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Dolphins offensive plays calls were curious -- again

Enough of the fumble controversy (for now) because the call will not be overturned or somehow repaired. The Miami Dolphins' 23-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot be erased so no need to continue reliving it.

But what seemingly we continually relive with these Dolphins is the curious if not outright inexplicable play-calling on offense that leaves fans in a frenzy and state of frustration.

Sorry, Dr. Dan Henning, oh sherpa of all things NFL offense. But count me among the folks left scratching their heads following Sunday's game.

I don't understand the strategy on the first two possessions, both inside the Pittsburgh 22-yard line. I didn't understand the strategy of starting a potential game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the game with a running play -- against the NFL's No. 1 rush defense.

Let's take the first two series first. The Dolphins kicked off and got a gift possession when the Steelers fumbled the kickoff and Reshad Jones recovered, giving Miami a first down on the Pittsburgh 22 yard line. Most offensive coordinators today view this as an opportunity to go for the opponent's throat. The Steelers were on the field in an emergency situation and so what do the Dolphins do?

They run an off-tackle play to the right side with Ronnie Brown carrying the ball. It gained 2 yards. Two yards! The Dolphins have the Steelers in a tough spot, in a momentum-capturing moment and they run a routine off-tackle play against the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL.

The next two plays were Chad Henne incompletions. I get the concept of throwing then. No problem. But here's my deal: Neither play went into the end zone. And neither play targetted Brandon Marshall.

The Dolphins, in their wisdom, didn't deem a call for their best receiver as a good option. And the team that has been kicking too many field goals and not scoring enough TDs didn't attack the end zone.

The team still got a field goal and a 3-0 and then got another gift the very next series when Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger fumbled and Koa Misi recovered for Miami at the 13 yard line.

Time to go into the end zone, right? Time to get the ball to Marshall, right?


Henning called a Ricky Williams run to the left. It gained zero.

Then Henning called a Ricky Williams run to the right. It gained 8 yards.

Then on third-and-2 from the 5 yard line, Henning called on Williams again, once again testing the right side of the Pittsburgh defense. No gain. Field goal.

Not good enough, Salguero says.

Then there was the aborted attempt to win the game with the two-minute drive at the end. Let me just say that the execution, which is Henning's pet peeve, was bad. Anthony Fasano dropped a pass on second down. Henne threw to the wrong receiver (Lousaka Polite) on third down and that gained only 2 yards. And the fourth down play was a total breakdown of the protection and the communication between the QB and his receivers.

But ...

Why did that drive open with a running play? The Dolphins had taken a timeout, their final timeout, with 2:30 to play before Pittsburgh kicked the game-winning field goal. The idea at the time was to keep the Steelers from letting the clock run down to two minutes.

But then Miami made that timeout of no effect by opening their drive with a run. Either you need the time and you take the time out and then throw the ball. Or you don't need to save time and you don't need the to take the time out. You cannot have it both ways.

But with 2:19 to play, facing the best run defense in the NFL, using a running back that had gained 12 yards on 10 carries, the Dolphins handed the ball off to Brown. The play gained 2 yards.

I'm not playing the results here. I'm saying the Dolphins needed to throw in the end zone to their best receiver when they're inside the other team's 25 yard line after a turnover every single time they find themselves in that situation. I simply believe it's a good idea to get the ball in your best offensive weapon's hands as a philosophy.

And as for the final drive, if you're going to run the ball on first down, don't waste a time out before that. And if you are going to call the time out, which was the right call, then follow that up with another good call and pass the ball to open your two-minute drive.  

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armando back to his old form of writing .

It's Just sad....... Dan Henning passed away in 1964, so did his play calling......

armando, we just don't need bloggers to write for what reason we lost,we just wait for you to break the game down in such nice way .

Agree, that game should have started 14-0, or 10-0. A good team would have capitalized on those turnerover in the begining of the game.

We looked like Dave Wannstache team from the past, winning with Olindo Mare.

henning and sparano have henne believing in their play-calling philosophy. we are in big trouble offensively. even marino had to question their mentality on field goals. why not a quick six after a turnover inside the 20????????? we're stuck in the mud.

steratore supply pennsylvania google them and give gene a piece of your mind Cuban...the whole Steratore family is awaiting your call..

definition of crazy coach; run the same failed plays over and over hoping for different outcome.


Right on... I feel that not only does Dan Henning and his overly conservative gameplan have to go, but so does the the head buffoon who allows it...and then also compounds our problems with his continuous poor clock management.

the refs bad call sucked and did cost us this game for the most part, but at the end of the game you are right it was terrible decision making by Henning and sparano, If you call the timeout you have to throw it towards the sidelines, or at least down the feild, I did not like the called timeout there myself , they would have a a little under 2 minutes and a timeout to go about 40 yards to kick the feild goal , but they just don't know how to beat good teams yet, but they are getting there, it is too bad because they should have won this game, it is like they are playing scared you can't win that way Just ask Wanny remember

agree wih you on all points Armando. how about the curious call of 3rd and 1 in PIT territory on the Phins drive prior to them taking the lead, 22-20?

you run ronnie off right tackle, with jake long pulling and he gets pulled down from the backside defender? seriously.

why not give it to losaka with a quick hit in the hole. or even ricky, who was running DOWNHILL all day. ronnie jukes and jives, like he's playing as a Barner. you got to attack the hole. that would have kept that drive alive and possibly scored again there.

I;m totally demoralised with watching this conservative playcalling week in, week out, we are the laughing stock of the league year after year. After getting Brandon Marshall I thought things would be different, how wrong was I!! What must he be thinking??

Why was Lousaka Polite even in the mix on 3rd & Long during the final drive?

Don't you want your best offensive players on the field as you need to pick up a First down and move the ball 35-40 yards for a shot at a game winning Field Goal?

The running plays on running downs against the No. 1 run defense over and over again made no sense. However the Dolphins have been effective running the ball the entire season on opposing defenses' nickel packages. Why not throw on first and possibly throw a run in on second or third down if you want to be coy?

Henning seems to have about a half dozen or so brain farts a game.

last drive... 1st down: Brown for 2 yards, 2nd down: Fasano a drop and 3rd: Polite short completion of 2 yards.

Sure we got hosed at the end of the game, but kicking fgs isnt gonna get it done and why is Polite in there on a 2 min drive? again, bad coaching, putting a player in a situtation he is probably gonna fail in.

Good morning djrob.

Hate the play calling where was bess where was marshall where was the deep ball to stretch there defense? it looked like the first txo offensive posessions that our offense were the ones unprepared for the field chads usual unsuccessful zero completion first possession before he comes out in the 2 quarter and doesn't miss a pass? The fans are not in the game at all a watched the hawks game right after and their fans are so proud to be the 12th man not in Miami . ... Too hot of the fans????

Armondo, or someone
Can you explain the Stabler/Casper..Holy Roller, into endzones? rule within 5 minutes of the end of games?

Horrible play calling and why Ronnie Brown got an opportunity to carry the ball the 9th time in crunch time when obviously did not deserve it is beyond me. It was like Henning was conspiring for a Steeler victory. Not enough designed plays to pass to the RBs either (not named Polite anyway). OK, we don't have an elite pass catching TE. Fasano is ok, I don't have a problem with him, but we need a complement that is more athletic. It's not on the roster, so why not use your dynamic RBs in that situation. Instead we continually run 2 WR patterns. So when Pitt dropped 8,9 men to cover at the end, Henne had nowhere to go. So frustrating.


You are back! Finally, you wrote something here that defined what went wrong with our offense and what has been going on with Henning's play calling. Too many of us Dolfans have been, like you said, left in a frenzy and frustrated. We don't have to be coaches or six-seven figure salaried experts to see the calls were questionable or terrible at best.

Thank you for finally being blunt about it.

Let's hope the coaches and the front office will recognize this and make changes before the Bengal game.

I agree.... the playing call is terrible and VERY predictable. We called the "Bubble Screen" about 8 times (worked once). We kepts Ronnie Brown even though he thinks he can dance in the back field against the Steelers Run Def. Why not open up the offense a little and stretch their def. by going deep every now and then to what is supposed to be our deep threat - Hartline. All our passes are short to medium range and out entire play calling is very predictable. How many times have we thrown the same pass to Marshall in the middle? This pass will be an INT before long. Be creative... go deep... open it up... and forget about Brown's dance in the back field. I am tired of Brown. Ricky is much better. Compare the avg. per run.

Go Phins!!!
We got robbed...



That is without a dobt the most passion I have ever seen in your writing....you have the pulse of the fans.

This play calling has got to go.....as Loco says 50 million man....and we don't target him....one week we throw to him 10-12 times...next week 3-4...what gives?

o'm pissed and perplexed

Caribou- great point, i forgot about that HORRIBLE play call there...

how about the curious call of 3rd and 1 in PIT territory on the Phins drive prior to them taking the lead, 22-20?

you run ronnie off right tackle, with jake long pulling and he gets pulled down from the backside defender? seriously.

What has happened to using Ronnie or Ricky to pass to, I think Henning is screwing the offense up so we will beg for the wildcat back!!



There should have been better execution on all those plays. However, when the plays called continue to set your team up to fail it is on the coaches.

AGAIN this one is on Henning.

You forgot 3rd and 2 and you go into shotgun screaming PASS, then you roll to the short side of the field where there is only 1 option to throw to.

Sparano and Henning need to go. We have seen the same coaching mistakes for 3 seasons now- odd use of timeouts, bizarre if not downright stupid play calling, giving up multiple big plays every game without responding, the failure to stop any opposing QB on a draw near the goaline, etc. That last one has cost us multiple games.

That game plan was the same garbage we ran against the Colts and Saints last year, which resulted in two losses.

Why call a handoff to Brown on third with inches to go? He is not the pound it down their throats when they know exactly what is coming type of runner. He is patient and waits for the holes to open. Give it to Polite. If he knee is sore or you feel the need to add a wrinkle then give it to Ricky. He can pound out a yard. Better yet, run a QB sneak. We have never put that on film before.

That last possession was idiotic. Give the ball to Henne and let him make a play. He was outstanding yesterday.

I am just fed up with these guys. I think Pennington's play in 2008 and an easy schedule covered up a lot of strategy and planning problems that have existed since the Trifecta walked in the door.

ALoco, nobody has forgot about the referee but his decision has been made nothing will come of moaning about it whereas maybe, just maybe we can effect some change in the Offensive philosophy, god knows how but you never know!!


These coaches are a epitome mediocrity and poor attention to detail. If you want to say you are physical team that wears down its opponents and doesn't hurt itself. GREAT. then you need to construct a team and game plan that allows you to do that in today's NFL, not the SEC of the 60s and 70s. What is becoming plainly obvious in the "Chicken of the Sea's" chosen ones are unable to self assess their situation and make adjustments. Ross needs to clear the grocery stores shelves of this product that is way past its expiration date.

I understand the Steelers are a good team, and that we did better against them on offense than alot of other teams have done. I also understand the Steelers had some starters out and that may have been to our benefit in terms of points scored and mediocore offense achieved against them.

We play "not to lose" in every aspect of offense. We do not make any real effort to achieve chunk yardage, that term is just all about Sparano-speak. It's frustrating to hear our coach and others in the organization speak about what we all see as an obvious problem and yet when the rubber meets the road, no real changes are seen in our scheme. If all we are going to ever be is a dink and dunk Offense then get Pennington in there because he's one of the best in the league at that style of play. Henne offers us though a player that can achieve that chunk yardage and "big play" with his arm strength. However, when we refuse to use motion, formation alignments, and personel choices that enhance our efforts to achieve chunk yardage it really doesn't matter that we have a QB that seems to have the intangibles to get it done. Our scheme or choice of plays has proven over and over that we do not have THE BALLS to play upfield football. We are a fearful franchise on offense- its sad to say it but it's true.

We are playing the same old "small box" offense. We are pretty good at small box football, but we'll continue to lose big games against good teams until we go after chunk yardage and stretch the field. We'll also continue to underachieve against lesser teams because our scheme is all about keeping it close and not giving up plays. This philosophy is holding us back from greatness Dolfans.

I've heard it said during preseason that "we don't show all our cards" and hold stuff back for the regular season... No we don't. We play the same old small box scheme in the preseason as we do in the regular season. We've seen the same problem under this staff every year. We have had the EXACT same problems most of the time this staff has been together in Miami.

Our offense underachieves and our special teams suck.

While the ref's officially cost us the game at the most deciding moment, our kickoff team also was once again our sore spot on the last kickoff. Horrible coverage again gave the Steelers great field position and an easy field to play.

The Steelers are a great example of what we need to become. They play aggressive run defense and offense, but still find a way to go after chunk yardage and stretch the field. Pittsburgh had no problem at all challenging us upfield despite pounding the football. Wallace and Ward each had catches upfield that kept us honest and out of the box.

It's frustrating seeing teams completely fearless of playing us 8 or 9 in the box. We allowed Pittsburgh to play Palu in the box anytime they wanted to and we had no predetermined plan for how to handle it. We never once attempted to go after them upfield when he lined up in a spot on the field where he cleraly could not have helped out in deep coverage on the sideline or down the seams (or on the post).
????: ThePHINS.com - Miami Dolphins Forums http://forums.thephins.com/showthread.php?p=1301008

This is elementary stuff in coaching. Anyone that goes into a game calling an offense had better have a specific plan for how he is going to handle everything that team has shown it will do, as well as a basic plan for how to block pressure and various aspects of the opponents scheme. We play as if we have no playmakers on this roster, and our typical way of handling what teams do in defending us is to turtle the storm. When I watch some of the things we do as an Offensive Coordinator myself, I wonder why we are allowing the defense to take so much away from us and make the area they defend so easy to play. I wonder why we are not using some well known (in the coaching world anyhow) formations and motions to combat what we see over and over. I'm wondering why we make little to no effort to get mis-matches with players like Brown, Bess, etc when we know teams are doubling Marshall each week.

I'm still wondering.

Why can't the Dolphins put together a complete game on defense?

Either they stop the run or they stop the pass, but they are not capable of effectively stopping both.

The Dolphins desperately need a starting CB and a Nickel Back. Jason Allen, Benny Sapp and Sean Smith are completely utter disappointment.

oh wow...

criticizing the dolphins play calling???


keep rite articles like this instead.


was henning bloating about this garbage play calls like he did last week?

lets use ronnie brown *avg 1.6 per carry* instead of ricky williams...idiot.

Agree completely, Armando. You know what's scary? For a moment yesterday, I was thinking about how many close games Jay Fiedler won for us under a similar coaching psyche that didn't maximize talent use. (And I wasn't much of a Fiedler fan.) And I was also thinking about how Ted Ginn, yes, that guy, would've been nice to have as a flanker, if only to stretch the field.

Same old Dolphins. Oh well.

mags1972, henning is keeping ricky and ronnie in to max protect henne so they arent getting out into receiving areas/lanes which further limits our options on offense. a more mobile QB would help.

DOLPHINMIKE........ i can't read all of your post .what is your bottom line .

Sporano's "jump up and down" - "hell yeah" - "triple fist pump" on our last field goal was weird.
That kinda stuff should happen when you win a game and not on a simple field goal with the outcome of the game still in question.

Aloco, i like ur post at 11:44

How can you have the Ref and the head linesman who signalled the TD both be from Pittsburgh and officiating a Pittsburgh game.. just the simple perception issue should force the NFL to have a policy against this.

Armando, as much as I disagree with a lot of Henning's play calls, I'm starting to think they're going overboard in training Henne to "protect" the ball. I'm not looking for him to force every throw into double coverage, but how about a downfield throw once in a while? How about "making" a play happen rather than checking down all the time?

Too much risk leads to a QB like Cutler, which we don't want!!! But the days of QBing like Griese did are long gone (and even Griese threw downfield to Warfield once in a while)!

yea im tired of triple fist pumps for field goals...field goals that we seem to settle for

TO ALL DONKEYS....IF you notice 3 things ;;;;

1-we r a stedy strong team
2-our QB IS improving
3-the tuna's way of rebuilding is working.....

look at these rebuilding teams ;


Steratore Sanitary Supply
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Hennen needs to be replaced with someone who has testicular fortitude.... Just watch every other NFL team and they throw the ball downfield plenty of times during a game... Dolphins are the only team that throws 3 to 12 yard passes nothing over 15 yards..... oh sorry, once at Vikings the first play of the game and that was it..... met the quota for the year!!....

But as always with the dolphins, some weeks its the offense or the defense or special teams..... and more often this year... THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR!!! just awful play calling week after week........

Worst call was the slow developing handoff near midfield (3rd and 1) that the Steelers stuffed. We needed a yard- why not Lou Polite?? Or if going to call a slow developing handoff, why not play actin and go for the homerun?

3rd and long, and a pass to Polite. That was the ultimate bonehead play.

More mobile QB, u mean like Dan Marino used to be, or Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, the list goes on, but then again I bet you're a Thgpen fan.

Hennes not even close to any of the guys I mentioned first above and may never be, few will but he did show he could play against a top defense yesterday when allowed, he needs better plays called, a less predictable offense which can only come from a new OC with a new philosophy

There is no doubt that Miami got robbed, the ball was fumbled and Miami recovered it. period. Despite that situation, with good play calling and better coaching thoughout the game, to include proper clock mgmt, Miami wins the game. We have all the talent in the world but the coaching is letting the players, fans and organization down. If things don't improve rapidly, and I don't know how they can with this bunch in charge, it won't be long before many analysts start calling the team out, and rightly so. Also, I think it's clear that Pennington needs to start. I think it's very possible that this on and off gain "we trust Henne, we don't trust Henne" game has created a schizo QB that panics and freezes up in crucial moments. He either owns that trait and or the coaching has ruined the guy.

Hey guys! New to posting here but read every day. Phin fan from Jersey. 100% Completely agree Armando with this. I couldn't believe how many times Henning kept trying the run when we needed a pass. Then to not use Marshall in some crucial situations is complete insanity. Sparano better sit Henning down and do something about this. We are losing too many points by horrendous play calling. Get aggressive and use Marshall as a real weapon!!

we all have our different ideas on what needs to be done. we agree and disagree but we all want one thing; the dolphins winning the afc east over the hated nyjets. can it still happen? we are all still hoping to find an answer. we cant afford to beat ourselves anymore if we still have a chance.

3rd and 1 and they pull J Long for a slow developing Ronnie run??? YUK!

joyewatts,ANY MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY can play QB ?

Thanks 1701972!

Agree Armando
Conspiracy Theorists Also All Agree
Like someone has the fix In for Dolphins to lose,again

If not Henning get paid to lose ...
Then Ronnie Brown ...
and definitely the refs

I mean does anyone believe this BS!?

I mean
C`mon Man

The biggest problem still is the Dolphins don't have a receiver that can stretch the field. All the Dolphins continue to do is dink and dunk. A team has to run the football but without a receiver that can move back the secondary, the Dolphins will never get out of dink and dunk play. Marshall is a top 10 receiver...but he can't win games if he's covered by two or three players...Hartline is nothing more than average...nothing special...even Bess does more for the game than him. The Dolphins have to acquire a receiver and a Tight End one way or the other and sooner than later...if they want to win.

Armando -great writing! One of you guys that covers this team needs to hold Henning to the fire. Don't let him get away with the joeshittermago or whoever he calls the fans for an excuse. That last series of plays looked like it was calles scared to win. We were getting great protection on FIRST down. And actually I don't even have a problem with the run, as much as rushing to get a play in beefore the 2 minute warning. You have to get it right there, and the scrambnle to get the play off put the steeler d at an advantage. Poor coaching, poor time management!


Great points. I agree with them all. The good teams, as you said, go for the jugular in situations like this. Not us. That falls on the OC's shoulders. Hopefully he's out at the end of the season and someome like Josh McDaniels (who I think will get canned at the end of the year) comes in and runs the offence. Maybe a bad match with Marshall.

The last set of downs was VERY poorly handled. I should have been a pass on first down and then perhaps a run. We ran on first and then rushed our second down play to get it off before the 2 minute warning. And one last thing, how come we NEVER have any timeouts left at the end of the game? Who's shoulders does that fall on? The OC? An inexperienced QB? Or both?

It's just poor coaching. Lack of execution on Henne and the rest of the offense to a certain degree as well, but they can only run the plays that are called - unless you are Peyton Manning and you call your own plays from the line. Not targeting Brandon Marshall at all in the most important timeframes of the game is just dumbfounding. The second guessing isn't new for any Dolfan, as we've seen poor coaching and execution for the better part of 15-20 years now. This franchise lives only in its past glory.

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