The Dolphins went into Atlanta today with a chance to show that
their victory over the Broncos was not a fluke - that they are a
genuine playoff team and a contender for the SuperBowl. Unfortunately,
the Dolphins did not play like a playoff team today as they committed 6
turnovers on offense and gave up 4 touchdowns on defense to lose to the
Atlanta Falcons 38-16.
This was easily the worst game overall that the Dolphins have
played all year. They stunk on offense, defense and special teams. Of
course, there were a few reasons for their problems. First of all,
Richmond Webb and Karim Abdul-Jabbar were inactive for the game. Kevin
Donnalley dressed, but didn't start and didn't play most of the game as
Mike Sheldon took his place at right guard.
And Jason Taylor broke his collarbone in the first quarter and
will be sidelined for the rest of the year. He will not make the
The net result of missing all those starters was that the
Dolphins couldn't run, couldn't hold on to the ball and couldn't stop
the Falcons from running or passing. From the first play from
scrimmage (which was a 62 yard touchdown pass to the tight end for the
Falcons), the Dolphins looked sluggish, confused and completely
uninterested in playing the game.
Nearly everyone played poorly today for the Dolphins, at all
positions. With the Falcons up 14-0 in the first quarter, Dan Marino
threw an ill-advised pass towards Ed Perry deep in Dolphins territory,
which was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Ron Moore started
in place of the injured Karim Abdul-Jabbar, but fumbled when he ran into
Tim Ruddy on his third carry and didn't carry the ball again. John
Avery also fumbled when tackled and didn't gain much yardage when he did
hold on to the ball.
Even Oronde Gadsden, who had a big day catching the ball with 9
catches for 153 yards, had 2 fumbles that were both recovered by the
The offensive line, without Donnalley or Webb, allowed 3 sacks
and a fair amount of pressure on Marino. The Dolphins only got 38
yards on 19 carries from Moore and Avery. Yes, Dan Marino passed for
over 300 yards, but that was about all the Dolphins could do.
The Dolphins' defense performed even worse than the offense for
the first time this year. They allowed Jamal Anderson to rush 19 times
for 103 yards and a 36 yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter. They
allowed Tony Martin to catch two deep passes, one for a touchdown. The
allowed the tight end to catch a 62 yard touchdown pass on the first
play from scrimmage that was really just a short pass, but a 55 yard
run after the catch where they couldn't bring him down from behind,
despite several chances to tackle him.
In my preview for the game, I predicted that turnovers would
decide this game and they certainly did. The Dolphins committed 6
turnovers today and got none in return. That spelled disaster for the
Dolphins in what could have been an important game for them.
Fortunately, the Jets beat the Patriots badly in New York and that
means that the Dolphins get to play their first playoff game in Miami
as the 4th seeded team in the AFC. That will happen next weekend when
the Dolphins take on the Buffalo Bills.
If the Dolphins play anything like they did today, they will
not beat the Bills next week. They are going to have to give their
best effort, especially without Jason Taylor at right defensive end, in
order to beat the hated Bills.
All in all, this was a miserable way to end the regular season
and the only solace I can take from today's game is that the Dolphins
are passing the ball better than they have all season. Lamar Thomas,
Nate Jacquet, OJ McDuffie, Oronde Gadsden and Troy Drayton are catching
and running with the ball better now than they have all year. Let's hope
that Donnalley and Webb are back next week because the Dolphins'
offensive line will really need them to protect Dan and to get some
semblance of a running game going.