Unfortunately for those of us who cheer for the Miami Dolphins,
they proved tonight that while they are improving gradually, they are
not yet quite good enough to pull ahead of the other teams in the AFC
East and stand alone on top of it. In another nail-biter of a game,
the Dolphins lost 26-23 to the Patriots on a touchdown pass from Drew
Bledsoe to Shawn Jefferson with just 29 seconds remaining.
It was a great game if you like close contests with lots of
hard-nosed football, good hitting and some intense action. It was
disappointing if you are a Dolphins fan and had hoped, as I had, that
the Dolphins might actually make a statement tonight about how good
they were and how they were not going to lose to a good team on the
It was not a great game if you like to see teams run the
football or sack the quarterback. Bledsoe was sacked only once tonight
and Marino was not sacked at all. Neither team could run the ball at
all and that limited their ability to control the tempo of the game.
On the other hand, both teams discovered their missing passing
that had been dormant for much of this year. Terry Glenn returned for
the Patriots and while he didn't score a touchdown, he was very
effective in stretching the defense. For the Dolphins, Oronde Gadsden
caught 2 touchdown passes and Dan Marino passed for over 300 yards of
offense, while Drew Bledsoe had over 400 yards passing.
It's a shame that, in a game like this, one team has to lose,
because both teams played their hearts out and hung in there until the
bitter end. Both teams wanted this game very badly, but it was
ultimately the Patriots' talent - especially Drew Bledsoe - that put
them over the top.
If you are one of those people who needs someone or something to
blame for losses like this, you can blame the Dolphins' lack of a strong
running game and the absence of a dominating pass rusher. The Dolphins
still can't run on strong defenses and they don't have a pass rusher who
can strike fear into the hearts of opposing offenses and who really
comes on strong in critical situations. Perhaps Lorenzo Bromell will
develop into that person - he had the only sack on either team tonight -
but no one else on the Dolphins' defensive line has consistently been in
the quarterbacks' face all year.
The Dolphins lost this game tonight because they made one
crucial play less than the Patriots did. You can pick the play you
like, but when it was all over, this was a game decided in inches and
by playmakers and the Dolphins just didn't quite get there. And the
reason they didn't quite get there is that they don't yet have all the
players they need to be a championship team.
A word about the officiating - while the officiating didn't
cost either team the game, it was appallingly bad. The way the
referees are calling (or not calling) pass interference is getting to
be ludicrous. The NFL must get the referees to start doing their job
better and calling pass interference in a consistent, reasonable
manner, on both the offense and the defense. How many times did you
look at a call that was either made or not made tonight and shake your
head in disbelief.
OK, I'm off my soapbox. I will try to find it in my heart to put
together a full summary on Tuesday, but if it doesn't show up, I'll hope
you'll understand. I said before the game that their performance
tonight would show us where they stand and I'm afraid that I was right.
While the Dolphins are definitely improving, they are still not quite
at a championship level yet.