Last season the Dolphins had a style of play which they rode to the playoffs.
The roster was not busting at the seams with talent, but the Dolphins found a way to keep the ball longer than the other team, found a way to close out games, and rarely, if ever, beat themselves -- at least not until the playoffs came around.
Today we focus on the third of those three points. Today we focus on turnover ratio.
Last season the Dolphins set an NFL record, along with the New York Giants, by having only 13 turnovers. As a result, Miami led the NFL with a plus-17 take-away, give-away margin.
Said poetically, the Dolphins didn't beat themselves.
This year, the Dolphins aren't doing such a good job of helping the opposition.
"It’s ridiculous, it’s very critical," a concerned Tony Sparano said. "Looking at it right now, we’re about 10 more interceptions and 10 more fumbles more right now than we were last year at this time. That’s not good football, that isn’t winning football. That’s not what we talk about, that’s not what we try to practice, just not good. Can’t win like that. Can’t win consistently."
The Dolphins this year have dropped to 25th in the NFL in turnover margin. They are at minus-7 with 25 total give-aways. Those gifts come on 15 interceptions and 10 fumbles.
"There’s a lot of energy put into overcoming those things," Sparano said. "We overcame it last week and won the game, fought our tails off this week and didn’t win the game, but got back into the game only to lose. There’s a lot of energy spent overcoming turnovers, overcoming untimely penalties, those type of things. This team’s been pretty good with penalties all year long. We had a few [against Tennessee].
"The turnover thing, it’s hard to overcome. It’s not only us, it’s everybody in the league. You get down like that turnover-wise, hard thing to do. We put ourself in that position [Sunday], and we knew it going into the game. We just knew that that was something – it was one of the keys to the game for us. Every week, we start the week off, ‘This is a key to the game.’ That’s not good."
The fact Chad Henne took over at quarterback for the more experienced but injured Chad Pennington had something to do with the higher turnover margin. Pennington threw seven interceptions all of last year. But the way I see it, the Dolphins have no choice but to grin and bear it, really, with the high rate of interceptions unless they are going to put a big leash around Henne.
And they can't do that in games like Sunday's when the team is trailing 24-6. You have to throw. And the defense knows you have to throw. So the Dolphins have to simply hope time is a friend and Henne's maturation cuts down the interception number.
But the really frustrating stat is the 10 fumbles with two games left to play. Miami fumbled only six times all of last season.
Coaches have been working with ballcarriers on their ball security for several weeks in practice.
It's a good bet when the team goes back to practice Wednesday afternoon, that work will continue.