logoby Britt Schramm

Well, I guess that the demise of the New England Patriots was greatly exaggerated by the New york media and the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! fans last week.  Sure, Cassel played a very controlled, high percentage game but the rest of the team shockingly showed up with a game plan and made the recently crowned (and crowed about) AFC East Team To Beat look like the last year’s model.  Guess the saying is true – that’s why you play the games.

Speaking of playing the games, this week’s opponents are trying to shed their moniker of The 32nd Best Team in the NFL.   However, they’ve done nothing to change that name as they’re still winless for 2008.

This Week – Miami Dolphins (0-2; Against AFC East 0-1)

Two-Faced Team but Single Problem

Two weeks into the season and the Dolphins are a tale of two teams.  The first game at home, they almost made the first game for Favre a losing one.  The Fish held the Jets to only 194 yards, 2 scores, and 5 of 13 in 3rd down efficiency which resulted in six punts.  Individually, Pennington hit a smidge over 60% of his passes for 2 scores, one INT for a decent 82.6 QB rating.  Emerging TE Anthony Fasano was leading receiver with 8 catches for 84 yards. 

The very next week in the brutal Arizona heat, Miami allowed the now 2-0 Cardinals to pass for 376 yards, three scores, 7 of 13 in 3rd down efficiency which resulted in only 2 punts.  Individually, Pennington was yanked after making only 50% of his passes for a mere 112 yards and a 67.1 QB rating.  Fasano didn’t catch a pass the entire game.

But there is a common thread that is derailing the Dolphins (and making fantasy owners physically pull their hair out) – the lack of a decent running game.  This team has probably its best depth at this position with a former 2nd pick overall in the 2005 draft, Ronnie Brown, and a guy that not only made Mike Ditka trade his entire Saints draft to the Redskins just to get him but also sent the former coach of Da Bears into the Sunday NFL Countdown business, otherwise known as “Blazing” Ricky Williams. 

And yet, The Fish are cooked in running the ball as they are ranked 29th in team rushing yards with 60.5 per game and 28th in rushing attempts.  The latter may be affected to the blowout loss to the Cards but how can they explain the former?  It goes without saying that if a team can’t run the ball effectively, you will not win games, period.  I think that it is borderline grand larceny for either player to accept their salaries when they can’t get more than 30 yards a game.

So, it doesn’t really matter which Dolphins team will show up – the home team that almost beat the Jets in Broadway Brett’s debut or the road team who let the ghost formerly known as Kurt Warner return to the land of the living last week.  If they can’t run the ball for more than 60 yards, they’re destined to repeat their losing ways.

The Losing Numbers Game

Trying to find a bright spot on this team was hard.  If you look that the raw numbers, this year’s version of the Miami Dolphins are straight up bottom feeders. 

On offense, they are 28th in Total Points Scored, 26th in Total Yards, 29th in 3rd Down Efficiency, and 25th in Time of Possession per Game. 

On the other side of the ball, the Fins are 25th in Total Points Allowed, 26th in Yards Allowed per Game, 30th in Passing Yards per Game, and 27th in Passes Defended.

And the special teams are not all that special.  The Fish are 28th in Average Yards per Punt, 27th in Total Kicking Points, and 23rd in Average Kick-Off Return.

There’s a cliché that people usually use when they see numbers as bad as these – “You can’t go anywhere but up.”  But for the Dolphins, they are figuratively drowning in bad stats.  It’s going to be hard for them to get back to treading water in the deep ocean of the NFL. 

Chatter Box

This section of Line ‘Em Up will be used to highlight the other areas of opponent commentary on the web and for the most part, these “bon mots” will be not necessarily found in that hotbed of informed and rational commentary known as the forums.

David Grotefend of Phinfever tries to make a case for starting the second-string QB from Brady’s alma mater, Chad Henne:

This team has a long way to go to compete for anything post-season; why not see what you have in the cupboard? Aikman took his lumps (a 1-15 year). Manning (Peyton) took his lumps (3-13). Those that can play rise to the occasion. Those who can’t fall by the wayside….For me, what have we got to lose? Penny is 0-2, it’s not like we are lighting it up. He is 1-9 in his last ten starts, and was benched at 1-7 in favor of a kid who came in and went 3-5. He has done nothing in our two games to show that those numbers are an abberation. If everyone is accountable, Penny should be, too. Let the kid who started for four years in front of 100,000 people have a shot.

For me, the case for supplanting Pennington with Henne could’ve been stronger if he didn’t compare the 2nd Round pick from this past draft to the overall #1 picks from the ’89 and ’98 NFL Drafts respectively.  Not really apples to apples there, Dave.

Matt Kent of Finheaven thinks that Miami has the ingredients for an upset this weekend:

1. QB Play– Chad Pennington knows and understands the New England defense having played them twice a year for the last six years. I think he will recognize their blitz packages and utilize the tight ends and hot routes to beat the blitz.

2. Running Game– Yes, this is the week that Miami will run the ball effectively. The talent with Ricky and Ronnie is real and you can’t keep them down forever. They are due to have a good game, and this week I believe is it. Look for them to work the edges away from Vince Wolfork and try and use speed on the older slower linebacking corp of New England.

3. Defense– Miami has demonstrated it can get pressure on the QB. I look for them to get to Cassel and rattle the young QB. He does not have Brady’s improvisational abilities and I expect him to make two or even three bad decisions with the ball. This pressure will also help the weak secondary who won’t have to hold their coverage as long.

4. Fate– You know this young Dolphin team is embarrassed and angry. They could have and should have won at least one of the last two games. They hear what the world is saying about them and I believe they have something to prove. The law of life is that all that goes up must come down, and all that goes down eventually comes up. It is time for the Patriots to start coming down and it is time for the Dolphins to start coming up. This is the one win that no one expects. It is the one win that makes a statement that things are different and it is the win that begins the turn around of this Miami Dolphins franchise.

Obviously, Mr. Kent is a very optimistic person; especially when you consider:

1 – The QB Play looked very suspect; especially on the road;
2 – The aforementioned lack of a running game is more fact than an anomaly;
3 – The defense, especially the weak secondary, hasn’t stopped anyone yet, and;
4 – Fate is not playing against the Pats; the Fins are.

From the department of “You thought that the last few Patriots drafts were sketchy”, Phins.com Chris Shashaty (whose last name sounds like an old UPN TV Show name) says that the Dolphins are now paying for Nick Saban’s drafting mistakes:

In total, the Dolphins have eleven players and two full time starters from those three seasons of drafts. More full-time starters may be gained in time, but this has yet to be proven. Now add back in the futility of the Wannstedt years, and the lack of productivity from free agents, and you’ll quickly understand why Sparano doesn’t sleep at nights. Would you if you were trying to make chicken soup out of chicken feathers?….Meanwhile, it’s terribly difficult to believe in “A New Beginning” when the losses have the same sick feeling as they did last year, one of futility and frustration, wondering when the Dolphins will get that first win.

Matthew McCabe of Letsgodolphins.com chastises Joey Porter who once again let the world know that he has the disease of Athlete’s Mouth, for which there is no cure:

Porter is in his 2nd season with the Dolphins, during the course of that time the Dolphins are 1-17 and the Patriots are 18-0. Shut your mouth Porter! Fine, Brady was around for all of last year, you want to compare this year instead? The Patriots are 2-0 and the Dolphins are 0-2. Cassel performed well enough to defeat the New York Jets last week, a team the Dolphins couldn’t stop the first week of the season. Porter and the Dolphins meanwhile last week were destroyed by Kurt “Old Man’ Warner and the hapless for decades Arizona Cardinals….A message to Porter, inflammatory or not your comments were stupid. Since joining the Dolphins you and that “defense” (if you can call it one) are 1-17, so SHUT YOUR MOUTH!

Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post thinks that the current coaching and management team may be in for a tragedy of Greek proportions:

It’s possible the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano triumvirate greatly underestimated the task they face. There has been precious little replenishing of the roster since the late Jimmy Johnson coaching years. That’s a decade ago. The Dolphins, quite frankly, face a talent deficit ranging from significant to overwhelming in almost every game they play. It has been a sobering start to a season in which Miami hopes to extract itself from the mess that was a franchise-worst record of 1-15 last year. So far, the Dolphins look at least as hapless now as they did then.

“When that ball gets rollin’, it gets rollin’,” said cornerback Will Allen.

The ball is rollin’ downhill and once again squashing the Dolphins.

The Miami Sisyphus?  Sounds like a interesting logo change.

Next week, the graciousness of the NFL has given the Pats the week off.  The same goes for this column.  It’ll be back in two weeks to discuss the NFL team of Tom Brady’s childhood.