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  Dolphins Game Summary: Dolphins vs Lions
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

OVERALL SUMMARY:

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 43.

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 football.

GOOD STUFF:

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 Lions' miscue.

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.

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES:

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 another touchdown.

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 easy.

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 ball.

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 of Williams.

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 injury below.

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 kickoff return.

INJURIES:

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 week.

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.

COMMENTS:

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 the team.

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 made of.

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 opponents.

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.

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