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4 posts from November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012

Thursday games not kind to visiting teams

On the bright side, the Dolphins get to put the stinker they just played to rest quite early this week. They travel to Buffalo on Thursday and get a chance to forget and make you forget the 37-3 loss to Tennessee.

So a Thursday night game is good news.

"In some ways, when you play a game like we just played, it’s the best thing you could ever have happen because, all of a sudden, you have to move forward," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. "You can’t sit around and think (about) what just transpired. You have to move forward. So I think it’s a blessing in some ways that way."

On the side of the equation where no light shines, the Dolphins are on the road. And for the road team, a Thursday night game has been bad news lately.

The NFL has played 20 Thursday games dating back to last season. Of those, I am discounting the two Thursday night regular-season openers because for those the teams basically had an entire preseason to prepare for the game and then had another 10 days before the start of the season to get ready.

But in games where teams came off Sunday games and then played again on Thursday the home team has a 13-5 record the past two years.

This season, the home team is 6-3 on Thursday night. But if you look closer, two of those home losses were posted by the Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. And those two teams don't win at home no matter what day of the week you're talking about.

The Panthers are 1-4 at home this year while the Jaguars are 0-5 at home this year. So their inability to cash in on a Thursday night game is well overshadowed by the fact they, um, stink.

Buffalo also stinks but not nearly as much. The Bills are 3-6 this season and have lost three consecutive games. But they're only slightly worse than the Dolphins who are 4-5 and have lost two in a row.

So Buffalo isn't so awful as to not pose a problem for the traveling Dolphins.

Why, you might ask, do traveling teams struggle so much on the road during a short week?

Well, perhaps the fact they have condensed preparation time might have something to do with it. The Dolphins coaching staff left Sunday's game at Sun Life Stadium on a bus and had a police escort as they headed back to their training facility to prepare for Buffalo.

Coaches were at the facility until the wee hours and they struggled with not only their upcoming preparation but the haunting nature of Sunday's loss.

"I don’t know exactly what time we got out of here, but it was (late). It was a long night, put it that way, particularly after the way we played and coached that football game," Sherman said. "It was a long night in relationship to that as well. Dealing with trying to put one game aside and then get ready for the next game, that juxtaposition was difficult to handle at times last night, but we managed."

The Dolphins Monday morning were still finalizing a game plan and as of noon still hadn't gone through the corrections on Sunday's loss with players -- and believe me, lots needed correcting.

The club did not practice Monday. It had a spry walk-thru that was closed to the media. The team will practice Tuesday and then depart Wednesday afternoon for Western New York after another walk-thru.

"We had a good practice today and we move forward and I think that’s the best thing we can do as I told our guys today in my offensive meeting." Sherman said.

One game. One full practice.

Indeed, the Dolphins will spend more time flying to this game than they will spend actually in a full practice.

And you wonder why visiting teams struggle on Thursday night?

Three quarterback charts to chew on

Three quarterbacks. All making the first nine NFL starts. That's what you'll find below.

It is the first nine NFL career starts for Dan Marino, Chad Henne and Ryan Tannehill. In other words, you have the start of a Hall of Fame career, the start of a franchise quarterback bust career, and a hopeful future franchise quarterback career.

What do the charts below tell you?

I'm not going to editorialize today. I don't want to color the converation or lead in any direction. It's up to you to do that.

I'm going to let you make your own judgments and pour them into the comments section.

This is how it breaks down:

Dan Marino:

Date                Opp.           A      C     Y     Per.      TD  INT   W-L    Score

10-9-1983      Buffalo         29    19      322    65.5      3    2     L     38-35

10-16-1983    Jets              30     17     225    56.7     3     0     W    32-14

10-23-1983     Baltimore    18     11     157     61.1     2     0     W    21-7

10-30-1983    LA Rams       38     25      271    65.8     2     1     W    30-14

11-6-1983      S.F.             29     15      194    51.7     2     0     W   20-17

11-13-1983    N.E.             37     14      141    37.8     0    1      L   17-6

11-20-1983     Baltimore    21     14      240    66.7     1    0     W   37-0

11-28-1983   Cincinnati     28     18       217    62.1     3   0     W   38-14

12-4-1983    Houston        26      17       195    65.4    1    1     W   24-17

Marino 9-game totals:     256    150     1,962   58.6   17   5      7-2

Chad Henne:

Date             Opp.           A      C     Y     Per.      TD  INT   W-L    Score

10-4-2009       Buffalo     22   14     115   63.6      1     0      W     38-10

10-12-2009     Jets          26    20    241   77.0     2     0      W     31-27

10-25-2009     N.O.         36    18    211   50.0     0     2      L      46-34

11-1-2009       Jets          21    12    112   57.1    1     0      W     30-25

11-8-2009       N.E.         34     19    219   55.9    0     0      L      27-17

11-15-2009     Tampa      31     17   175    54.8    1     1      W     25-23

11-19-2009     Carolina    29     17   172    58.6    1     0     W     24-17

11-29-2009     Buffalo      31    17    175    53.1    1    3      L     31-14

12-6-2009       N.E           52    29    335    55.8     2   1      W    22-21

Henne 9-game totals:        282   163  1,755 57.8     9   6         6-3

Ryan Tannehill

Date              Opp.         A      C      Y        %        TD   INT   W-L    Score

9-9-2012      Houston      36    20     219    55.6     0      3      L       30-10

9-16-2012     Oakland      30   18     200    60.0     1     0       W      35-13

9-23-2012    Jets             36   16    196     44.4      0     1       L       23-20

9-30-2012    Arizona        41   26    431     63.4      1     2       L       24-21

10-7-2012    Cincinnati    26   17    223     59.3      0      0      W      17-13

10-14-2012   St. Louis     29    21   185     72.4      2      0     W       17-14

10-28-2012   Jets            5     2      18      40.0     0       0     W       30-9

11-4-2012  Indianapolis  38   2      290      57.8     1       0      L      23-20

11-11-2012 Tennessee    39   23      217    58.9     0      3      L       37-3

Tannehill 9-game totals:   280  165  1,979   58.9    5      9          4-5



Philbin confidence in short-yardage runs shaken

After early success with Jorvorskie Lane hulking into the line and picking up a couple of short-yardage first downs and even a TD, the Dolphins are officially struggling on short yardage runs of late.

They blew an opportunity to convert a third-and-1 Sunday. They've blown a couple of similar opportunities the previous two weeks.

So where is coach Joe Philbin's confidence when the team dials up a short-yardage run now?

"It's not very good," Philbin said Monday. "It's not very good. You look at the film, the film is not good to watch."

This says it all: After the Dolphins failed on a third-and-one run early Sunday, they faced three other third-and-one situations during the game. They passed on all of three.

The problem is there's a multitude of issues for the failures.

"It's a variety of things," Philbin said. "Sometimes penetration, sometimes read of the back, it's a combination thereof. Usually the things that affect runs are quick penetration and decisiveness running the ball or poor course or poor read. It's all those things. You throw on our tape for third-and-1 and you'll probably see all of that."

Philbin did not name names. But here's the issue on a personal level.

Daniel Thomas, at 228 pounds, is more a thoroughbred than a plowhorse. He's not really a move-the-pile on short yardage kind of guy -- at least he hasn't proven he is.

Reggie Bush isn't that guy either, although at 200 pounds, one wouldn't expect him to be.

Guard Richie Incognito and John Jerry along with center Mike Pouncey are fine when all is fair. But on third-and-one, the defense is expecting a run to attack the A-gap. The defense is stacked and ready. All is not fair. And when that has been the case, the Miami interior line hasn't consistently moved anyone backwards.

Well, how about wide runs?

That also hasn't been a solution because, well, Jonathan Martin needs to get a bit stronger and Jake Long doesn't seem as agile as he used to be. Also, the blocking out of Miami's tight ends has not been consistently good on such plays.

Lane, meanwhile, failed on a couple of attempts after showing promise early. Coaches have gone away from giving him the ball since those failures. The team did give him another opportunity on the first drive Sunday.

He failed.



Sunday proves Tannehill an untouchable while Bush is not

Reggie Bush fumbled in the first quarter on Sunday. It was his fourth carry of the game.

And he didn't get another the rest of the game.

Truth is he didn't see the field the entire rest of the first half. He did enter the game in the second half, but by then the game was a desperation affair for the Dolphins and they were passing practically every down. So Bush got no second half carries.

Afterward, Bush admitted he had been benched by coach Joe Philbin for fumbling.

"I was benched," Bush said. "And I deserved it. If I was the coach, I would have benched myself."

Interesting. Honest. And very respectful of Bush to let his coach off the hook ...

Because Philbin's approach with Bush is worthy of examination.

First, the coach could not bring himself to admit he benched Bush although that is exactly what he did. When he was asked, the man who benched Bush for fumbling, fumbled over his words on the benching.

"We had planned to – we’ve got a game coming up real fast – we had planned to use guys," Philbin said. "We’d been using Daniel Thomas and we used Lamar [Miller] sparingly last week. Our hope was to, not for this reason, but our hope was to spread the plays out a little bit."

That's a fair explanation except that earlier this year after a Bush fumble, the Dolphins coach benched Bush similarly. And the club didn't have a game four days later that time.

And, of course, it was merely a coincidence that the so-called spreading of plays began immediately after Bush fumbled.

But here's the question: Philbin had a quarterback on Sunday who threw three interceptions. That's three turnovers to Bush's one. One of those interceptions was even returned for a touchdown.

And Philbin stuck with Tannehill until the game was well decided midway through the fourth quarter when Miami trailed by the final margin of 37-3.

And Philbin was equally displeased with Tannehill as he was with Bush for his misdeeds.

"He had gone ... I don’t want to jinx the kid, but he had gone 98 throws without them," Philbin said of Tannehill's interceptions. "So I don’t know that you necessarily have to throw three. I’m not blaming him for every single one either. I don’t know that it’s absolutely mandatory to have a game like this."

So why the difference in how Bush and Tannehill get handled?

It's simple, folks.

Tannehill is the future. Bush is not.

The fact is the Dolphins are going to live or die with Tannehill this year. And next year. And probably the year after that, as well. If he plays well, he's going to play. If he plays poorly, he's still going to be on the field this year and next year for sure.

That simple.

The Dolphins are committed to Tannehill. Rightly so, I might add. They have a huge investment in him and that's the way it's going to be.

Bush is another story.

What you saw Sunday is basically how the Dolphins feel about Bush. They love him. They start him. They roll with him.

But only as long as he doesn't make a mistake.

And if he does make that mistake ... the Dolphins feel they have viable options. Daniel Thomas, whom they like gets the next most carries and actually had more than Bush on Sunday. And Miami also has rookie Lamar Miller in the stable. Coaches like him, too. Those guys are the future. Those guys will definitely be here next year.

Sunday proved Bush is not an untouchable.

And because of that fact, Bush's future is uncertain. He is unsigned for next year and it is certain he will not get a new deal before the season ends. When he eventually signs (with someone), he'lll probably get a deal that pays him in the millions. If you combine what Miller and Thomas will make next year it might only barely reach into seven figures.

This is not just a math problem for Bush. Thomas and Miller are younger than Bush. At the running back spot, age is important because younger typically means fewer carries and less wear. So unlike Tannehill, Bush's future in Miami is not certain just as his carries play to play are not certain.

Bottom line: Ryan Tannehill is an untouchable.

Reggie Bush is not.