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

OVERALL SUMMARY:

The Dolphins took their show on the road to Denver yesterday and when the fat lady had sung and the curtain had come down, the Dolphins were left the victors in a 24-22 thriller that featured everything but the kitchen sink.

Olindo Mare' played the part of the fat lady in this production, hitting a 53 yard field goal with 6 seconds remaining to win the game, but he was hardly the only player on this stage as nearly every player on both sides of the ball contributed to this stunning Miami victory.

The game began at 8:30 PM EDT, which was 6:30 PM local time in Denver, meaning there was a little bit of natural light left at kickoff. The temperature at kickoff was a balmy 58 degrees F, with 31% humidity and clear skies. Winds were from the SW at 3 mph. In other words, the weather was beautiful and not a factor in this game.

The Dolphins had Marcus Spriggs starting for Mark Dixon at left tackle, but otherwise were at full strength at the start of the game. The Broncos had their complete starting lineup.

Before I begin, let me make my excuses now. So much happened during the course of this game, that it would be impossible to accurately "summarize" everything that went on. If you didn't see the game, I advise you to beg, borrow or steal a video of the game and watch it yourself. That will be the only way to really see everything that happened.

And no, I don't have an extra copy of the game.

During the first half, the script was pretty consistent. Denver was able to drive down the field on short passes to their receivers and running backs and some running by Clinton Portis. They couldn't break any big plays, but were moving the ball steadily.

However, each time they would get deep into Miami territory, either Miami's defense would come up with a big play to stop them or the Broncos would self-destruct short of the endzone. As a result, Denver ended 5 drives in Miami territory in the first half - 3 inside Miami's 20 - but ended the first half with only 3 field goals for 9 points.

Miami's strategy on defense in this game was to stop the run and force the Broncos to beat them through the air. The did a pretty good job stopping the run and pressuring Brian Griese with the defensive line. While Denver's receivers caught a lot of passes, they were mostly short completions and the Broncos' receivers paid for every yard.

Miami's defense forced the Broncos' offense to play mistake free football on every play to pick up yardage. They also mixed in blitzes in selected situations that helped keep the Broncos guessing. Miami did get burned on one blitz, when Griese hit fullback Mike Anderson with a screen pass for a 52 yard gain down to the Miami 2.

In the first quarter, Miami's offense was completely ineffective, going 3 and out twice, because the Denver defense was stuffing Ricky Williams at the line of scrimmage and Norv Turner seemed unwilling to call any other plays.

In the second quarter, the Dolphins had a 76 yard drive for a touchdown, mainly on the strength of two Oronde Gadsden receptions and two nice runs by Ricky Williams down near the goal line for a total of 16 yards. The touchdown itself was a 10 yard run by Ricky between Todd Wade and Todd Perry, on one of the few really good blocking jobs that Miami's offensive line did all night.

Miami's offensive strategy seemed to be to run Ricky Williams no matter what the Broncos were able to do and it did finally pay off on the first touchdown drive, but was largely ineffective throughout the game.

Turnovers were a major part of the first half. Following Anderson's 52 yard screen pass to Miami's one, Anderson fumbled on a run up the middle and Miami recovered, thwarting a potential touchdown drive.

Miami returned the favor when Jay Fiedler threw an interception from the Denver 30 yard line after having driven 69 yards from the Miami 1 on a drive that would have put Miami ahead for the first time in the game, if they had scored even a field goal.

The final play of the first half was a microcosm of Denver's problems in the first half. They had driven to Miami's 30 and on the final play of the half, it appeared that Jason Elam had made a 49 yard field goal. However, the field goal was nullified by a holding penalty against the Broncos' Blake Brockermeyer. And since it was the last play of the half, the Broncos were not allowed to retry the kick.

Sidebar: The most controversial play of the first half occurred when Chris Chambers made a leaping catch on a slant pass in the 2nd quarter. At the catch, Broncos' safety Kenoy Kennedy speared Chris Chambers in the chin with his helmet, knocking Chambers to the ground and dislodging the ball.

Chambers lay on the ground for several minutes as the Dolphins' trainers worked on him and he was eventually helped off the field with a concussion. He did not return to the game.

Replay showed that Kennedy clearly hit Chambers right in the chin with the top of his helmet, spearing him and knocking him down. While I believe that Kennedy did not mean to really hurt Chambers, I also believe that he deliberately thrust the top of his helmet at Chambers in a way that is too dangerous to be tolerated. I do not believe that what happened was just an accident. End of sidebar.

Overall, the Broncos outplayed the Dolphins in the first half, but several big plays by Miami and a couple of mistakes by Denver kept the game well with reach for the Dolphins. At halftime, the score was 9-7 in favor of the Broncos.

At the beginning of the third quarter, the Dolphins started by turning over the ball on a fumble when Trevor Pryce got around Todd Wade and sacked Jay Fiedler. The Broncos responded by throwing what initially appeared to be an interception in the endzone, but replay showed that Sam Madison had not quite gotten control of the ball as he came down, so Denver kept the ball at the Miami 22.

However, Denver couldn't do anything with it and ended up kicking yet another field goal for a 12-7 lead.

The rest of the third quarter was a back and forth series of short drives that resulted in nothing for either team. The Miami defensive line really asserted itself in the third quarter, sacking Griese twice and keeping constant pressure on him. The Broncos defense continued to hold Miami's offense in check, stuffing Ricky and containing the receivers.

The game didn't really change its tone significantly until the beginning of the 4th quarter, when Sam Madison won a shoving match with Rod Smith and Smith slipped and fell. Unfortunately for Denver, Griese had already thrown the ball in Smith's direction and Madison had an easy interception that he returned to the Miami 48.

The Dolphins then put together their 2nd touchdown drive of the game, culminating in a 2 yard run over the right side by Ricky Williams to give Miami it's first lead with the score of 14-12. On this drive, there was a particularly impressive reverse by James McKnight who showed speed and drive in breaking a couple of tackles for a 16 yard pickup.

Now leading for the first time, the Dolphins got another big play from their defense when Patrick Surtain picked off a Brian Griese pass and returned it for a touchdown on the Broncos' very next series. Griese was under pressure from Jason Taylor and Surtain watched him all the way, picking off the pass and returning it up the right side for the score.

Suddenly, in the space of a minute and a half, Miami had gone from 5 points down to a 9 point lead with 8:13 left to play. But the game was far from over.

The Broncos started their next drive at their 20 after the kickoff, and using short passes, began driving the length of the field. They managed to convert a 3rd and 15 with a screen to Clinton Portis for 21 yards and Griese showed poise and determination in the pocket. This time, instead of committing a drive-stopping error, they were aided by two Dolphins' penalties that eventually gave the Broncos a first and goal at the Miami 1. From there, it was just a short pass to Mike Anderson for a touchdown.

This score cut the Dolphins' lead to 21-19 with 3:30 left to play. The Dolphins' task on the ensuing drive was to run the clock out, but even though Miami did manage to convert 2 first downs, the Broncos defense rose up and sacked Jay Fiedler on 3rd and 2 when Trevor Pryce was not fooled by a quarterback bootleg that Fiedler tried to run.

This drive did force Denver to use all its timeouts and when Denver got the ball back on a punt with 1:51 remaining, they had no timeouts remaining. Denver went back to work from it's own 20 and ran Clinton Portis out of bounds after 10 yards. They got 5 more yards on a penalty and then the Broncos' rookie Ashley Lelie got behind Patrick Surtain down the sideline as Surtain was looking in the Broncos' backfield instead of at the receiver. Griese hit Lelie for 30 yards to the Miami 35, which was within Jason Elams' range.

The Dolphins' defense stiffened at this point, dropping Clinton Portis for a 2 yard loss and pressuring Griese into 2 incompletions. Now, faced with a 4th and 12 at the Miami 37, the Broncos trotted out Jason Elam for a 55 yard field goal attempt. The ball sailed to the right, but curved back just inside the upright and just over the crossbar to give the Broncos 3 points and a 22-21 lead.

However, the Broncos had made a tactical mistake by not running more time off the clock. Miami got the ball back after the kickoff at their own 21 with 40 seconds showing on the clock and 2 timeouts remaining.

Unbeknownst to the fans, Jay Fiedler trotted on to the field to lead the offense with a broken right (throwing hand) thumb. He had hit his hand on a helmet in a previous series and his task was now to put the Dolphins into field goal range (about 45 yards downfield) with a broken thumb.

On his first throw, Randy McMichael dropped the ball about 8 yards downfield in the left flat. The next play, Fiedler missed Dedric Ward and the Dolphins were suddenly faced with a 3rd and 10 with 29 seconds remaining in the game.

From the shotgun, Fiedler dropped back to pass, but was forced to scramble. Randy McMichael had crossed the field and was coming back towards Fiedler, when Fiedler threw behind him. McMichael reached back behind himself and snagged the ball out of the air 17 yards downfield at the Miami 43. Miami then called their first timeout.

On the next play, now with 20 seconds remaining, Fiedler threw 20 yards downfield towards Dedric Ward, who had turned back between defenders at the Broncos' 35. Between Ward and Fiedler, Broncos' linebacker John Mobley leaped towards the pass and got both hands on the ball, but was unable to hold on. The ball squirted threw Mobley's hands and fluttered into the chest of Ward, who had the presence of mind to hold on to the ball at the Denver 35. With 11 seconds on the clock, Miami called their last timeout and sent in Olindo Mare'.

Mare', who has had some trouble this year, hit one of the best kicks he's ever made, angling towards the middle of the field and clearing the crossbar with at least 15 feet of clearance. The kick probably would have been good from 70 yards away and it gave Miami a 24-22 lead with just 6 seconds left.

Just 44 seconds earlier, the Denver sideline and fans had exploded with joy when Jason Elam hit his 55 yard kick. Now, the entire stadium was silent, except for the Miami bench, which was jumping with their own joy.

The Dolphins did kick off once more and the ball sailed into the endzone for a touchback. Griese threw a short pass from the 20 to Rod Smith and the Broncos attempted to lateral, but Miami's defense made a quick tackle and the game was over.

It was as exciting a game as I've ever seen. It was an outstanding performance by both teams and the biggest disappointment was that only one team could win the game because both teams played their hearts out.

BIG PLAYS:

There were so many big plays in this game, it's hard to pick out a limited number to focus on, but here are 4 - one from each quarter - that made a difference:

  1. In the first quarter, on first and 10 from the Dolphins' 35, Griese drops back to pass, but Jason Taylor gets around Ephraim Salaam and sacks Brian Griese for a 17 yard loss. Result: this sack stops the Broncos' second scoring drive and while the Broncos do get a field goal, it keeps the game within reach of the Dolphins.

  2. After a 52 yard screen pass catches the Dolphins in a blitz and gives the Broncos a first and goal on the Dolphins' 2, the Broncos run Mike Anderson up the middle twice. The first time, he's stopped short of the goal line, but on the second carry, Jason Taylor knocks the ball out of Anderson's hands and Larry Chester recovers. Result: The Dolphins kill another Bronco's scoring opportunity and keep the game within reach.

  3. On the second play of the third quarter, Jay Fiedler drops back to pass but Trevor Pryce gets around Todd Wade, knocks the ball out of Fiedler's hands and falls on the fumble. Result: The Broncos get an easy 3 points on a field goal.

  4. With 20 seconds remaining in the game, Jay Fiedler throws a pass to his left, aiming for Dedric Ward at the Bronco's 35. John Mobley jumps and gets his hands on the ball, but can't hold on and the ball lands in Dedric Ward's chest. Result: Miami makes the game winning field goal. If Mobley hangs on to the ball, the game is over and Denver wins instead.

GOOD STUFF:

The most important thing the Dolphins did on Sunday was to play a complete 60 minutes of football. They worked hard from beginning to end and never quit and it paid off with a victory, even when it appeared that they were beaten on Elam's 55 yard field goal.

The offense did not have an especially productive game overall, but they made plays when it counted the most. They did convert 45% of their third downs, which is very good, especially considering the opponent.

The running game was shut down for the most part, but both Dolphins' offensive touchdowns came on runs by Ricky Williams, one for 10 yards, behind the right side of the Dolphins' offensive line.

The passing game was inconsistent, but considering that the team was without Chris Chambers for much of the game, they did a good job.

The Dolphins also scored a touchdown on each trip into the red zone, which turned out to be a key aspect of the their victory. One of the reasons the Broncos lost was that they only managed to convert 25% of their trips into the red zone into touchdowns.

The other side of that coin is the fact that the defense did an excellent job in the redzone, keeping Denver from scoring touchdowns and limiting them to field goals. The Dolphin defense was especially effective along the line, with Jason Taylor and the rest of the defensive line closing holes and applying constant pressure on Brian Griese. The result was 3 (almost 4) turnovers, which would prove to be very important.

When the Dolphins did get interceptions, they made the most of them. Both interceptions resulted in touchdowns for the Dolphins.

The defense did give up a lot of yards, but did a good job limiting the Broncos to mostly short gains. The Broncos only broke one really big play and it turned out to be harmless.

On special teams, Olindo did miss one 48 yard field goal, but made up for it with the game winner. The coverage was pretty good, overall and the return game with Travis Minor and Dedric Ward worked well this week.

THINGS TO WORK ON:

The offensive line got pushed around pretty severely, and while the Denver defensive line is one of the best in the league, the offensive line of the Dolphins needs to be able to deal with good defensive lines if Miami is to be considered one of the best teams in the league.

The play calling by Norv Turner seemed to be a little too conservative early in the game. While I applaud the dedication to Ricky's running, a little more variation in the playcalling early in the game might have scored some more points.

The turnovers were a problem, with Jay Fiedler throwing one ill-advised interception and Todd Wade giving up a sack that resulted in another turnover.

Also, the Dolphins had 8 penalties for 42 yards, including 2 defensive penalties on the Broncos' only touchdown drive. They need to cut down those costly penalties.

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES:

As always, Jay Fiedler is the subject of both praise and condemnation from the fans. Personally, I thought he had an excellent game completing 19 of 29 passes for 192 yards while under serious pressure from the Denver defense. He deserves special credit for leading the game-winning drive with a broken thumb.

Ricky Williams was held to 49 yards on 20 carries for a 2.5 ypc average while rushing the ball and caught 4 passes for 30 yards. Despite the low rushing average, he did score two rushing touchdowns and forced the Broncos to key on him. Given the lack of offensive line blocking for most of the game, he did a very good job.

Robert Edwards did a good job as a blocker, picking up the blitzes, but only carried the ball once for 2 yards and caught 1 pass for -2 yards.

Rob Konrad caught 2 passes for 13 yards, but was not a big factor in this game. He tried to block for Ricky, but was only partially successful.

Oronde Gadsden lead all Dolphins' receivers with 5 catches for 77 yards, including several on Miami's touchdown drives. Unlike past weeks, he didn't drop any easy passes.

Randy McMichael had a mixed game. He dropped at least 2 easy catches, but made a beautiful grab behind him on the game winning drive. Overall, he had 5 catches for 62 yards.

Dedric Ward caught just 2 passes for 30 yards, but one was on the deflected ball on the final drive that set up Mare's game winning field goal. He also returned two punts for a total of 47 yards, which is an excellent average.

James McKnight replaced Chris Chambers and ended up with no catches. But he did pick up 16 yards on Miami's 2nd touchdown drive on a reverse, where he was forced to break a couple of tackles to get the yardage. He seems to be a powerful runner for his size and he's very fast.

The offensive line did not have a particularly good game. Todd Perry, Todd Wade and Tim Ruddy all seemed to have problems dealng with Denver's defensive linemen. In particular, Todd Wade was abused by Trevor Pryce for most of the game.

On defense, Zach Thomas had a terrific game, showing up all over the field and ending the game with 12 tackles. He was especially impressive in the first half.

Right behind Zach was Brock Marion, who turned in 9 tackles of his own. He helped a lot in run support, but was called for pass interference in the endzone late in the game.

Patrick Surtain had an outstanding game, collecting 8 tackles, knocking down one pass and returning an interception for a touchdown.

Jason Taylor was in Brian Griese's face all night, running circles around Denver's offensive tackles and applying consistent pressure. He had 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 passes knocked down and one forced fumble, which was recovered by Larry Chester. He was a one man wrecking crew.

Sam Madison was credited with 5 tackles, intercepted one pass that set up a touchdown and almost intercepted another in the endzone. As a pair, Madison and Surtain are the best cornerback duo in the NFL.

Derrick Rodgers had 3 tackles and did a good job controling the run and covering receivers out of the backfield.

Arturo Freeman had a very good night, knocking down a pass and delivering some impressive hits. He ended the night with 3 tackles.

Morlon Greenwood also had a solid outing, registering 3 tackles, including one tackle of Clinton Portis for a 2 yard loss on the Broncos' final drive.

Jamar Fletcher was not burned for any big plays in this game, for a change. He made two solo tackles.

Adewale Ogunleye contributed to the pressure on Griese with 2 tackls and a sack in the 3rd quarter.

Jay Williams also had two solo tackles in the defensive line rotation.

David Bowens did play in this game, even though he was listed as doubtful going into the game. He had 1 solo tackle during regular play and 1 special teams tackle, but also had a roughing the passer penalty late in the game.

Rob Burnett was also in the defensive line rotation and picked up one solo tackle.

Shawn Wooden came in on nickel situations and had one assist.

Larry Chester was not credited with any tackles this week, but did knock down one pass and recovered Mike Anderson's goal line fumble. He, Tim Bowens and Jermaine Haley did a good job of plugging the line against the Broncos.

Tommy Hendricks came in on goal line situations and contributed two special teams tackles.

Ray Green continues to play well on special teams and had 2 special teams tackles against the Broncos.

Trent Gamble also had 1 special teams tackle.

Scott Galyon played on special teams and downed one of Royal's punts at the Denver 1 yard line.

Mark Royals did a pretty good job for the most part, making some nice directional kicks and placing the ball well. He averaged 41.2 yards per punt. However, he shanked one punt for 13 yards.

Travis Minor returned kickoffs for the Dolphins, averaging 30.7 yards per return, mostly because of one very nice return for 66 yards.

And, of course, there's Olindo Mare'. He missed a 48 yard field goal early in the game, but redeemed himself on his final kick.

INJURIES:

Jay Fiedler broke his thumb in the 4th quarter. He reportedly had surgery on Monday on the thumb and could be out anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, depending on who's calling the shots.

Other injured players were WR Oronde Gadsden (left-wrist sprain), LB Morlon Greenwood (right-quadriceps strain), WR James McKnight (bruised back), Jason Taylor (left-elbow hyperextension) and WR Chris Chambers (concussion).

At present, Chambers could miss the Buffalo game, but we won't know until later in the week.

COMMENTS:

The problem with games as terrific as this one was, is that someone has to lose. Both the Broncos and the Dolphins worked so hard and played so well that they both really deserved to win.

Unfortunately, one team has to lose. In this game, it was the Broncos.

But it could just as easily gone the other way. There were a number of points in the game where one play could have changed the outcome and Miami was not only good, but lucky on Sunday.

The hitting was ferocious in this game. I don't think I've ever seen so many bone-crunching hits as I saw in this game on Sunday night. It was amazing.

In the past, the Dolphins have often been known as a "finesse" team. I think that the game Sunday night has put that idea to rest, at least for the rest of this season.

Overall, it was a terrific win for the Dolphins, but it came at a price. With Jay Fiedler out this week, Ray Lucas will be starting on Sunday and we'll all finally get to see how good he will be.

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