The Dolphins opened the 2002 season yesterday in Miami with a
49-21 drubbing of the hapless Detroit Lions, whose intense preparation
in the heat did nothing to help them stop (or even slow down) Miami's
new offense under Norv Turner.
The Dolphins' offense was lead by Ricky Williams, who picked
up 111 yards on 20 carries for a 5.6 ypc average and scored 2
touchdowns. Jay Fiedler passed for 3 touchdowns (one each to Randy
McMichael, Chris Chambers and Robert Edwards) and Robert Edwards
rushed for another as the offense looked the best it's looked in a
long, long time.
The only roster surprises on Sunday were on the Lions' offense
who lost RB James Stewart before the game started.
The 7th Dolphins touchdown (I hope I get to say that a lot
this year) was scored on a fluke play when a punted ball bounced off a
Detroit special teams player and was scooped up by Trent Gamble in the
endzone. The Dolphins didn't need to use Olindo for more than
kickoffs and PATs on Sunday.
The weather at kickoff was 87 degrees F (30.8 C), the
humidity was 69% and the sun was shining brightly. That is a pretty
typical day in South Florida in September, but the game was over
before the heat and humidity became a factor.
The game started with the Dolphins taking the opening kickoff
and mounting a short drive to the Lions 46, mostly on the running of
Ricky Williams, before stalling when Ricky failed to convert on 3rd
and 1. The Lions started from their own 20 after the touchback and
tried to cross up the Dolphins by running the hurry-up offense with 5
wide receivers. They managed to complete one pass of 49 yards to
their tight end, but otherwise bumbled and stumbled through the rest
of the series, ending with a punt.
The Dolphins started the next series on their 10, after a
penalty on the punt, but drove 90 yards down the field on the running
of Ricky, some good catches by Chris Chambers, Rob Konrad and Randy
McMichael. This drive ended with a 1 yard touchdown plunge by Ricky
and put the Dolphins ahead 7-0.
The Lions and Dolphins each went 3 and out on the next two
series, but when Miami punted after their series, the ball bounced
inside the Lions' 20 yard line, where the Lions' Chris Cash was trying
to block Trent Gamble. The ball bounced off of Cash's leg, making it
a live ball and Trent Gamble alertly scooped it up as it rolled into
the endzone. Touchdown, Dolphins.
The Lions went 3 and out on the next series and Miami started
at it's own 36 after the punt. Fiedler drove the offense down the
field with passes to McMichael and Edwards a little bit of running by
Ricky. He finished up this drive with a nice 18 yard touchdown pass
to Randy McMichael, who ran to the stands and threw the ball to his
mother. What a good son!
Now the Dolphins were ahead 21-0 and the Lions were looking
rattled. To their credit, they pulled it together on the next series
and drove the length of the field, mostly on short passes. They got
on the board with a quarterback draw from the 2 yard line, cutting the
lead to 21-7.
Each team went 3 and out on their next series and then Miami
got the ball back with 1:36 remaining in the first half. At this
point, I expected Miami to line up and run the clock out, but Norv
Turner had a different idea. Jay Fiedler lined up in the shotgun and
proceeded to drive the length of the field with the 2 minute offense,
which culminated in a 9 yard TD pass to Chris Chambers, who shook off
Lions' DB Eric Davis with a double fake.
The first half ended with the Dolphins up 28-7, having
completely dominated the Lions. Ricky had 62 yards rushing in the
first half and a TD, while Jay Fiedler completed 14 of 22 for 171
yards and 2 TDs. The defense sacked Mike McMahon 3 times and held
the Lions to 29 rushing yards, but did give up 133 yards passing.
The second half opened with Mike McMahon throwing an
interception on his first play to Brock Marion, who returned it to the
Detroit 2 yard line. On the next play, Ricky ran around the left side
for a touchdown, building Miami's lead to 35-7.
The Lions went 3 and out on their next series, and punted to
AJ Johnson at the Miami 6, but Johnson goofed, calling for a fair
catch with no one around him and Miami was stuck at their 6. After
going 3 and out, Royals punted to the Lions, but because they were
stuck deep, the Lions had great field position at the Miami 45.
The Lions used short passes to drive the 45 yards to the Miami
endzone, ending the drive with an 18 yard pass to Lamont Warren for a
touchdown. This cut the score to 35-14, but the Dolphins wasted no
time returning the favor. On the ensuing kickoff, AJ Johnson redeemed
himself somewhat, picking up 35 yards on the return. After adding in
a 15 yard intentional facemask penalty, Miami started from the Detroit
On the first play from scrimmage, Ricky ran to the left and
with 335 pound Jamie Nails out in front, tip-toed down the sideline
for 37 yards to the Detroit 6. This play was notable because Jamie
Nails pulled, hit one Detroit defender, knocked him down and then went
downfield and hit another. Three plays later, Jay Fiedler hit Robert
Edwards for a 4 yard touchdown pass - Edwards' first regular season
NFL touchdown in 4 years. This put Miami on top 42-14.
Sidebar: They reviewed the run to see if Ricky stepped out of
bounds at about the 33 yard line. Based on the many replays, I don't
think that Ricky went out. He came very close, but based on what I
saw, he was in bounds for the entire run.
After Miami's touchdown, the Lions went 3 and out and Miami
responded by putting together another long drive, this time for 77
yards, highlighted by a 24 yard pass to Randy McMichael and ending
with a 1 yard run by Robert Edwards for a touchdown.
At this point, there were less than 11 minutes remaining in
the game and Miami was ahead 49-14. Detroit pulled Mike McMahon and
put in Joey Harrington at quarterback. Harrington managed a drive
that drove the length of the field and ended in a Detroit touchdown,
but by this point, the Dolphins were laying back and playing the
"prevent nothing" defense.
Miami had 2 more possessions and Detroit had one, but it was
yawning time at the stadium at this point. The game ended with a
final score of 49-21 and the beginning of a new era of Miami Dolphins
The offense was the star of the show for Miami yesterday,
scoring 42 points and controlling the ball for over 34 minutes. The
running game, featuring Ricky, picked up 182 yards as the offensive
line controlled the line of scrimmage. The passing game was very
efficient and used every weapon the Dolphins had to score, almost at
will. The Dolphins didn't amass a lot of passing yards, but they did
have 3 touchdown receptions and completed the passes they needed.
The effectiveness of the offense started with the gameplan and
playcalling of Norv Turner. The Dolphins had an excellent gameplan
for the Lions and Norv Turner's playcalling was superb. He mixed and
matched the plays to the situations and defenses in such a way that
the Lions' defenders were turned inside out and upside down.
The Dolphins converted 50% of their 3rd down plays, which is
excellent. They averaged 4.4 yards per carry rushing and 7.7 yards
per pass play. Both of those numbers are very good and show a good
balance on offense, which is important to the team's future success.
And the Dolphins' offense ended the day with no penalties.
Overall, the team had 4 penalties, which is very good. That is an
indication of good execution and disciplined play.
On defense, the Dolphins stopped the Lions' running game
completely. The Lions ended the day with 51 rushing yards and an
average of only 2.7 ypc.
The pass defense was not as efficient, but the Lions only
completed one pass longer than 22 yards and when the game was still
competitive in the first half, the Dolphins sacked Mike McMahon 3
times. They also picked off one of McMahon's passes, and should have
had another. The one they did pick off set up a Dolphins' touchdown
in the 3rd quarter.
On special teams, the Dolphins averaged 47.8 yards per punt,
which put them 7th in the league yesterday. They did an excellent job
covering Desmond Howard, one of the most dangerous punt and kickoff
return men in the NFL. And, of course, they made a touchdown on the
Overall, most of the things the Dolphins did yesterday were
good. There were just a few things they need to work on.
THINGS TO WORK ON:
On offense, even though they converted 6 of 12 third downs,
they had trouble with 3rd and short situations. The Dolphins only
converted 1 of 3 plays on 3rd and 1 and they didn't convert either of
their 3rd and 2 situations. So the Dolphins went 1 of 5 in 3rd and 2
or less. While the Lions do have a good interior defensive line, the
Dolphins should have been able to convert those plays.
On defense, they had trouble covering running backs and tight
ends, which is usually the responsibility of the linebackers.
Detroit's 2nd leading receiver was Michael Ricks, who caught 3 passes
for 68 yards and Detroit's only touchdown pass went to Lamont Warren,
who was lost by Derrick Rodgers.
On special teams, Johnson had trouble returning punts. He
fumbled one on the runback, muffed a catch on another and made some
bad decisions on fair catches - one on the 6 yard line of Miami.
While I think he improved as the game went along and he got less
nervous about his first NFL appearance, he needs to be a lot more
reliable to continue as the starter.
First of all, there is Jay Fiedler. Fiedler did a very good
job running the offense, taking his time when necessary and doing an
excellent job managing the clock during the 2-minute drill at the end
of the first half. However, he made a couple of bad throws that we've
all come to expect from Jay. He overthrew a wide open Chris Chambers
deep down the sideline that would have been a touchdown and he threw
one pass into a linebacker's hands, but had it dropped.
He ended the day completing 18 of 27 attempts for 207 yards
and 3 touchdowns. He was not sacked, he scrambled twice and he rushed
once on third and 1 for a first down.
Ray Lucas got to take a few snaps at the end of the game, but
his main contribution was handing off and kneeling down.
Ricky Williams wowed everyone watching with his debut as a
Dolphin. He ran 20 times for 111 yards (5.6 ypc) and 2 touchdowns,
before being pulled in the third quarter. If he'd stayed in and
gotten another 10 carries, that averages out to 167 yards on 30
carries. He did an excellent job cutting to the outside, running
over defenders and showed more speed than most people thought he had.
He looked like the Ricky that everyone hoped he'd be.
Rob Konrad started with Ricky and ended the day with 4 catches
for 35 yards, one short of his total for all of last season. A couple
of his catches were crucial during touchdown drives and he showed how
big a threat he can be catching the ball out of the backfield. He did
run the ball once, but was stuffed for a loss.
Robert Edwards backed up Ricky and supplemented him on third
downs. He had 4 carries for 20 yards, with 1 touchdown and was the
2nd leading receiver on the team with 4 catches for 38 yards and
Deon Dyer got some work as a blocker, but did not carry the
ball at all.
Travis Minor got in the game a lot in the 2nd half after the
Dolphins were well ahead. He carried the ball 11 times for 45 yards
late in the game.
Rookie Randy McMichael lead all receivers with 4 catches for
73 yards and a touchdown. He also had Miami's longest reception of
the day of 24 yards, but his best catch was a leaping one-handed grab
across the middle of the field. He also did a good job blocking.
Chris Chambers had the most catches of any of the wide
receivers, gathering in 3 balls for 36 yards and a touchdown on a
quick slant, where he faked out the cornerback and made it look too
Oronde Gadsden caught 2 passes for 18 yards, including one
catch where he was upended and landed on his head, but held on to the
The offensive line did an excellent job. They cleared the way
for Ricky and didn't give up any sacks. On Ricky's 37 yard run, Jamie
Nails was particularly impressive, pulling and paving the field ahead
On defense, Brock Marion lead the team in tackles with 7,
knocked down one pass and intercepted another. His interception on
the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter ended any hope the
Lions had of staging a comeback.
Zach also had 7 tackles, including a couple of stops for a
loss. He was not as obvious as he has been in other games, but of
course, the Lions didn't have the ball very much and threw it when
they did have it, so Zach was not needed as much.
Arturo Freeman had 4 tackles, knocked down one pass, made a
special teams tackle and, most importantly, recovered Albert Johnson's
fumble on a punt return. He seemed to be nearly everywhere on the
field and it looked like he had a good game.
Patrick Surtain had 3 solo tackles and knocked down a pass
early in the game. He had some excellent coverage.
Ray Green came into the game on passing downs when Sam Madison
was injured and ended the day with 3 solo tackles and another tackle
on special teams. He also seemed to have good coverage downfield.
Morlon Greenwood had 3 tackles and a couple of hard hits, but
seemed to be doing most of his hitting 3 to 4 yards downfield.
Tim Bowens lead the defensive linemen with 3 tackles and had a
pretty good day, although he's had better.
Jermaine Haley also had 3 tackles and played a lot during the
defensive line rotations. He also shared a sack with Jason Taylor.
Jason Taylor got a lot of playing time, registering 2 tackles,
half a sack and knocking down a pass.
Rob Burnett played on passing downs and showed a lot more than
he had during the pre-season. He had several nice plays, getting
credit for one tackle, a sack and a forced fumble.
Larry Chester, starting his first game at right defensive
tackle, had a single tackle, but it was a sack and he also did a good
job crowding the middle of the line and letting Zach roam.
Adewale Ogunleye was not as much of a factor as he was in the
pre-season, but got credit for one tackle, which was a stuff of Lamont
Warren for a 2 yard loss.
Derrick Rodgers only had 1 assisted tackle and blew the
coverage on Lamont Warren on the Lions' only touchdown pass.
Sam Madison also only had 1 assisted tackle, but he sprained
his ankle early in the game and sat out most of it. More on his
Jamar Fletcher was credited with no tackles and one pass
defensed. He would have had an interception but dropped the ball. He
was called for pass interference late in the game, but I felt that
that call was questionable at best. He had good position on the
receiver and was looking back for the ball, but the referee said he
was "blocking" the receiver.
Albert Johnson had a rough debut returning both punts and
kickoffs for the Dolphins. He fumbled one punt return and muffed
another. Neither resulted in a turnover, but both were not the sort
of thing that you want your kick returner to do.
Johnson also made a couple of bad decisions on when to fair
catch the ball. He took a fair catch at the Miami 6 yard line and
made a fair catch on another punt where no one was around him.
However, Johnson seemed to improve as the game went on. He
also had several good returns, including a 35 yard kickoff return in
the 2nd half and a 34 yard punt return that was nullified by a
penalty. He averaged 11.7 yards-per-punt-return and 25 yards per
The only significant injury was Sam Madison's sprained ankle.
X-rays were negative after the game, but Sam was supposed to have an
MRI today. According to the latest information from ESPN, his ankle
is bruised, not sprained. He is listed as day-to-day, which means we
won't know if he can play against the Colts until much later in the
Madison himself says he'll be back for the Colts.
Ricky Williams did say, after the game, that he thinks he may
have separated his shoulder, but that is not on any injury reports and
Ricky went on to say that if he did, it's no big deal.
It's hard to find anything to be too unhappy about after
yesterday's destruction of the Lions. The most impressive aspect of
the game was the offensive output by Miami. The Dolphins haven't put
that many points on the board since The Great One was quarterbacking
But this time, it wasn't about one great player. It was about
all the pieces of the offense - the running game, the passing attack,
the blocking and, most of all, the playcalling.
I think that if you are going to credit any one person in
Miami with this victory, that you have to give the credit to Norv
Turner. His gameplan and playcalling were the things that dreams are
Norv seems to have a facility for calling the right play at
the right time and the Dolphins' offense seems more than happy to
carry it out. With a few exceptions, Miami did pretty much whatever
they wanted to do offensively on Sunday, which was very nice to see.
Besides the gameplan and the playcalling, there was one other
thing that distinguished this offensive game from others the Dolphins
have played in many years. I call it the killer instinct.
For the last 2 years, the Dolphins' offensive gameplan was to
score enough points to get ahead and then not make any mistakes. Once
Miami got a lead, they tended to sit on them and not try to bury their
Yesterday, however, with 42 points already on the board in the
4th quarter, Norv Turner was still calling plays to score another
touchdown. There was no sitting on the lead, no turning to a run-only
mentality. Norv was determined to bury the Lions.
Can you imagine Chan Gailey doing that?
This is something Miami has been lacking in recent years - the
killer instinct to bury an opponent. But Norv Turner has it. I don't
think you'll be seeing the Dolphins' offense doing much "protecting
the lead" this year.
I think that, more than the arrival of Ricky Williams, more
than the Norv Turner system, the Killer Instinct is what will
differentiate this year's Dolphin offense from the recent past.
At least - I hope so.
- Miami Herald: Lions defense unravels
- Miami Herald: Special-teams gaffe costs Lions
- Dolphins Press Releases: Comeback Complete As Edwards Scores Twice
- Dolphin Digest: DolphinDigest.com -- DAY-AFTER REPORT
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Edwards gets redemption
- Miami Herald: Williams is talk of town after debut
- Dolphins Press Releases: Dolphins vs. Lions - Video Highlights
- Dolphins Press Releases: LIVE PRESS CONFERENCE
- Miami Herald: Huizenga happy about Wannstedt's work, team's future
- Miami Herald: Nails' play awes linemates
- Miami Herald: Taking the Lion's share
- ESPNet Sportszone: ESPN.com - NFL - Week 1 wrap-ups
- Miami Herald: Madison suffers ankle sprain
- Miami Herald: McMichael proves a great catch
- Miami Herald: Edwards' 'miracle' fills day with hope
- Palm Beach Post: McMichael makes a catch for his Mom
- Palm Beach Post: Williams gives Dolphins some star power
- Palm Beach Post: Turner may be quiet, but his offense isn't
- Detroit News: Harrington is introduced
- Detroit News: Miami blowout makes Carolina a must-win game for the Lions
- Detroit News: Mike O'Hara grades the Lions
- Detroit News: Lions report
- Detroit News: Drama finds running backs
- Detroit News: Lions fizzle in opener
- Detroit News: Lions' defense was scariest part of a frightening performance
- Detroit News: Lopsided Lions defeat dashes hopes of fans
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Williams' speed dazzles
- Florida Today: See complete story
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Fiedler storms second-rate secondary
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Rookie returns the favor
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Turner humble, offense isnít
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Johnson looks shaky on returns
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: For defense, glass is half empty
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Opener's atmosphere is sizzling, inside and out
- The Sporting News: Specials teams only blight on win
- ESPNet Sportszone: ESPN.com - TJ's Take on Week 1 in the NFL
- ESPN.com: NFL - Determined Edwards ends four-year TD drought
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Dolphins' Edwards Completes Comeback
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Dolphins vs. Lions - photo gallery
- CNN/SI: Dolphins 49, Lions 21
- Detroit News: Lions lose opener in blowout
- Dolphin Digest: DolphinDigest.com -- DAZZLING DEBUT
- CBS Sportsline: Dolphins, Ricky overwhelm Lions
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Dolphins Rout Lions, 49-21
- Miami Herald: Orange Crush
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Dolphins down Lions, 49-21, in season opener
- Dolphins Press Releases: LIVE POSTGAME SHOW