I want to start by turning back the clock for a moment, and I cannot promise this will be a good thing. In fact, it might get ugly. As Lemony Snicket says, the Littlest Elf is out there somewhere if it’s happiness you are looking for.
Specifically, I want to go back to week two of this 2009 NFL, and more specifically, to the last moment of play in the game.
At 1-0, not one of us watching the game- not one person alive, has considered that the Indianapolis Colts, badly outplayed for 59 minutes, might be en route to a perfect season. It is the furthest thing from anyone's minds.
And then, out of the shotgun, Chad Pennington fires the ball deep into the Colts end zone. Both the Colts defender and Miami receiver Ted Ginn Jr. go up for the ball. But as they both go up in the air, the Colts defender falls away from the contact from with Ginn. He falls facing the rear of the end zone, meaning that he has no chance for an intercerption. None.
Ginn is in the perfect position to catch the pass and win the game for Miami. He has already won the contact battle in the millisecond before the ball arrives. Not to flog this, but again: the defender is falling away from the play.
The ball strikes Ginn in the hands. With the game on the line, against a team whose destiny might be to derail the Dolphins most cherished team legacy, Chad Pennington, a quarterback who is often criticized for not having the big arm, throws a beautiful 42 yard pass into the end zone, and with the defender falling away perfectly, Ted Ginn drops the game winning pass.
Or does he?
Some historians of that play say that Ginn slapped the ball away, that somehow, through an incredible twist of fate, that Ginn took upon himself the role of cornerback, and the Colts defender, the receiver falling out of the play. Ginn, momentarily frightened by the contact with the defender, and well aware of the hurricane of scorn already directed his way for dropping too many passes, sensed danger and thought the prudent thing was to slap the ball away to prevent an interception. Even though the ball was right there in his hands to win the game.
But the defender was falling away. I saw that from the comfort of my own sofa, a crumpled empty bag of Doritos strewn beside me. And Chad Pennington put the ball in Ginn’s hands to win the game, a game that might have altered the course of history. It almost certainly would have altered the Dolphins season.
I realize it has become fashionable to bash Ted Ginn. A former Dolphin great called him “a coward.” I can only imagine what the radio talk shows have said. Children, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, members of the clergy, have in turn taken their shots. I am sure it has been beaten to death ad nauseam. And for someone with the speed of a cheetah, the irony that Ginn is largely a standing target as opposed to a moving target is not lost on any of us.
Further, I am also aware that Peyton Manning torched the Dolphins secondary that night in September, that Gibril Wilson, to point another finger, not only blew several tackles, but found himself out of position several times that night; that Pennington, with one shot left in the game, threw an interception to Alvin Bethea in the Colts end zone; that Ginn also had 11 receptions for over 100 yards that night.
But the fact of the matter is that I cannot get that 42 yard pass out of my mind.
And if that happens, you can choose to remember whatever you want from the 2009 season. As for myself, I will remember a perfectly thrown pass by Chad Pennington with just a handful of seconds left to win a game against the Indianapolis Colts in week two of the season.