There are complaints aplenty about the Miami Dolphins today.
Some of them come from fans, as blogs, message boards and radio call-in shows will be loaded today with complaints about play-calling and coaching.
Some of the complaints come from Miami's locker room and coaching staff. That's the one I decided to focus on for my column in the Miami Herald Monday. Players and coaches alike looked at their fourth-quarter collapse against the Bills, a collapse which turned a 14-7 lead into a 31-14 loss, and everyone agreed the Dolphins have a problem finishing.
The Dolphins are perhaps the NFL's worst team at finishing games. They've blown games against Indianapolis, New Orleans, and the Bills in the final stanza this year. They also got outplayed by San Diego in the fourth quarter of that game.
Read the column and answer the following question: How does a team that cannot finish games, expect to successfully finish the season?
As to matters not in the column:
The coaching by the Dolphins staff was horrible on Sunday. I have great respect for the Miami coaching staff because I believe they often get the most production out of some limited talent. But this blowout upset loss was different.
This was embarrassing.
The facts are the Dolphins were facing an inferior team on Sunday. The Buffalo starting cornerbacks of Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee did not play on Sunday. The Buffalo offensive line was missing two starters and had another dude playing out of position. The Buffalo head coach is a rookie. And Ryan Fitzpatrick from Harvard? Really?
The Bills had nothing to play for but pride while the Dolphins' season was on the line.
Then one has to understand the Dolphins had 10 days to prepare for this game.
And the Bills still won?
"We've got 10 days to prepare and I didn't do a good enough job obviously preparing them," coach Tony Sparano said. "I've got to do a better job."
Sparano, the former play-caller for Bill Parcells in Dallas, has to do a better job of riding herd over offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Henning, who has forgotten more football than most people will ever know, is normally a fine offensive coordinator.
Sunday was not one of those occassions.
Consider that on Miami's first possession the Dolphins moved from their own 45 yard line to the Buffalo 3. Chad Henne completed a 15-yard pass. Ricky Williams ran for 11, then 7, then six, then 5 yards. The Bills were on their heels.
And then on first-and-goal, Henning got cute by calling a halfback pass for a player that hasn't thrown a pass since 2000.
"Yeah, you know, I got the ball and Joey Haynos was supposed to block the outside linebacker and then go, and I saw him, and I just didn't put enough arch on the ball and it was picked off by the backside linebacker," Williams said.
But why call the play at that point? I can understand if the Dolphins weren't running well? But they were rolling. Not smart. They used their best runner to throw, thereby not using their best runner's or best passer's greatest assets. Not smart.
Sparano relegated the criticism of the play-call to "Monday Morning quarterbacking" and said the problem with the play was in its execution. It sounded like a coach who would prefer to blame a player than another coach for a play's failure.
There were other head-scratching offensive calls also.
In the second quarter the Dolphins took a 7-0 lead and then stopped the Bills on a three-and-out. Then the Dolphins complete a pass for 11 yards, Williams runs for 6 yards, Williams runs for 5 yards. And then Henning gets cute again.
He calls an end-around to Ginn on first down. It loses 4 yards. And you know what? The Dolphins make 11 yards on the next two plays but have to punt because they needed 14 yards for a first thanks to that reverse, So that reverse to Ginn costs the Dolphins a chance to keep driving.
The Bills then get the ball and tie the game at 7-7 on their next possession.
Finally, can I ask about continuing to force the issue with Pat White? He is neither one of the team's better runners nor it's best passer. And yet he continues to get plays at strange moments when Miami runs its spread option.
White ran once for 2 yards on Sunday. When did that first taste of action come?
In the fourth quarter. Right after Buffalo took a 17-14 lead. What changed at that point that didn't happen in the three previous quarters when Miami was winning? What was the freakin' point?
The defensive coaching staff doesn't get a pass here, either.
We all recognize the Dolphins are starting two rookie cornerbacks. We recognize they are talented. And we recognize they are capable. But why put them in one-on-one coverage a large majority of the game, every game?
Hello? Other teams watch tape, also ...
It is begging for a game-changing TD. And the Dolphins got exactly what they were begging for when Terrell Owens caught a 51-yard TD pass over Vontae Davis in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick said he recognized the coverage pre-snap and called an audible.
Dagger to the heart.
One more thing: We keep hearing how Cameron Wake cannot get into games more because he is a work-in-progress as a run-defender.
Well, how long does it take to coach up a player to defend the edge of the defense? We're 11 games into the season and Wake's still not ready to tackle somebody running wide?
And if Wake isn't, what makes coaches think Joey Porter is ready? Porter blew edge run assignments time after time on Sunday. Yes, he had a couple of sacks against reserve tackles. But that was Porter blowing the run defense against Fitzpatrick as the Ivy League QB set off on a 31-yard TD run.
So the young player can't be taught to defend the run 11 games into a season and the veteran can't be reminded to keep his assignment discipline? Yes, the players have a responsibility to get this done. But the coaches have an equal responsibility to make sure those players do their job or take a seat on the bench.
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