Sunday, December 20, 2009

Miami Dolphins-Tennessee Titans random observations

The Miami Dolphins saw their playoff hopes greatly diminish this week, losing to the Tennessee Titans 27-24 in overtime after a roaring comeback in regulation.

The Dolphins erased an 18-point deficit in the second half, capped off by an Anthony Fasano touchdown and Ricky Williams two-point conversion in the final minutes.

It was not to be, however, as Chad Henne sailed a pass in overtime that was intercepted, directly leading to the game-winning field goal by Rob Bironas.

The Dolphins will continue their battle against the AFC South in Week 16, heading home to face the 7-7 Houston Texans.

Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Titans:

Offense
  • It sounds like I'm excusing him, but the reality is that Chad Henne played pretty well outside of his three interceptions. He has to make better decisions at times and can't force throws that cost the team the game, but he's still young and looks like he's going to be a quality NFL passer.
  • I was about to flip when Pat White came in for the two-point conversion to tie the game late. It ended up working out with Ricky Williams taking the hand-off and scoring from two yards out, but I still completely disagree with White's presence. There is simply no reason to take your true quarterback who got you in that position out with the game on the line.
  • Ricky Williams ran hard and ran well once again, but fumbled for the fourth time in two games and lost his second one in that span. Williams is known for having small hands and that kind of thing happens sometimes, but he has to do a better job at protecting the ball.
  • Lousaka Polite continued to shine, blocking well in the running game and once again coming through as a ball carrier in short-yardage situations. You'd be hard-pressed to find an AFC fullback more deserving of a Pro Bowl nod than Polite.
  • None of the Dolphins' receivers separated themselves from the rest, though all had their moments. Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess each had some big catches, while Brian Hartline made a tremendous play on a 57-yard pass during Miami's game-tying drive that should have been intercepted by Titans safety Michael Griffin. Hartline is limited physically and his ceiling is probably that of a No. 3 receiver, but he has good hands and is very certainly refined for a rookie.
  • Tight ends Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos both showed up today, as Fasano made a few athletic grabs in the clutch and Haynos converted a big fourth down.
  • The Dolphins' pass protection was pretty sound for the most part, keeping Henne upright and free to read the field most of the game. I was also impressed with the blocking on the final drive, especially on Williams' two-point attempt run.

Defense & Special Teams
  • Randy Starks and Tony McDaniel led the charge at defensive end, forcing Titans running back Chris Johnson to run laterally until the rest of the Dolphins' defense could make the play. Kendall Langford also contributed a nice sack, though he hasn't been as visible as I'd have preferred this season.
  • Nose tackle Paul Soliai also played well in what I would consider a pretty solid performance against Johnson (3.6 yards per carry). However, he also made a few tough penalties and has to avoid those.
  • Jason Taylor and Joey Porter both played a solid all-around game. Taylor had a nice sack on a very elusive Vince Young and stuffed Chris Johnson a couple times in the running game, while Porter forced a fumble on the Titans' monster running back.
  • It's hard to say whether or not Jason Taylor's overtime strip and fumble recovery against Chris Johnson should have counted. His forward momentum had clearly been stopped, and at some point the refs should and will blow the whistle even if the guy isn't down. It was a close call, and while it would have been nice to have a scoop-and-score to win it, you can't really argue with how it was ruled on the field.
  • Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder played the run well, though a lot of that credit goes to the defensive line for closing any potential holes for Johnson to run through. However, you have to give the inside linebackers credit as well for moving around and making the tackles.
  • It was a familiar story in the Dolphins' secondary, as the team's rookie corners had their ups and downs throughout the game. Sean Smith, who had a heads-up fumble recovery, is the better cover man, which results in Vontae Davis being targeted more often by opposing quarterbacks. Davis held his own at times, especially late, and had a good interception on Young's first attempt. Both players have to get more consistent.
  • Gibril Wilson's name was called by the commentators a few times for being out of position, but both times I saw the replays, it was actually Tyrone Culver. Neither player is an ideal starting safety, and it's certainly a position that needs to be addressed in the offseason.
  • After his second miss of the season last week, placekicker Dan Carpenter got back on track with a 3-for-3 day. He's easily been one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL this season.
  • The Dolphins' kickoff blocking has to get better, as Ted Ginn, Jr. is too often met by uncovered defenders before he even gets to the 20-yard line.