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Dolphins defend their ability to get deep

So how you liking Miami's ability to get big downfield plays in the passing game?

The Dolphins think they're doing just fine, thanks. Today, quarterback Chad Pennington and coach Tony Sparano brought up this statistic about how the Dolphins are faring well in pass plays of 20-yards or more. Apparently they've heard criticism that Miami's offense isn't a big-play unit with the pass and they are refuting that.

"It's perception versus reality," Pennington said.

"You talk about big plays and whether or not the ball is getting the down the field -- 'oh they're not throwing the bomb' -- but we have 17 plays over 20 yards which is like eighth or ninth in our league when you're talking about pass plays," Sparano said.

Actually, the Dolphins are tied for 14th in the NFL on plays of 20 yards or more. That is still satisfactory. But it is by no means eye-popping.

The truth is the Dolphins are averaging 2.83 pass plays of 20 yards or more per game this season. Last year -- with Trent Green, Cleo Lemon and John Beck at quarterback, without Chris Chambers most of the year and youngsters Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn Jr. getting playing time for the first time -- the Dolphins averaged 2.56 pass plays of 20 yards or more per game.

Not a math wiz, but that .27 play per game is not significant this early in the season.

The point is there really is no appreciable difference yet this year.

I must say Miami's coaches are truly doing it with smoke and mirrors. At the very least they are not getting down the field in the conventional sense. Miami's three longest gains in the passing game this season?

An 80-yard pass to Patrick Cobbs on a screen pass.

A 53-yard pass to Patrick Cobbs on a flea-flicker.

A 39-yard pass to Ronnie Brown.

Cobbs and Brown, by the way, are not wide receivers. They are running backs.

So the Dolphins may tout their ability to get down the field. But to believe they are having success actually passing deep downfield, you know, like to their wide receivers, is neither perception. Nor reality.