauty, Olindo made all his kicks, and the
punting by Mark Royals was very well done and effective. Overall, it
was a good effort.
THINGS TO WORK ON:
Obviously, the deep pass on the first play of the game was a
cause for concern. While it was a unique set of circumstances and
Miami was playing without Brock Marion, it is something that can't
continue into the regular season.
Also, the run defense by the second string players was very
poor. The Dolphins can't just rely on their starting defense -
particularly, the starting defensive line - to do all the work. The
season is just too long to allow Larry Chester and Tim Bowens to take
all the snaps in the middle of the line.
Jay Fiedler started the game, but only played one series for
Miami. While his stats are not impressive - 2 completions of 5
attempts for 31 yards - that doesn't tell the whole story. One of his
incompletions was to Dedric Ward, who dropped a well thrown ball that
was in his hands in the endzone. So Fiedler probably should have been
3 for 5 for 49 yards and a touchdown. That would have made his
quarterback rating 132.8 instead of the 61.2 that shows up on the
Outside of the stats, he did a good job directing the offense
down the field, scrambling when necessary and leading the team. His
passes were pretty good, for the most part and he didn't make any
Ray Lucas continued his mastery of the pre-season by driving
the second string offense for 2 touchdowns in the 1st and 2nd
quarters. He was poised in the pocket, threw well and kept his cool
under pressure. He threw the only touchdown pass of the night for the
Dolphins, ending up throwing 11 of 17 for 102 yards and 1 touchdown.
Sage Rosenfels made his Dolphins debut and looked about 100
times more capable than Zak Kustok or Tim Levcik. Considering he only
had about 3 days to learn Norv's playbook, he did an outstanding job,
completing 9 of 11 passes for 104 yards and leading one scoring drive
in the 2nd half, as well as the final drive to run out the clock.
Ricky Williams only got two carries, Robert Edwards also
had only two, and Rob Konrad didn't touch the ball at all so it's
difficult to evaluate any of these players.
Travis Minor got the bulk of the work at running back in the
1st half, carrying 6 times for 23 yards, including one nifty 15 yard
run on a draw play for a touchdown. He also returned one kickoff for
Leonard Henry got a lot of work in the second half, carrying
the ball 9 times for a measly 15 yards, but catching 3 passes for 42
yards, including a 26 yard reception that set up Miami's 3rd
touchdown. It doesn't look like he'll make the regular roster, but
the Dolphins will probably try to keep him on the practice squad.
However, the surprise of the night had to be Obafemi
Ayanbadejo at fullback. He caught 3 passes for 35 yards and ran 4
times for 28 yards, including an 8 yard touchdown run and a 20 yard
carry at the end of the game to help run out the clock. His
performance late in the game saved the victory for the Dolphins and
may have save him a place on the roster.
At receiver, the leader was Dedric Ward with 4 receptions for
39 yards. However, he dropped an easy touchdown pass from Jay Fiedler
in the first quarter.
Jed Weaver had 2 impressive catches for 30 yards in the first
half, but had to sit out the rest of the game with an injury.
James McKnight had two nice catches for 22 yards, including
the only touchdown reception for the Dolphins from Ray Lucas.
Robert Baker had 2 catches for 17 yards, but it didn't save
him a roster spot. He also had 1 kickoff return for 14 yards.
Jeff Ogden had one reception for 9 yards, but was in the wrong
place on another play and didn't realize the ball was coming to him on
a third. He did nothing to keep a roster spot.
Gadsden, McMichael, and Draper had one catch each.
The offensive line was a patchwork from the beginning of the
game, with Troy Andrew starting at left guard for Jaime Nails and
Marcus Spriggs replacing Todd Wade on the right side. They did a
decent job on pass protection, only allowing 2 sacks all game and
while they weren't quite as effective on run blocking, they did manage
to open up some holes later in the game.
On defense, LB Tommy Hendricks had the most tackles, racking
up 7 stops while playing much of the game at middle linebacker. His
most important play was a 4th and 1 stop at the Miami 3 yard line that
stopped a Bears scoring drive.
Joshua Symonette had 5 tackles on the night, but many of them
were 4 and 5 yards downfield on running plays.
Earnest Grant also had 5 tackles and made a case for himself
to stay on the roster after having a less-than-impressive training
camp. However, none of the backup defensive linemen did much to
Ray Green had 5 tackles, taking over one of the cornerback
spots after the first string sat down.
Scott McGarrahan had 4 tackles and seemed to outplay Trent
Gamble in the battle for the final safety spot, although that may be
Even though Larry Chester had only 4 tackles on the night, he
had an outstanding game in run defense in the first quarter. He had 3
solo tackles on the Bears' Anthony Thomas, limiting him to runs of 2,
2 and 1 yard respectively. If he continues to play that way, he'll
make the Dolphins' run defense much better this year.
Adewale Ogunleye continued his amazing pre-season performance
by making 4 tackles, two of which were sacks. Against the Bears'
starters, he used his speed to sack Jim Miller and cause a fumble that
Derrick Rodgers recovered at the Bears' 18. He has guaranteed himself
the starting job at defensive end opposite Jason Taylor.
Jamar Fletcher ended the night with 2 tackles and one pass
knocked down. He was apparently not beaten deep on any plays, but
allowed some short completions. However, the radio announcers of the
game were pretty hard on him, criticizing his technique. It remains
to be seen whether or not they had valid complaints.
A number of other defensive players had a tackle or two, but
none contributed to the defense significantly.
On special teams, Albert Johnson did a good job returning
punts and kickoffs, returning one punt for 18 yards and 2 kickoffs for
a total of 63 yards.
Mark Royals did some good directional kicking, averaging 43.6
yards per kick and putting 2 down inside the 20.
CB Patrick Surtain pulled a groin muscle on the 2nd play he
was on the field. The seriousness is unknown at this time, but it's
unlikely that it will keep him out for any extended period.
OL Leon Searcy apparently tore the triceps in his right arm
while warming up for the game. He may be lost for the season if this
TE Jed Weaver twisted his knee during the game and may have
torn some cartilage. If true, that would sideline him for several
weeks, but not put him out for the season.
These final pre-season games always strike me as a little
weird. The starters only play for a couple of series and the rest of
the game is a wide-open competition for the final roster spots.
As a result, it's very hard to draw any conclusions about the
team from this game. It's a game that's actually more like the first
pre-season game than the last.
Still, there are some things we can take away from this game.
First of all, it sure looks like Norv Turner's offensive
scheme is going to be a lot more effective than Chan Gailey's was,
even with roughly the same people. While Norv also likes to use the
the run, he seems to be a lot more inventive with his play-calling and
much better at timing the draws and catching the defenses napping.
It seems clear that the Dolphins will score more points this
year, whether Ricky Williams plays great or not.
Also, it looks like Adewale Ogunleye and Larry Chester will
significantly upgrade the defensive line. Ogunleye is a madman off
the end and Chester is a rock in the middle and that's a good
combination for the Dolphins.
On the downside, I'm a little worried about the line depth,
both offensive and defensive. The Bears should not have been able to
push the Dolphins' backup defensive line around like they did last
night. And on offense, it now appears the Leon Searcy will be out
for the year, leaving the offensive line even more depleted after
Brent Smith's injury.
On the other hand, I just can't get too concerned about the
mixups in the secondary. I just don't believe that the secondary has
forgotten how to cover over the summer. I truly believe that they'll
be all right when the regular season starts.
So that ends the pre-season, and the next game will be the
Lions on opening day. It's been a long off-season and a strange
pre-season, but it is sure to be an exciting regular season.