Monday, October 25, 2010

Timing is Everything, Even in Football

Did he cross? Didn't he cross? Who recovered? Was it Pig Ben? Was it Ikaika Alama-Francis? Was it Jesus?

By now, everybody knows that the line judge called it a touchdown in live action and blew the play dead as his arms went up. Tony Sparano challenged it and, it looked to me, like it was clearly a fumble. Then Gene Steratore, the head official, ruled that it was, in fact a fumble, but that there was no video evidence as to who recovered the ball. Thus, the ball was Pittsburgh's ball on about the 1 foot line and it was fourth down.

We've all been over the minutiae of the call. I'll admit it was one of the stranger calls I've seen, but just because it was strange doesn't mean it was wrong. Yet, I understand the Dolphins and their fans feeling that they got jobbed. I would probably be on their side if the timing were different. If that call was made with the clock showing 0:30 rather than 2:30, I'd feel like the Dolphins had no chance.

But that wasn't the case. The Dolphins got the ball back with 2:28 left in the game. They had one time out left, they would receive a kickoff from the worst kicker-offer in the entire NFL. And they were working against a Steelers defense decimated by injuries to key players, Aaron Smith and LaMarr Woodley.

So, what did they do? I'll let the official NFL gamebook do the talking:

J.Reed kicks 67 yards from PIT 30 to MIA 3. P.Cobbs to MIA 29 for 26 yards (R.Mundy; K.Lewis).

Miami Dolphins at 2:26, (1st play from scrimmage 2:19)

1-10-MIA 29 (2:19) R.Brown up the middle to MIA 31 for 2 yards (J.Harrison).

2-8-MIA 31 (2:03) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Henne pass incomplete short middle to A.Fasano.

Two-Minute Warning

3-8-MIA 31 (1:58) (Shotgun) C.Henne pass short left to L.Polite to MIA 33 for 2 yards (W.Gay).
4-6-MIA 33 (1:33) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Henne pass incomplete short right to R.Brown (J.Worilds).

Miami has a really good kicker who can hit figgies from 50 yards. They have one of the best, strongest receivers in the league in Brandon Marshall. They have an electric guy in Davone Bess. And they pick up 4 yards without even trying to get the ball to either one of those guys? You cannot be serious.

To say nothing of squandering two idiotic turnovers by the Steelers which gave the Dolphins the ball at the Steelers 22 and the Steelers 13, respectively, before even four minutes had elapsed in the game.

The Dolphins want to be considered an elite team. Then prove it. Elite teams take advantage of any breaks they get - turnovers, flukey bounces, weird calls. Nobody even remembers the Tuck Rule if the Patriots don't win the Super Bowl that year. Nobody remembers the Helmet Catch if the Giants don't go on to win that Super Bowl. The Dolphins didn't take advantage of two heinous turnovers to put the Steelers in a big hole early. Shame on them.

Elite teams also overcome some bad calls from time to time. Do you think Justin Beiber would have failed to move his team into field goal range? Would Manning the Greater? The Dolphins are good, but they've got a ways to go to be considered elite. You want to be elite? That's when you prove that you are. Even against a defense as good as the Steelers.

While I'm here, let's take a moment to revel in the Steelers' D's performance. The big knock on them last year was that they couldn't close out games, hold other teams down when they had the lead, in the 4th quarter. Well, they did just that on Sunday, on the road, in the heat, without the glue that holds the D together (Smith) and one of the most disruptive players in the league. For what it's worth, that was an impressive performance on the last defensive series.

Meanwhile, this guy just added another bullet point to his Hall of Fame resume. All alone at fourth all time for most consecutive games with a catch, and now in second place on the Steelers list with touchdowns, behind only the magnificent Franco Harris.

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