AFC East: Dolphins-Chiefs
Ginn was viewed as a luxury item, a speedy kick returner with ordinary receiving skills. Then the Dolphins gave the return duties to undrafted rookie Davone Bess this year.
The Dolphins, however, have gotten creative in using Ginn. He has 54 catches for 719 yards and one touchdown -- nothing spectacular. But he has twice as many touchdowns on reverses than receptions.
In Sunday's 38-31 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs, he showed again how dangerous he can, running 31 yards for a touchdown. He had a 40-yard run for a touchdown in a Week 11 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Elias Sports Bureau discovered Ginn became the first receiver in 47 years to score two touchdowns on runs of 30 yards or more.
|Highlights of the Dolphins 38-31 victory over the Chiefs|
The last to do it was Buffalo Bills receiver Elbert Dubenion, who ripped off TD runs of 65 and 72 yards in 1961.
Miami Herald reporter Barry Jackson recently wrote a story about Ginn's potential to develop into a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
"He hasn't developed into a No. 1 yet," former Dolphins receiver O.J. McDuffie said. "We've seen flashes and we've also seen disappearances. No. 1s don't disappear. It's been a roller-coaster ride. It's surprising he has dropped a couple passes because his hands are stellar. Besides his speed, I like the way he catches in traffic. He runs decent routes."
But even if the Jets lose in Seattle, next Sunday's showdown between the Dolphins and Jets at the Meadowlands could be for the division title.
Chad Pennington made sure the Dolphins' storybook season continued by orchestrating a 13-play, 85-yard drive that consumed 8:33 off the clock and ended with a 14-yard catch and rumble by tight end Anthony Fasano for the winning touchdown.
The New York Jets aren't enjoying the 1 o'clock games.
As they await their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field, they're coming to the realization they won't be getting any outside help in their bid to win the AFC East.
The Miami Dolphins scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 31-yard Ted Ginn reverse, and have tacked on a field goal to lead the Kansas City Chiefs, 10-0, with that game only 3:08 old. The Chiefs responded with a touchdown, and that score is 10-7 as I type this.
The New England Patriots needed only 3:47 to turn their first possession into a touchdown and scored on their second, too. They lead the Arizona Cardinals, 14-0, with 3:46 to go in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium.
The three AFC East teams that don't play in a tropical climate broke from their normal routines and practiced outside this week to prepare for nasty weather in the Northeast and the other side of the continent.
The forecast for every AFC East game is inhospitable, and they all have playoff implications.
Here are the matchups with the Weather Channel's projected kickoff conditions:
- Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium (33 degrees, 70 percent chance of snow, 18 mph winds).
- Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium (8 degrees, mostly sunny, 8 mph winds).
- New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field (32 degrees, 70 percent chance of snow, 8 mph winds).
- Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High (15 degrees, partly cloudy, 8 mph winds).
The Jets rarely practice outside in the snow, but head coach Eric Mangini made an exception this week.
"I've always seen value in that," Mangini said of practicing in wintry elements. "You can't simulate it. You can talk about it. You can try to educate on it, but until you do it, it's different.
"We practice a lot in the rain and the cold, all the different elements. It's real value to it if you can draw from the experiences the next time you face that stuff. With this situation, we're talking about just a couple of days."
Bills coach Dick Jauron on Thursday took his team outside the field house for the first time in a month.
Bill Belichick also took his Patriots outside this week.
"I think it definitely helps," said Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, according to Boston Globe reporter Mike Reiss' blog. "Whether it's cold or windy, whatever it is, it's always good to get used to it in practice. It gets your blood thickened up a little bit.
"It's always good to make it tougher for yourself during the week so it seems easier on game day."
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said he would practice in a freezer if he could, but the best he could do in South Florida was put a bunch of footballs on ice to get quarterback Chad Pennington and his receivers a tiny hint.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Not to rub it in, but the weather in South Florida has been fabulous.
The Miami Dolphins have been enjoying pleasant conditions for weeks. Sunshine, warmth, blue skies, low humidity.
Unless the Earth steers itself straight into the sun before kickoff, conditions won't be nearly as tolerable for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
If the forecast is correct, then the Dolphins will be playing the coldest game in franchise history.
The Weather Channel is predicting a teeth-chattering, kneecap-numbing high of 8 degrees at kickoff. But, hey, it'll be mostly sunny.
The record low for a Dolphins game was 14 degrees and occurred in December 1977 against the New England Patriots in Schaefer Stadium. Next on the list was a balmy 22 degrees against the Patriots in December 1982.
"Ever?" head coach Tony Sparano asked after being told the Dolphins hadn't played in such frigid conditions. "All right. That's another thing that there's some history involved in, I guess."
In games played at 25 degrees or colder, the Dolphins are 3-6, including a 1979 playoff game in Pittsburgh.
"It really doesn't matter," Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter said. "When you're playing these late games in football, with what's at stake, it doesn't matter about the weather. I just think that's an excuse.
"This is our playoff lives right now. To worry about the weather would be a cop-out. We're not even going to make that a factor. If the game was in Alaska, then the game would be in Alaska. We'd go there and handle business like we normally would."
The Dolphins on Friday practiced with icy footballs to better acclimate themselves.
"We're trying to coach everything," Sparano said. "If we could practice in a freezer, we would've."
Sparano suggested he would consider giving Kansas City possession to open the game and the second half if he could.
"You've got to play smart, field-position football," Sparano said. "You've got to be able to kick the ball down into their end. You've got to be able to keep them down into that end. ... Really, if you can play that kind of football and shorten the field a little bit when the elements are involved, I think you give yourself a chance to win.
"Before, you had the possibility to defer the coin toss. When you played in weather games like this you were thinking about some different things, maybe putting them out there first, doing some of those things. There are a lot of coaching deals here that come into play.
"Some people might say in bad weather that you give them the ball twice and you let them start it when you're talking about field position and if they're having true problems moving the football."
For the record, the coldest Dolphins home game was 40 degrees against the Chiefs in December 1989.
Now Sparano wishes Gonzalez had been dealt. That would mean he wouldn't need to worry about stopping the prolific Kansas City Chiefs tight end Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium.
"It's really difficult because they move him around," Sparano said. "They move him all over the place. The guy rarely lines up as a tight end. He can be the widest on the field. He can be in the slot. He can be in the backfield.
"I mean, he's very difficult to defend that way just to get the matchup that you want to get on him."
Gonzalez was on the trading block, and the Bills reportedly offered a third-round pick the Chiefs were willing to accept. All Gonzalez had to do was sign off.
But the trade deadline came and went before the Dolphins faced the Bills and beat them twice.
Would Gonzalez have made a difference in either of those games or prevented Buffalo's season collapse?
Gonzalez would have been a significant help. Such a dangerous target would have opened up the offense in general and might have kept quarterback Trent Edwards -- and the Bills -- from falling apart in November.
In the nine games since the trade was scuttled, Gonzalez has 63 catches and six TDs.
"When you're playing him, if you're deciding to play man-to-man at all with him, the guy's a basketball player when the ball is in the air and the guy goes and gets the football," Sparano said.
"He's a hard, hard matchup when it comes to tight ends in this league, and that's why he's had the success that he's had and the career that's he had. We've got to figure out a way to do it."
DAVIE, Fla. -- If the Miami Dolphins commit three or fewer turnovers over their last two games, they will break the NFL record for minimizing giveaways.
Miami has lost the ball 10 times, a record through 14 games (the length of an NFL season before 1978).
The 1990 New York Giants set the 16-game record with 14 turnovers.
But the Dolphins need to be extra protective Sunday to stay on pace. They'll visit the Kansas City Chiefs, who are tied for fourth in turnover margin at plus-8. The Dolphins lead the NFL at plus-12.
"They actually have forced 27 turnovers, which is five more than we've forced right now," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "They get the ball out.
"One of the things we know we can't do to be successful turn the football over. They've taken about four of them in for touchdowns. Their turnover ratio is pretty impressive for a football team like that at this point in the year."
The Dolphins also are working on a crazy 17-game streak without more than one giveaway. That's an NFL record by six games.
The Chiefs lead the NFL with 15 fumble recoveries. The Dolphins have lost four fumbles, one more than the Giants. Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington has thrown six interceptions.