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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?

Nope.

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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