MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Dolphins traveled to Cleveland ready to take on the world to show they weren’t the 0-2 team the record showed. The Dolphins were right, they weren’t that 0-2 team; they’re the 0-3 team that is now barely treading water in the AFC East.
Statistically, there’s no way the Dolphins should have lost to the Browns. The Fins rushed for nearly 140 yards and threw for another 231 yards. But time after time, the Dolphins proved that the best way to keep them off your lawn is to put up goal posts.
“Statistics don’t matter; the end result matters,” head coach Tony Sparano said. “Winning the football game and at the end of the football game they made more plays than we did.”
As has been the case for the Dolphins this season and last season, they couldn’t finish the job on long drives. The Fins had drive of 11 plays for 75 yards, 14 plays for 70 yards, and 8 plays for 39 yards, but could only manage a total of nine points.
“This is a couple of weeks in a row where we didn’t play well in the red area,” Sparano said.
The Fins just didn’t have it in them to complete the task at hand, which is becoming a glaring problem for the team.
“They just gotta believe we’re going to win and I do believe that group in that room believes that we are going to win,” Sparano said. “We’re 0-3 and that’s what we have to show for it.”
Dolphins rookie cornerback Jimmy Wilson said he mistimed his jump on the final touchdown pass. It was a tragic ending to Wilson’s play in the game, which included a first-half interception. There was plenty of blame to go around, from a Reggie Bush fumble to dumb penalties.
The Fins were outdueled in the final minutes of the game when Browns second-year quarterback Colt McCoy calmly lead his team down for a touchdown to take the lead. Needing around 20 yards to get into Dan Carpenter’s range to win the game, the Fins came up with zero behind quarterback Chad Henne.
“Quite honestly, the last drive of the game, we did a couple of dumb things,” Sparano said. “In the fourth quarter we had four penalties, and that’s not good at crunch time.”
It was just Henne’s game-ending interception that put away the Fins. It was a complete lack of fire to put the Browns away, despite numerous chances. Still, Sparano said he’s seeing improvement, even if it’s not translating to victories.
“I mean if you look at game one to game three right now, there was a lot of progress made out there in the form of some of the things you’re doing when you’re playing,” Sparano said.
Still, it’s tough to put a lot of merit into what Sparano is seeing due to his continued insistence that running back Reggie Bush can be a between-the-tackles runner. In Sunday’s game, Bush averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and fumbled twice.
It’s not all bad for the Dolphins though. The Fins may have found a running back in Daniel Thomas however. He had 95 yards on 23 carries and a 10-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Plus, despite Wilson taking the blame for the loss, he did pull down an interception which is rare for the Fins-Defense.
But the defense’s problems are more about pressure on the opposing quarterback, namely that they’re not getting any pressure. No Fins defender pulled down Colt McCoy yesterday, despite Cleveland having a patchwork offensive line.
The Dolphins have more questions than answers and now must try to stop the bleeding by traveling to San Diego to take on the surging Chargers. The Fins have a tough time against star quarterbacks, and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers is looking forward to taking on a reeling Fins defense.
The biggest question for the Fins now is how long will owner Stephen Ross wait until he makes a decision to can Sparano? If the Fins lose to the Chargers and start out 0-4, then Sparano is likely done as head coach.
If Ross is going to make a change mid-season, week four would be it as the team gets a bye the next week before facing the New York Jets. The Fins have a chance after that to win a few games because they play the Broncos, Chiefs, and Redskins in the weeks following the Jets game.
But, for a team struggling to sell tickets after the owner focused more on trying to attract celebrities than putting a solid team together, any more losses could end the Fins’ blackout-free streak.
Only time will tell, but the Fins had better start winning or the fickle South Florida fans will take their money elsewhere quickly.