Once again, fans of the Burgundy and Gold get to bleed for their team. Not for lack of the team’s efforts, but once again because the coaching staff played not to lose, resulting in a not so surprising loss. Adjustments were made away from a successful, high percentage passing attack to a lower percentage, stretch the field attack, with predictable results. The defense, aggressive for two and half quarters, keeping the opposing quarterback on his heels, adjusted right out of what worked and into making Jay Fieldler and Dave Wannstedt look like candidates for Hall of Fame berths. The Dolphins accomplished something in this game they haven’t since 1980 – coming back from so large a deficit to win.
Tim Hasselbeck was very impressive with his short passing game. He hit receivers that were open and didn’t try to press down the field in the first half, completing most of his passes with no mistakes and no sacks. He changed that in the second half, trying to stretch the field against a good Dolphins defense, trying to take what wasn’t there. Don’t misunderstand; the player wasn’t the one making the decision. The coach, in the infinite wisdom of what ain’t broke must be broken, changed the play calling, asking a 4 week old, never started quarterback to play like Joe Montana with his corps of receivers. The Hog Noses? The offensive line for doing a superb job of both run and pass blocking, Laverneus Coles for his spectacular touchdown catch and Tim Hasselbeck for showing that he can run this offense.
The run game was very well based, especially in the first half. Draws and inside runs kept the Dolphins off balance, keeping them from guessing what was coming next. As stated above, the offensive line opened holes and both Trung and Morton sped through them. Trung and Morton both showed what their speed was all about now that the both of them are starting to get back to full strength. The Hog Noses would have to go to them both for their well executed runs against a particularly stingy run defense with Seau and Thomas at linebacker, men who perpetually smell the ball and gravitate to it.
As the Redskins’ year has gone, so has the defense. Spectacular plays are followed by eye closing, shake your head plays. The defense stuffed Ricky Williams and the Dolphins offense in the first half, whether by run or pass, barring the first touchdown on a burnt David Terrell. The aggressiveness of the defense seemed to shock the Dolphins, with pressure continually in the backfield on Griese. The second half, particularly after Griese was pulled in favor of Fiedler, saw the defense sitting back in the Cover 2 defense with everyone sitting back to see who is going to get a hitch pass thrown to them. Poor tackling on a couple of plays and poor angles taken first by Bowen on the long touchdown and Bailey on a long Ricky Williams run made a very large difference in the game. The sit back and wait for the opponent to come to the defensive players is killing the Skins this year, and this game eclipsed it. Blitz, stunt, pressure – 10 points – and it shouldn’t have been 10. The pass in the beginning was a bad play on Terrell, not great by Griese. Sit back and wait – 14 easy points with longish drives that kept the Skins from getting on the field and establishing a rythym.
Hall was very good tonight with a stiff breeze with 3 perfect field goals that left no one wondering, and some very nice kickoffs. Barker had his worst punt of the year at the time least affordable, a horrible 26 yard shank out of bounds. Morton had a couple of good kick returns, and one that really looked like it had gone the distance before he was tackled after a 42 yard return. The coverages were about as good as they could get, containing the Dolphins and recovering a fumble from a muffed punt. However, it was the costly fumble on the last punt of the game that sealed the fate of the Redskins, with Patrick Johnson allowing the ball to hit him in the chest and promptly not falling on it that ended any hopes of a final drive. The Redskins actually had the situation in hand until that point with decent enough position had he just fair caught the ball, but the Dolphins recovered and promptly won the game. This should be the clearest signal to Mike Stock to put Chad back in as a punt returner, sitting PJ down until time for receiver duties come along.