The Phinal Word: Are The Miami Dolphins Scared Of The Deep End?

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The Phinal Word: Are The Miami Dolphins Scared Of The Deep End?
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

I'll be blunt: the most excited I got all Sunday was when Chad Pennington's nose exploded.

Not because of my insatiable bloodlust, because you know, it's insatiable. But because I saw evidence that blood actually ran through the Dolphins instead of motor oil.

Pennington played an entire drive looking like he'd just squared off against George Foreman. It had me on my feet yelling an acapella version of the Rocky theme song.

The whole scene was awe-inspiring, and I was captivated up until Ronnie Brown and Pennington's successful punt. Or should I say fumbled touchback? It was too surreal to describe.

The point is that I was excited; it looked like Miami was ready to start exhibiting some passion. Because let's face it, the product on the field has been like a tour of a library.

Boooooooooooring. Informative (love that microfiche), but boring.

After three weeks, it's clear that Miami has a knack for controlling the football. Their drives are planned down to such an extent that Pennington was penciled in for water breaks at 5:30 and 5:37. The offense is a machine that churns it's way down the field.

And it works.

Watching Miami's offense play is inspiring. The way they manage to slowly matriculate themselves down the field is enough to make Mike Martz vomit with rage.

That being said, Miami is 0-3. And it's because the offense is lacking in testicular fortitude.

You could blame the defense for the losses (the secondary has been particularly culpable), but opponent scores of 19, 27 (ehhh, maybe that one, Peyton Manning was averaging a touchdown every five minutes of possession), and 23, shouldn't be insurmountable. Not in today's NFL, where every week is like being drunk on a roller coaster.

L'Audace, l'audace, l'audace.  

Miami's offense boasts one of the most innovative schemes this decade in the Wildcat. So why is everything else in Miami's playbook so vanilla? Would it kill them to throw a pass longer than 10 yards?

The infamous draw against Indianapolis on 3rd-and-6 stood between Miami and a win. Playing it safe gets Peyton Manning tapdancing over your team's corpse. And you better believe he's throwing in some jazz hands.

Here's an example of Miami's wussiness: Philip Rivers longest throws of the day were 55 and 47-yard completions to Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd, respectably. Miami's two longest completions were a 27-yard wheel route to Ronnie Brown and an earth-shattering 14-yard toss to Davone Bess (in contrast, Rivers also had 30 and 19-yard hook-ups). 

The Ronnie Brown catch was thrown by Chad Henne, whose days of jabbing his Pennington voodoo doll are over. Henne is supposed to have something of an arm; Miami's play-calling for him looked like a child's My First Playbook.

It's been a season-long trend. The Fins have averaged a paltry 5.4 yards per completion, compared to 9.1 for their opponents. Before Pennington's injury, his longest pass was only 21-yards.

See, Miami's offense is perfect for being ahead of teams. It's designed to hold the ball and minimize turnovers. But when the unexpected arises (the touchback, Pennington's injury), it's limitations are all too apparent.

Sure, maybe Miami's receivers could have broken free after making one of their intermediary catches. It's possible. But what prior indicator could possibly point to that happening? Miami's offense lives in a world from the line of scrimmage to 15-yards. Before the ball is snapped, they've bottled themselves.

Even the Wildcat is trapped in the bottle. Miami has barely tried a throw from it; Pat White's appearances are mostly runs (he's got one pass attempt). How long will defenses honor the pass threat and start moving into the box? Of course, that could be exactly what the offense is waiting for...

So when Miami got behind against San Diego, the outcome was almost preordained. The mechanical nature of Miami's offense makes me wonder if John Connor is about to show up. Let's look at one more example before I crawl back to bed Brian Wilson-style.

Fourth quarter, 6:53 on the clock, San Diego 16, Miami 6, the ball is on Miami's 20. On first-and-10, Henne completes short left to Bess for three yards. On second-and-7, Ricky Williams rushes for eight and gets the first down. Yay! We can win this thing!

On first-and-10 from their 31, Henne goes short left...again, intending to hit Bess again, but instead hits San Diego's Eric Weddle in stride for a pick-six. Feel free to swear. 

This is pure speculation, but when you limit your offense to such a small section of the field the opposing team can start to shrink their schemes to adjust. And even though it's Chad Henne and you don't want to rush him, it's also Week Three of the season, and it's time to win a game.

A nice five-minute drive is great, but Miami needed two scores to even think about winning this game. The situation necessitated some haste and pizazz.

And here's the thing: Henne can throw. He's supposed to be the quarterback with the cannon. When Pennington is in, he's the guy who owns that 15-yard bottle, no one is better than Chad No. 1 in the bottle. But when you've got Chad No. 2 in, air it out, he can do it.

Miami's receivers aren't the fleetest of foot, but I'm sure they can move quickly. They do play in the NFL after all, a place where an offensive lineman could run down a cheetah...over ten yards...on the moon.

Football is chaos trapped within white lines: All a coach can do is decide what ideas and personnel go into the field's confines. Tony Sparano needs to start pushing for deeper routes, because sometimes things can't be controlled. It's a competitive game and sometimes you're forced to innovate while in-game. The meltdown of a two-minute drill against Indy was proof enough for change.

So what happens when the control freak meets the uncontrollable? If I know anything about football (nine innings, right?), it's that you have to adapt to the situation you're in. It's the main reason why Tom Coughlin stopped trying to use the New York Giants to power his rejuvenation machine, eschewing his evil ways for a more accessible persona.

Next week, hopefully we'll see Miami go with the flow. Chances are they will anyways as Pennington, the man who always got hurt, got hurt. Fins fans should hold nothing against Pennington; he was responsible for the playoff vacation last year. I wish him the best.

Of all the 0-3 teams in the NFL, Miami feels like the best. Score one for oxymorons.

Until next week, which may just be a string of profanities, I'm Geoff Zochodne.

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