On Sunday, September 14, 2008, Week 2 of the NFL regular season, the 0-1 Miami Dolphins marched into Phoenix, Arizona to take on the 1-0 Arizona Cardinals. 60 minutes of football later, the Dolphins swam back to Miami after absorbing an embarrassing 31-10 rout. The Dolphins couldn't seem to do anything right, but here are the three things that doomed them totally to being on the wrong side of a blowout.
1. Awful pass defense.
I really don't know where to start with this one. The secondary for the Dolphins was incredibly bad. It started on 3rd down on the first drive of the game, where Chris Crocker left Anquan Boldin alone on a safety blitz. Linebacker Akin Ayodele couldn't pick Boldin up, and Boldin rumbled to a 72 yard touchdown. Then, Will Allen, who had said that he would contend well with Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald before the Week 2 matchup, was shaken off on the second drive, and Fitzgerald took it into the Dolphins' red zone, where Boldin caught another touchdown pass. And so it went, and Kurt Warner ended up 19 for 24 with 361 yards and three touchdowns, all to Boldin, and an incredible 158.3 passer rating.
2. Bad blocking.
Chad Pennington had a relatively easy time in Week 1 against the Jets. He had time on most of his throws, and the few times the Dolphins ran, they didn't look terrible. But the front five on Sunday, missing starter Donald Thomas, couldn't seem to do anything right. The running game was putrid, other than a few tosses and sweeps. When Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams tried to run inside the tackles, they were quickly overwhelmed by a sea of red jerseys. This ended up in a lot of three and outs.
The young Dolphins were very sloppy Sunday afternoon. They committed stupid penalties, just like Week 1, but they seemed to have spread from Joey Porter and Jake Long, the two main culprits in Week 1, to the entire team. Two penalties really stand out from this stinkfest. In the second quarter, the Cardinals were up 14-0. A tough start for the hapless Dolphins, but not insurmountable. On fourth down, Neil Rackers lined up to attempt a 48 yard field goal. Rackers missed to the left, but the miss and subsequent turnover on downs was called back for twelve men on the field. Later in the game, the Cards were knocking on the door again, when Kurt Warner was sacked by rookie Kendall Langford, who has been the only bright spot on a dismal defense. But, alas, Langford grabbed the aging quarterback's face mask during the tackle, resulting in fifteen yards and an automatic first down. The drive ended in a one-yard touchdown by Tim Hightower.
Although the Dolphins were dominated for most of the game, towards the end of a meaningless fourth quarter, the Dolphins possibly saw a vision of the future. Chad Pennington was lifted while down 31-3, and replaced by rookie Chad Henne, who was seeing his first regular season action of his career after an impressive preseason. Henne drove 90 yards down the field quickly, and looked great along the way. Henne threw accurate passes with good zip, and only threw one bad pass, over the head of Ernest Wilford. Two of his passes were incomplete to inattentive receivers, Ronnie Brown and Davone Bess, who has looked impressive as a receiver and kick returner. Another ball was dropped in the end zone by Brown. Although the Dolphins were demolished, Henne certainly gave me hope for the future.