The Dolphins did that which you must appreciate after the last game of the preseason: They came out mostly uninjured, they progressed from that bad outing vs. Tampa Bay last week, and they won.
Bring on the regular-season!
"I thought we struggled last week as a team against Tampa and that's why we came out tonight with one goal in mind and that was to execute," receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said. "I thought we did OK. Now it's time to play real football -- to get into a real game week and show what we are made of. I know we had a good preseason, but in a week or so the games count for real and that's what's important."
The Dolphins got notable performances this night from cornerback Sean Smith and quarterback Chad Henne. The concerns come in the form of a knee injury to cornerback Vontae Davis and another special teams outing that can only be described as a debacle.
Smith had a sick one-handed interception (left courtesy Chris Graythen of Getty Images) that brought his total for the preseason to two. He had the only interceptions in the secondary this preseason. And, it should go without saying, he is in the starting lineup for the regular-season opener against Atlanta Sept. 13.
"I think this guy has tremendous ball skills," coach Tony Sparano said. "He was a receiver prior to playing in the secondary. I can remember when we started watching fiml during the draft process, out scouts showing me a play of Sean making a very similar interception like that. I believe it might have been against Wyoming or something like that. It was almost a similar play to that. You could see his ball skills show up then."
While the news is great on Smith, it is not so on Davis, who injured his left knee in the first half of the game. Davis was walking around with a protective sleeve over his leg after the game. But there was no brace and no apparent concern on his part about the injury.
"I think it's OK," Davis said after the game. He was told not to give full details of what the trainers told him and he complied.
Davis was limping but he has 10 days to treat and rehab the injury.
The Dolphins have 10 days to treat and rehab their special teams that continue to be an enormous concern. The concern this night came in the form of a 55 yard punt return touchdown by Rod Harper.
"We've got to take a look at this film," an obviously displeased Sparano said of the return. "I'm not sure what it was. We've got to look at the film. We've got to get better at it."
Moments after saying this, Sparano was seen pointedly questioning special teams coordinator John Bonamego about the play. It was, according to eye witnesses, not a cordial conversation. And it should not have been, frankly.
The Dolphins got themselves to the perfect preseason nonetheless because their backup quarterback Chad Henne played well while New Orleans backups Mark Brunell and Joey Harrington played poorly.
As I wrote in my column for The Miami Herald Henne recovered from last week's poor outing against Tampa Bay. He led Miami's only TD drive of the evening. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 89 yards. His QB rating was 82.6 which was better than last week's 16.1.
"I'm happy with the progress I've made but I know there's more out there," Henne said. "I'll watch the film and correct what I did wrong and go from there."
It also helped Henne that he didn't sit for three quarters and then get thrust into the game in the fourth quarter. But as a reserve quarterback, the truth is he needs to be ready to play and play at a high level at a moment's notice.
The Miami defense, both first and second teamers, chased Brunell and Harrington. Brunell threw the interception to Smith. Harrington was sacked eight times.
Charlie Anderson had two sacks, Tony McDaniel had two sacks, William Kershaw, Reggie Torbor, Rodrique Wright, and Lionel Dotson all had one sack each.
Miami coaches came into this game with perhaps a handful of open jobs/roster spots available. One of those was the starting receiver job opposite Ted Ginn Jr. Last week, rookie Brian Hartline seemed to take a huge step toward winning that job.
But a funny thing happened on Hartline's trip toward starting in Atlanta. Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess. Miami's coaches simply feel more comfortable with the two veterans. And although the top four WRs on the roster are Ginn, Bess, Camarillo and Hartline, it now seems the Dolphins are more comfortable with a veteran than the rookie as the starter.
"We're trying to regain chemistry because it's been a revolving door," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "We've worked a lot of guys in camp and now we're trying to hone in on the core guys who will be making plays for us on Sundays."
One WR who will not be active on Sundays? Patrick Turner, who was inconsistent much of the preseason and was practically invisible this night because he didn't earn much playing time with either Pennington or Henne in the game. Turner caught only one pass for six yards.
Finally, I'm curious to see exactly what, if any, use the Dolphins have for Pat White by the season-opener. They have had these great plans of using him in the spread offense -- a sort of second generation Wildcat package -- since they drafted him.
But as a QB, White has struggled. And those struggles continued Thursday night as he completed 2 of 6 passes for 13 yards. His passer rating was 42.4.
Yes, the coaching staff can pluck four to five plays they like for White. Yes, those plays might change the pace of things against teams. But if White is going to be effective in that role, he has to be a threat to complete passes as well as run the ball. A passer with a 42.4 rating is not much of a threat.