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65 posts from December 2008

December 22, 2008

Dolphins vs. Chiefs to re-air on NFL Network

If you thought the Dolphins game versus Kansas City was a good game for any reason other than it brought Miami a victory, you are not alone. The NFL Network apparently agrees Miami's 38-31 victory over the Chiefs is good enough for an encore.

So NFL Replay will air the game again Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Sure, the Network dissed the Dolphins when they upset of New England in September. That game was no re-aired and I ain't letting that go. But at least the folks at the Network are figuring out the Dolphins are a pretty compelling story now.

Welcome to the bandwagon.

NFL Network maintains the replays offer new and insightful angles from NFL Films, as well as sideline and on-field sound. The broadcast also includes bites from post-game press conferences.

[BLOG NOTE: This is the third posting of the day so please check the other tidbits throughout the blog.]

Roster of Jets stars vs. a tight Dolphins team

When the New York Jets get introduced before each game, it's as if the stars are coming out.

Alan Faneca? Pro Bowl.

Kris Jenkins? Pro Bowl.

Brett Favre? Desipte all logic ... Pro Bowl.

The Jets have an NFL-high seven Pro Bowl players this season. And that's not all. They have five other players who were designated Pro Bowl alternates.

That is the roster the Dolphins must defeat on Sunday to win the AFC East championship. And how do the Dolphins match up with that star-studded lineup?

Well, if you believe the names on the back of the jerseys are more important than the names on the front of the jerseys, the Dolphins can answer with only two Pro Bowl players of their own -- running back Ronnie Brown and linebacker Joey Porter. Miami also boasts two Pro Bowl alternates in Chad Pennington and Jake Long.

But that's not how the Dolphins really look at it this matchup. They see themselves matching against a roster of stars by coming with a constellation of no-names and hard workers that make up a hard-fighting, hard-working team.

So the Dolphins, in short, are hoping a good team trumps a roster of stars.

"They know if we work hard and we practice well and prepare well, we usually have a chance to play pretty well," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Monday. "So this team of no stars just goes out in a workmanlike fashion and prepares very well."

Now as the Biblical David versus Goliath story goes, this match isn't so one-sided on the surface. The Dolphins don't exactly look like a boy facing a nine-foot giant in the Jets. But seriously, on the surface, there should be no reason the more talented Jets should be looking up in the standings at the presumably less-talented Dolphins.

Below the surface there are reasons:

The Dolphins are coached better.

The Dolphins work harder.

The Dolphins come together better. Their fabric is knit closer, tighter. And so the Dolphins comprise a better team.

And isn't that, at the core, what football is? Isn't it a team sport?

[BLOG NOTE: I want to thank you for making Sunday the single-biggest day in the history of Dolphins In Depth. This blog had 26,300 views on Sunday, meaning 48 percent of all the traffic that clicked on Miami Herald blogs Sunday came here. Needless to say, the blog was the most popular at the paper, outpacing the next closest, which had 10,094 views. My most sincere thanks. And realizing this is a HUGE week for Miami fans as well as the team, I will do multiple updates every day throughout this week. So keep coming back.]

NFL moves Dolphins game to late afternoon

The NFL has just announced it is moving Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets from a 1 p.m. kickoff to a 4:15 p.m. kickoff.

The league is also moving the Baltimore Ravens game against the Jacksonville Jaguars to 4:15 p.m. from an earlier starting time.

The Dolphins game will be broadcast on CBS.

December 21, 2008

Season's Beatings: Dolphins playoff scenarios

The Miami Dolphins are leading the AFC East going into the final week of the 2008 NFL season.

But that doesn't mean that's where they'll be when the final week is over because the playoff picture for the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets will be decided based on the results of that fateful, final week.

So here is the deal:

The Dolphins MUST win to capture the AFC East title outright. They must at least tie and get help elsewhere to win the division or make the playoffs as a No. 6 seed. And if they lose at New York, the Dolphins are out of the playoffs.

If the Dolphins beat New York next week, they win the AFC East no matter what New England does. That would make the Dolphins the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and they would host either Baltimore or New England the following week. The opponent will be Baltimore if the Ravens beat Jacksonville. The opponent would be New England if the Patriots beat Buffalo AND Baltimore loses to Jacksonville.

The Dolphins winning is the dream scenario. The next best thing? The Dolphins can tie the Jets and still win the division assuming New England loses or ties against Buffalo. The Dolphins would have a better record than New York and hold the tiebreaker over New England.

If the Dolphins tie and New England wins, the Patriots would win the division.

The Dolphins can qualify as the No. 6 seed, but that assumes they tie the Jets, the Patriots win, thus winning the AFC East, and Baltimore loses to Jacksonville. In that scenario the Dolphins would visit New England the following week in the first round of the playoffs.

The nightmare comes if Miami loses to the Jets. If the Dolphins lose to the Jets, they are out of the playoffs. Period.

Meanwhile, NBC has just announced its flex Sunday night game will be Denver vs. San Diego for the AFC West title. The Dolphins and Jets will play Sunday afternoon.

Tundra Schmundra: Dolphins beat KC, 38-31

dIt was close and it was cold. But ultimately the Dolphins pulled out a 38-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs today to stay on course for the playoffs.

If the Dolphins defeat the New York Jets next Sunday they will win the AFC East division one season after finishing last in the division in 2007.

This game was not easy. The defense that hadn't yielded a TD in three previous games was on its heels most of this day. At one point, the Chiefs scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions.

But, as Bill Parcells says, "You are what your record says you are." And the Dolphins are a team that has won eight of nine games while the Chiefs have lost 22 of 24 games.

Miami is now 10-5 while KC is 2-13.

"The thing about the Dolphins is they've been doing it all year at the end of games, Chad Pennington's been able to come through," Dan Marino said on CBS after the game.

Did I mention the Dolphins have a large game against the Jets next week in the Meadowlands? That game should be flexed to a Sunday night game by Monday afternoon, assuming the Jets can win this afternoon.

"Is it a big game? Absolutely," said Miami quarterback Chad Pennington, who will be playing the team that discarded him in the preseason. "We're playing for the playoffs and we're glad to be a part of it."

To get there the Dolphins had to win the coldest game in the franchise's 43-year history.

Pennington completed 26 of 34 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against KC. Tight end Anthony Fasano caught three passes but two of those went for touchdowns. David Martin also had a touchdown for the second consecutive game.

"The one thing I'm going to say to you is we had a tremendous week of practice on offense this week and Wednesday was an outstanding day," coach Tony Sparano said. "And under these conditions they executed very well."

Great stuff, people.

So Jets week has officially started. Get to talking smack!!!!!

KC and Miami at 31 tied to start fourth quarter

This is it. The game is tied 31-31.

It is time to close out the Chiefs because the playoffs are riding on this. Can the Dolphins do it?

Let's find out together in the comments section below.

Chiefs leading Dolphins 28-24 to start 3rd Q

Well, the good news is the Dolphins defense is alive and well. The team that averaged slightly less than 16 points per game the last three games has 24 points at the half.

Problem is the defense didn't show for the first half. The Chiefs have scored 28 points on the Miami defense -- yeah, the defense that did not allow a TD in 12 consecutive quarters. The Chiefs threw an interception on their offensive first possession.

And then they scored four touchdowns their next four possessions. Terrible effort. Terrible tackling. Terrible coverage.

Chad Pennington is 15 of 22 for 135 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Joe Montana, I mean Tyler Thigpen is 12 of 23 for 223 yards, two passing touchdowns and one running touchdown.

OK, join me for the second half continuation of the live blog in the comments section.

Live blog of Dolphins at KC Chiefs today

Why are you folks sweating today's game against Kansas City? Don't you know it's 8 degrees out there?

Seriously, don't you know the Chiefs have lost 21 of their last 23 games, meaning they find a way to screw things up no matter how hard they try and how hard they work?

Don't you know the Chiefs are about to bring a close on coach Herman Edwards' days in KC? This ESPN report details how KC ownership is in the early stages of a general manager search and already a guy Edwards would love to have hired is out of the running. That means Edwards' chances of keeping his job, with one year remaining on his contract, are not excellent.

And that means the Dolphins, who have already played four teams -- Oakland, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle -- whose teams have changed coaches or are about to change coaches, can add a fifth team to that list today.

[Major side note prediction: The Jets are at Seattle today in what is Mike Holmgren's final home game. He will be coaching against his old QB Brett Favre. I am predicting the Jets, who spent four hours on the runway Friday waiting for a storm to pass before heading on their five-hour flight to the Northwest, are going to LOSE to the 'Hawks today.]

Anyway, today's game is at 1 p.m. eastern. I will inform you quick as I can whether Channing Crowder is playing (it doesn't look good) or not. [Update: Crowder is inactive so he's out.]

The LIVE BLOG begins at kickoff in the comments section. Isn't this what you've waited all week for?

December 20, 2008

Dolphins make roster move in prep for Chiefs

he Dolphins this evening waived fullback Casey Cramer and signed linebacker William Kershaw off the practice squad.

The 6-3 and 240 pound Kershaw was in training camp with the New Orleans Saints before being released prior to the regular season. He was signed to the Dolphins practice squad Oct. 14.

The move could be a suggestion the Dolphins are seriously concerned about the availability of linebacker Channing Crowder for Sunday's KC game. Crowder hardly practiced this week -- missing two days and being limited the third day or workouts.

The Kershaw addition could be insurance as Reggie Torbor would take over for Crowder and Kershaw would be used on special teams, typically Torbor's game day duties.

Cramer, promising when he signed earlier this season, was sidelined by an ankle injury almost immediately. By the time Cramer got heatlhy, the team replaced him in the lineup with Lousaka Polite, who has become invaluable as a short-yardage back.

The Dolphins landed in Kansas City around 5:30 EST Saturday.

A reminder there will be a live blog of Sunday's game right here. Be here by kickoff.

December 19, 2008

Long, Pennington thisclose to Pro Bowl

It occurred to me that while the Dolphins had two players selected to the Pro Bowl earlier this week, there was no news about their list of alternates.

I asked the NFL office for the list and they said it was up to the individual teams to release that information. I asked the Dolphins and they told me they were not going to release the names. So I decided to actually do some work.

And I have learned left tackle Jake Long was selected as a first alternate. And quarterback Chad Pennington was selected as a second alternate at quarterback.

"It is an honor," Long said today, "but I'm not thinking about that now."

Alternates go the Pro Bowl if the players picked as starters or reserves cannot play for medical reasons. So if starting tackles Jason Peters and Joe Thomas or reserve Michael Roos cannot play in Hawaii on Feb. 8, Long is on his way.

Peters, by the way, is not exactly cruising to the regular-season's finish line. He missed practice time this week while nursing a knee injury.

Pennington would need two quarterbacks to back out of the game before he gets a berth. The quarterbacks picked ahead of him are starter Peyton Manning, reserves Jay Cutler and Brett Farve and first alternate Phillip Rivers.

Channing Crowder not practicing Fri. morning

The Dolphins are practicing inside the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB) this morning and there are a couple of things of interest:

Inside linebacker Channing Crowder is not practicing -- at least he was not during the portion open to the media. It is Crowder's second missed day of practice. On Thursday Crowder practice but he was limited. Reggie Torbor is working in Crowder's spot and would play if Crowder cannot.

The injury report is due out later today. I would expect Crowder to be listed as questionable. [Update: Crowder is listed as questionable.]

Secondly, it was a twilight zone moment when I walked into the NSMB because blaring from the speakers was Bing Crosby's rendition of White Christmas. Later the sounds got a little more current with Eminem and even some dance tunes echoing throughout.

The Dolphins do that on every Friday following a victory to get the players fired up about practice.

The real purpose of the speaker system, however, is revealed after the media leaves the NSMB. At that point the Dolphins pump in crowd noise so loud, so annoying that it can be heard outside the facility.

One more quick note: Cornerback Michael Lehan, cut off the Dolphins injured reserve list a couple of weeks ago, has signed with the New Orleans Saints.

Dolphins OLine still searching for right mix

It boggles my mind that after 14 games the Miami Dolphins are 9-5 this season. It totally blows my mind they are 9-5 with an unsettled offensive line.

And yet that is exactly where the Dolphins are today as they head into the final two games of the season with a playoff berth hanging in the balance.

The Dolphins have been trying to upgrade the right guard position since, oh, Week 3 when it became clear Ikechuku Ndukwe is a hard-working second-year player doing his best to fill in ... but that's it. He is about effort and desire but for a position that requires strength and explosion and pop, he's not there yet.

The Dolphins tried three or four players in games in place of Ndukwe during the season and haven't really found the perfect answer yet. But maybe, just maybe, they found a viable upgrade the last couple of weeks.

Last week the Dolphins unveiled the idea of moving starting center Samson Satele to right guard and plugging in veteran Al Johnson at center. The idea was hatched the second Johnson signed and it has come to a Miami offensive line near you.

This move is meant to address two issues: Improve the right guard play. And improve the center play.

That's right, I said improve the center play. Satele has started all 30 NFL games he's played but the Dolphins have seen some spotty work by him, particularly the second half of this season. He was dominated by Vince Wilfork a few weeks ago, and he hasn't been exactly outstanding in pass protection the past couple of weeks.

Last week was particularly curious for Satele. In one terrible series in the first quarter against San Francisco, he was called for a false start (from the center position no less) and then he followed that up the next play by giving up a sack when he whiffed in trying to get his hands on a defender.

The very next series Satele was shifted over to right guard and Johnson was inserted at center. Johnson played two series which translated to eight plays. He didn't make any mistakes that could be easily detectable to the lay person, such as myself.

So Johnson may be playing himself into more playing time very soon.

“Yeah, I can see that," coach Tony Sparano said Thursday when he was asked if Johnson might be getting more playing time very soon. "I can see Al getting more work during the course of the games.”

That quote sounds remotely similar to the one Sparano gave when he inserted Renaldo Hill as a starter into the secondary. It also sounds similar to the one he gave when the team at first began playing Jason Allen as the nickel cornerback -- a move that Randy Moss single-handedly forced the Dolphins to scrap.

Anyway, you have to remember this is a two-pronged hope for improving the line. The Dolphins hope they can improve the center spot with Johnson, yes, but there is still that troublesome right guard spot to be addressed. And apparently Satele isn't bad there.

“Not bad. Good," Sparano said. "Samson played pretty good. Again, it was eight plays worth of work out there and in some of those, he wasn’t really challenged a whole lot. He didn’t have a guy on him is what I’m saying."

Sparano went on to make the point Satele played guard at Hawaii and that, as the Dallas offensive line coach, Sparano studied the player before the draft.

"We really looked at him as a swing player at the time when we were in Dallas -- a center-guard," the coach said. "We knew that was something that he has done and I think, athletically, when you take the ball out from between his legs and you put him over there at guard, it gives him a chance to get his hands on people a little bit faster. So I thought he did a pretty good job.”

Well, don't be surprised if the Dolphins take the ball out from between Satele's legs more the final two weeks. Don't be surprised if eventually Johnson takes over at center and Satele and Ndukwe battle it out at right guard.

Doesn't that blow your mind?

December 18, 2008

December to remember for Chad Pennington?

In case you are in the minority and do not subscribe to The Miami Herald, you may have missed the blowout sports front page story on Chad Pennington and his battle against the elements in December's wintry weather venues. So please click here and catch up.

The point of the article is that Pennington was found lacking by the New York Jets after three consecutive years in which he either struggled in December or simply didn't make it to December because of injuries.

In December 2007 Pennington completed 51 of 72 passes (72.9 completion percentage) for 448 yards (224 yards per game). He threw one TD and two INTs. His QB rating was 82.3.

In December 2006 Pennington completed 112 of 168 passes (66.7 completion percentage) for 1,178 yards (236 yards per game). He threw six TDs and five INTs. His QB rating was 86.4.

Pennington played no December games in 2005 because he was injured.

Based on his ability or inability to finish the season and do so with a flurry, the Jets decided to go a different direction this year. And Pennington, now with your Miami Dolphins, has responded with a very good December so far.

In December of 2008 Pennington has completed 35 of 48 passes (72.9 percentage) for 337 yards (168.5 yards per game). He has thrown three TDs and zero INTs. His QB rating is 112.9.

Great stuff in 2008 if Pennington can keep it up. But can he keep it up?

The fact is Pennington's two December games this year have come under hospitable conditions. Miami played its first December game indoors in Toronto and played last week at Dolphin Stadium under partly sunny cloudy skies.

The next two games? The final two games? The games that will decide Miami's playoff fate?

At Kansas City and at Giants Stadium. Brrrrrr.

But forget the cold, it is the rain, snow, and particularly the wind, that plays havoc with passes in these venues during the winter. If you clicked on my story, you read the Sunday forcast for KC includes 22 MPH winds. That was yesterday's forcast.

It's worse today. Click on this weather report for the sobering update.

So the questions that face Chad Pennington now is can he play up to the standards the next two weeks that he set the past two weeks to put a signature finish on a fine season? Or does he revert to what the Jets saw the past couple of seasons, which is a quarterback who threw as many interceptions as touchdowns in December?

Which do you think it will be?

[Side item 1: Channing Crowder, who missed practice Wednesday with knee stiffness, is back at practice today. He was limited.]

[Side item 2: Hey I got through this entire blog without mentioning arm-strength. Cool.]

December 17, 2008

On Pennington's decision and Crowder's knee

Linebacker Channing Crowder missed Wednesday's practice because his knee is acting up again.

"It's really a weird thing and it's happened to him two or three times right now," coach Tony Sparano said. "He wakes up and his knee is really stiff so we're going to take a look at it and he thought he needed a day's rest."

Crowder hopes he wakes up better tomorrow but there is no denying that this is not good news for a guy hoping to score a mega-buck deal in the coming free agency market.

Crowder's agent and the Dolphins until now have not been able to agree on Crowder's worth during recent extension negotiations. It is not beyond the realm of possibility one factor in that difference of opinion is Miami's level of confidence about the knee -- initially a question about Crowder coming out of college -- and whether Crowder can remain healthy throughout the life of a multi-year deal.

For the Dolphins, which place a premium on staying healthy, this is an issue to monitor.


Chad Pennington will start for the Miami Dolphins against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Do you guys understand the Chiefs made a run at Pennington when he was jettisoned by the Jets?

So Pennington would be starting for the Chiefs against the Dolphins if they had their way.

"I remember when the thing went down with him in New York, we talked on the phone. And Miami was involved in it and that was a good stop for him," Kansas City coach Herman Edwards said of the talks to bring Pennington to KC. "I'm glad to see him have a lot of success because he deserves it."

So what sealed it for Miami? The Dolphins were offering a chance to compete for the starting job.

The Chiefs were offering a chance to mentor young quarterbacks such as Brodie Croyle who were supposed to be the future but have instead flopped.

"We talked but I knew at the end of the day we were going through a rebuilding thing with two young quarterbacks and he had the ability to go to Miami and start," Edwards said. "And that was the whole key and was the best for him. So it worked out great for him."

No doubt.

It should be noted that Pennington also talked to the Minnesota Vikings and that team was interested.


At 4 p.m. on Tuesday when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced, Sparano called Pennington to console him somewhat and express his [the coach's] feeling that Pennington should have made the team.

Pennington answered the phone and invited Sparano to speak to him personally. He was in the film room preparing for KC. It was a day off for players but Pennington was in the film room at 4 p.m.

That's work ethic, folks.

Good things continue happening for Dolphins

I do not believe in luck. I believe in hard work. I believe in good timing. And I believe in Providential blessings. But what about being dealt some good cards and turning them, with hard work and preparation, into a winning hand?

That, in part, is the story of the Miami Dolphins season so far.

I will never say the Dolphins have been lucky this season. I didn't believe they were unlucky in 2007. But you cannot deny things have happened on their behalf this season as surely as they happened against them last year.

How else to explain the following:

The Dolphins play in the same division with perhaps the greatest player of this generation -- Tom Brady. But in the season the Dolphins are authoring the improbable, Brady goes down to injury and the team that everyone picked to steam roll the AFC East is now merely mortal rather than unbeatable.

The Dolphins have played three teams this season -- Oakland, San Fransisco and St. Louis -- after those teams were so disappointing, so bad, they fired their coaches.

[Update: The Dolphins were wandering the desert this preseason, thirsting for a quarterback. And finding none in a competition of Josh McCown, John Beck and Chad Henne, they looked around and, poof, picked up Chad Pennington. So a decision by Brett Favre made in Mississippi, another decision made by the Green Bay brain trust made in Wisconsin, and yet another inexplicable decision made the the New York Jets from wherever the heck they are hide out, lands Pennington in Miami to solve a huge problem. When does stuff like this happen otherwise?]

And there is more.

The Dolphins were scheduled to play a December away game against the Buffalo Bills, but happenstance decided that game would be played in Toronto's Rogers Centre, where there was no appreciable home field or weather advantage for the Bills, instead of at inhospitable Orchard Park.

The Dolphins happened to miss starts by Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck. And San Fran's Frank Gore. And Buffalo's Trent Edwards. And Denver's Champ Bailey. And, of course, Brady.

Oh, did I mention the Dolphins have had the easiest record in the AFC East for the final five weeks of the season and still have the easiest record remaining compared to New York and New England?

And, of course, the hits keep on coming.

This week the Dolphins play at Kansas City on the very week team president, general manager and 20-year-fixture Carl Peterson announces his resignation. That announcement has thrown the organization into disarray and there are rumors coach Herm Edwards is on the chopping block.

So what's next?

Maybe Brett Favre retires before the season-finale and that game gets moved to Toronto also. Or maybe December 28 dawns warm and sunny across New Jersey. Don't bet against it.

December 16, 2008

Brown, Porter Dolphins in the Pro Bowl

The NFL just announced the AFC and NFC rosters for the 2009 Pro Bowl and the Dolphins have two players in the game.

Running back Ronnie Brown will be among the three AFC running backs in the game, joining Chris Johnson of Tennessee and Thomas Jones of the New York Jets.

Linebacker Joey Porter, who leads the conference with 17.5 sacks, is Miami's other Pro Bowl player in 2008-09. Porter joins Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Baltimore's Terrell Suggs as the AFC's outside linebackers.

“I am proud of both Joey and Ronnie for making the Pro Bowl team,” said Dolphins coach Tony Sparano in a statement. “It is a reflection of the hard work they have put in, and also is indicative of our team’s overall effort this year. I am disappointed some of our other players didn’t make it, who I feel are worthy of that recognition, especially since we’ve had such a successful season so far on both sides of the ball.”

Brown is making the Pro Bowl for the first time. He gets in ahead of Houston rookie Steve Slaton, who had 1,224 yards and a 4.9 yard per carry average compared to Brown's 827 yards and 4.2 yard average.

“I am honored to have made the team but it’s because of the guys around me,” Brown said.  “This is not about me, but about our entire offensive unit and I wish they all could have gotten the same recognition.”

Porter, making the team for the fourth time in his career but first time as a Dolphin, last was in the game in 2005.

“Any personal success I have achieved is because the defense has played so well,” Porter said.  “I have had the opportunity to make plays because of how well our secondary has performed, along with the defense as a whole.”

There was much talk about rookie offensive tackle Jake Long making the team. He finished first in the fan voting but that was not enough. Buffalo's Jason Peters, Cleveland's Joe Thomas and Tennessee's Michael Roos are the tackles this year.

Quarterback Chad Pennington, who has the second-highest rating in the AFC, did not make the cut. The three quarterbacks selected are Denver's Jay Cutler, who leads the conference with 3,851 passing yards, Indy's Peyton Manning, who was selected the starter and is scheduled to start his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, and Brett Favre of the New York Jets. This is Favre's 10th Pro Bowl but first for the AFC.

Honestly, this quarterback trio is curious. Who really believes Favre is worthy? And even if you think Pennington should not have been voted in -- I don't -- you have to wonder how Favre could be there ahead Phillip Rivers, who has pretty much better numbers across the board than Favre.

My three QBs would have been Manning, Rivers, and Cutler, with Pennington fourth and Favre a distant fifth.

In other words, I think Pennington is more deserving than Favre. But I also think Rivers is more deserving than Pennington.

It is kind of shocking that the New York Jets have a total of seven players on the Pro Bowl squad -- more than any other team. More than Tennessee which has six. Baltimore is next with five.

The seven Jets on the roster are guard Alan Faneca, Favre, cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold, Jones, nose tackle Kris Jenkins, and kick returner Leon Washington.

The New England Patriots, tied with Miami and New York for the AFC East lead, tied the Dolphins with two Pro Bowl players. They are receiver Wes Welker and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.   

Although Miami kicker Dan Carpenter easily won the fan voting portion of the Pro Bowl balloting, it was New England's Gostkowski who gets and deserves the nod. This guy is more accurate than Carpenter this season.

Porter only certain Dolphins Pro Bowl player

The 2009 Pro Bowl rosters for the AFC and NFC teams will be announced Tuesday afternoon but despite a titillating 9-5 record and all you've heard about how enthusiastically fans voted for the Dolphins, only one Miami player seems certain of getting picked to play in the game.

Joey Porter.

Porter, an outside linebacker, leads the AFC with 17.5 half so he has the statistics to deserve attention with players and coaches aside from the attention he already got in fan voting.

Fan voting makes up one-third of the weighted system that picks the Pro Bowl rosters. Players vote to make up one-third and coaches vote to make up one-third.

Miami rookie offensive tackle Jake Long was the top vote-getter from fans, which suggests he will be in the game. But the truth is Denver rookie Ryan Clady has been better this year, while Tennessee's Michael Roos and Cleveland's Joe Thomas will also garner a large number of votes from coaches and players.

So Long might make the team. But he's not quite a lock.

Running back Ronnie Brown finished second in the fan balloting. I don't see how that will translate to a him actually being on the team based on his statistics.

Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Thomas Jones of the New York Jets each have better statistics than Brown. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson will garner votes based on the respect he has around the league. And Houston rookie Steve Slaton also has produced more than Brown, although the wild card with him is the coaches and players may not know his body of work based on the fact he is a rookie and plays in Houston -- perhaps the reasons fans didn't vote for him, either.

Dolphins rookie kicker Dan Carpenter easily won the kicker category among the fan voters. But the truth Carpenter probably doesn't deserve to be the AFC's kicker this year. That honor seems more like to go to Stephen Gostkowski of New England.

While Carpenter has connected on 19 of 23 field goals for an 83 successful conversion percentage, Gostkowski has booted them true on 30 of 33 attempts for a 90 successful conversion percentage. Tennessee's Rob Bironas also has a 90 percent rate after hitting 28 of 31 this season.

So unless the Montana contingent that stuffed the fan ballot box suddenly got jobs playing and coaching in the NFL, Carpenter might have to bide his time before he's the Pro Bowl pick.

December 15, 2008

Bad when Dolphins run-first offense is shelved

Sometimes the chicken is there first and it lays the egg. Sometimes the egg is there first and it produces a chicken.

Sometimes I have no idea how to start this friggin' blog and just go with a trite, boring, worn cliche.

Anyway, the chicken and egg idea sort of applied to the Dolphins running game Sunday. The Miami offense ran a total of 42 offensive plays. Some of you have suggested if the Dolphins had run the ball more than their 22 attempts, they would have extended drives and given themselves the chance to be on the field more.

That group is complaining the Dolphins didn't run enough against the 49'ers.

Tony Sparano isn't sure that the reasoning works. He says the reason the Dolphins didn't run enough is because, well, they only had 42 offensive plays.

And since I'm confused about the whole matter, I asked him to explain what up?

That is the point where Sparano said Monday Miami's game plan against San Francisco was not to run so much but, in fact, to pass.

“I think one of the things is we went into this game feeling like, versus this team, we had to be fairly aggressive early in the game," Sparano said. "And we were. We came out and we made a good play down the field to David Martin and we took a shot at one point to Teddy (Ginn) down the sideline and we did some things that way."

But on a day the Dolphins wanted to throw downfield, the San Francisco defense seemed wary of having Miami throw downfield. And so it kind of ruined Miami's big surprise.

"These guys kind of played us a little bit backwards defensively,' Sparano admitted. "Good job by them in that they played a lot more shell coverage. They weren’t going to let the ball down the field which would be a compliment to Chad (Pennington), but they weren’t going to let the ball down the field. It was going to be more about throwing the ball down to the backs and those type of things and being patient."

And that's when the Miami offense bogged down. It converted only one of seven third down opportunities. It needed the defense to bail them out.

"What started to happen in my mind was you became a little bit less efficient on first down which is what has really been helping us," Sparano said. "If we’re efficient on first down, then the third downs are more manageable. We had a couple of those third down situations yesterday were third-and-10, third-and-12 and we weren’t efficient in those deals. That’s not going to help you stay on the field."

That, of course, takes me back to the original question. If the passing deal wasn't keeping the Dolphins on the field, why not run more? Sparano said that simply was not the plan.

"As far as running the football went, the plan was to pretty much spread these guys out a little bit," the coach said. "Be a little bit more aggressive. Give the quarterback some option plays where we could run or throw and in some of those situations, it just ended up being throws.”

Here's a reminder: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were the best playmakers on the offense at the beginning of the season. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are the best playmakers on the offense now that No. 1 receiver Greg Camarillo is out for the year, now that Ted Ginn Jr. is being inconsistent, now that Ernest Wilford is known to be a non-factor.

So here's a suggestion: Get Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams the ball first, Miami Dolphins! Run first!

Random thoughts from the Dolphins victory

The Dolphins beat the 49'ers Sunday in what was the final regular-season game at Dolphin Stadium. I wish you could have been there because it was truly electric despite the fact San Francisco is in now way a rivalry game.

In my opinion this game had the feel of playoff football and that's what I wrote for Monday's edition of The Miami Herald. Anybody disagree with that?

It began with Joey Porter and San Fran tight end Vernon Davis jawing at each other before the game. Davis didn't stop talking even after his team lost 14-9. Davis complained that he wasn't used to block Porter on Miami's final defensive play -- the one on which Porter beat backup tackle Barry Sims for the clinching sack.

"I know that if I was out there," Davis said, "he wouldn't have got that sack."

Porter has 17.5 sacks this year after adding one today. He still trails DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys for the NFL lead. Ware, who had three sacks against the New York Giants Sunday evening, has 19 for the season. Ware is one bad dude.

The Miami fans also were bad (as in very good) Sunday. It was Orange Bowl-loud at Dolphin Stadium and it had serious repercussions for the San Francisco offense. In the final series of the game, with victory and defeat hanging in the balance, the fans were loud enough that SF quarterback Shaun Hill couldn't hear the complete play-call in his coach-to-quarterback helmet.

Hill thus called the final two plays with the crowd in his ear, so to speak. He called the right plays. But he called them to the wrong side of the field, the side opposite the side offensive coordinator Mike Martz intended the plays to go.

Chalk one up for Miami fans on that one. Last time I remember local fans actually having a role in the game was in the 1980s when Ron Jaworski couldn't get a play off twice in the closed end of the Orange Bowl and ended up throwing an interception as a result. Anyone remember that? Anyone there that night?

Other quickie observations:

The Dolphins offense had three false start penalties -- one on Andy Alleman, one on Ernest Wilford, one on Samson Satele. Hard to understand how a center or receiver get away with a false start. Come to think of it, they didn't.

After Wilford got called for his penalty with 12:56 left in the second quarter I didn't see him in the game again. He didn't have a catch all day.

After Satele got called for his penalty with 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter, it wasn't long before the Dolphins experimented with Al Johnson at center. Satele did eventually come back to the center spot, however.

Ted Ginn Jr. had two receptions for six yards. Not his best game.

The Dolphins converted only 1 of 7 third down plays -- that's a 14 percent conversion rate. Tells you the Dolphins have issues at the WR position. Miami missed Greg Camarillo on Sunday.

David Martin's catch of the 61-yard TD was great in that he came back to the pass, timed his leap perfectly, out-fought the defender for the catch, held onto the pass, and kept his feet so he could score. Excellent athletic work.

Congratulations to tight end Joey Haynos on his first NFL touchdown.

Congratulations to Nathan Jones who had zero sacks this season but had two on Sunday while blitzing from the slot corner spot.

And congratulations to the entire Dolphins organization for making the 180-degree turn from winning their first game of the season one year ago in Week 15 to winning their ninth game of this season in Week 15.

December 14, 2008

Dolphins beat SF 14-9 in another heart-stopper

The final minute was not good for the palpitations but the Dolphins did it again today at Dolphins Stadium. They beat the San Francisco 49ers 14-9.

The Dolphins continue to keep pace in this wild and wacky playoff race. Wow.

Chad Pennington completed 12 of 19 passes for 156 yards with two touchdowns to lead the offense. But it was the defense that led this charge.

Miami's D has not allowed a TD in 12 quarters. That's three consecutive games without giving up a TD.

And, fittingly, the game ended with a defensive exclamation point as Joey Porter sacked SF quarterback Shaun Hill to seal the victory.

Good stuff, folks! Exciting stuff!

Your thoughts ....