Well, so much for the 2007 Miami Dolphins following in the footsteps of their 1972 counterparts; these fins aren't going to be perfect. With an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon, the Dolphins find themselves 0-1. It can only go up from here. At least, that's what we're hoping.
Now, let's not be too hard on the Dolphins. After all, they were playing the season opener on the road. With zealous fans full of eight months of bent up cheering, the road is one place you don't want your home opener to be. The road is where Dolphins, and other teams, act like fish out of water.
Road and all, the Dolphins didn't look horrible: with a game tied at the end of regulation, it's obvious they played their opponents tight. Plus, several NFL teams also looked shaky in their 2007 debut: the Cardinals, the 49ers, the Jets, even the NFC favorite Eagles. We could chalk it all up to nerves.
We could, but let's not.
Instead, let's chalk it up to two things going very wrong: the Dolphins failed to deliver at the most important times and their inability to stop the run made Clinton Portis look like his old self. Together, these factors resulted in a three point deficit, and a mark in the loss column.
Still, let's not dwell too long on the bad: there were a few things for the Dolphins to be happy about. Let's start with Trent Green.
A man who appears to have eased into Cam Cameron's offense, Green was 24-for-38 for 219 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. His stats would have even been better had his receivers (ahem, David Martin) held onto balls that should have been catches. Nonetheless, he made his debut a good one. Look for his level of performance to go up with his level of comfort. His ability to find Chris Chambers is also reason for optimism; if they can begin to connect on deep balls, good things will happen.
On the not so bright side, the Dolphins' running game looked like a stopped train: what happened to the predicted career year for Ronnie Brown? With only 47 yards rushing from Brown and Jesse Chatman, the Dolphins are going to have to do something about gaining ground. One option, and this is just kind of a crazy suggestion, is for the offensive lineman to actually block.
The Dolphins' pass and rush defenses were equally dismal: had they been playing a team more offensively productive than Washington, the game could have been a blow out. While they did a nice job of shutting down Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El had a Randy Moss-like day, grabbing five catches for – ouch – 162 yards. The Washington running game also had a heyday, getting 191 yards. The Dolphins, however, did have two interceptions and performed well in the game's first half… let's hope that's just a start.
First round draft pick Ted Ginn, Jr. didn't do anything grand enough to silence the "Why didn't you draft Brady Quinn" criticizers, but he had a solid day, including a kickoff return that went for 34 yards. Here's to him going the distance sometime in the next few games.
Overall, the first loss can really be attributed to mistakes – dropped passes and inserting wrong defenses – more than it can be blamed on lack of talent. The Dolphins' talent is there, they just need it to swim to the surface.