Dolphins don't know what they are
November, 7, 2010
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireWillis McGahee and the Ravens amassed 402 offensive yards against the Dolphins.BALTIMORE -- The Miami Dolphins weren't going to finish the season with an undefeated road record. They were due to lose away from Sun Life Stadium. In that regard, Sunday's result from M&T Bank Stadium shouldn't make Dolfans depressed.
But in many ways, how the afternoon unfolded for the Dolphins was more alarming than one defeat to a formidable opponent.
The Dolphins are frustrated and confused and -- worst of all -- sounded like they were doubting themselves after the Baltimore Ravens thumped them 26-10.
Halfway into the season, the Dolphins are a .500 club that doesn't seem to know what it is or what it can be.
"I think it's obvious right now we can't beat the great teams," Miami receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We can't beat the good teams. I can't put my finger on it. We just shoot ourselves in the foot."
The Dolphins' losses are to each of the teams rated No. 1 through 4 in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings. The New England Patriots, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers previously defeated them.
The schedule has been unkind, but Dolphins owner Stephen Ross predicted they would go to the Super Bowl. The Dolphins can't go 0-4 against the best teams in the league and consider themselves near elite.
On a day when the Cleveland Browns walloped the Patriots, a Dolphins' victory would have muddled up the AFC East standings.
But about a quarter into the game, the Ravens demonstrated they were in command.
Had Baltimore not continually frittered away opportunities, the score would have been much more lopsided. Baltimore was pathetic in the red zone, finishing with a touchdown once on seven trips.
The Ravens had the edge on offense, defense and special teams. They had the ball for 38 minutes, 22 seconds and rolled up 402 total yards. They doubled the Dolphins' 73 rushing yards. The Ravens didn't punt.
The Dolphins pride themselves on being a physical club, but they were dominated that way.
"We didn't tackle worth a crap," Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano said barely above a whisper. "We're a lousy tackling football team today, and we gave them opportunities by not getting people on the ground a couple times out there, didn’t execute calls properly, checkdowns to backs end up being big plays."
Ravens running back Ray Rice was virtually ignored by defenders a few times. Rice had a game-high seven catches for 97 yards in addition to his 83 yards rushing.
"It was a ridiculous performance by our defense," Dolphins inside linebacker Channing Crowder said. Crowder's frustrations boiled over in the third quarter, when Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain allegedly spit in his face. McClain denied Crowder's accusation.
The Dolphins' offense was sensational on its first possession, and the effect should have been inspiring for a struggling crew that went into the weekend with the NFL's second-fewest touchdowns.
Ronnie Brown ran six times for 45 yards. His first two carries went for 12 and 14 yards. Brown capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run, making it appear way too simple.
"We were knocking them off the ball," Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne said. "But then we didn't execute as well."
Brown had one more carry in the first half and two more in the second half.
The Dolphins didn't score another touchdown. They got inside the Ravens' 30-yard line twice more and managed one field goal. Late in the second quarter, they had a third down at the Ravens' 1-yard line and called a play-action pass. Henne's throw knuckled out of tight end Anthony Fasano's reach.
"That's a throw that I need to make," Henne said. "That was my fault. He was wide open."
Henne had a rough afternoon. He threw three interceptions -- not all his fault -- and didn't have a touchdown pass. Over his past three games, he has one TD and five interceptions.
Henne drew the ire of Miami's coaching staff three plays into the second half. On a third-and-10 play, he was forced to scramble and rather than fight for the first down, slid feet first for a 7-yard gain.
F-bomb screams about Henne's decision were audible from the Miami coaches booth adjacent to the press box.
Although the Ravens missed a field goal in the second quarter, they made more plays on special teams.
The Dolphins had 10 men on the field on a Ravens punt, leaving cornerback Cary Williams uncovered for a 13-yard first-down reception one play after the alleged spitting incident and subsequent skirmish. The Dolphins nearly gave up a safety on a kickoff return.
So what are the Dolphins? Are they a contender? Are they as average as their 4-4 record would suggest? Are they victims of a tough schedule?
Halfway into the season, they don't have a handle on any of those answers.
"We've been inconsistent all year, game to game, series to series," Marshall said. "We won't beat anybody playing the way we do with this up-and-down football. We've got to find solutions and eliminate these problems we're having."