Miami's Offense Answered The Bell In First Test; Other Notes

Posted Sep 13, 2011

Coming into the 2011 season the biggest question mark surrounding the Miami Dolphins had to do with how this new offense under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would look. One game in, the answer was a positive one.

As Head Coach Tony Sparano pointed out today in his day-after press conference, the 488 total yards of offense his team put up in last night’s 38-24 loss to New England were the second most in the entire NFL in Week 1. Keeping up with an offensive juggernaut like the Patriots is not easy, and the play of quarterback Chad Henne, specifically when it came to his audibles, was encouraging.
“In any situation last night where Chad had to manage front or coverage I thought he handled it really well,” Sparano said. “We didn’t get ourselves into really any bad plays that way. In other words we didn’t get into anything that at the line of scrimmage was a blunder by Chad. Chad handled all those situations really well.”
Henne, who went 30-of-49 for 416 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards and rush for more than 50 yards in the same game. He finished as Miami’s leading rusher with 59 yards and a rushing touchdown, making some impressive plays with his feet.
Anytime your quarterback, who is not known as a scrambler, can be mentioned in the same sentence as Hall-of-Famer Steve Young, you can take something good out of that effort. Only young had more combined passing and rushing yards when he threw for 449 and rushed for 50 against the Buffalo Bills back in 1992. Bobby Layne in 1958 and Matt Cassel in 2008 are the other two quarterbacks to have accomplished the feat.
Henne targeted seven different receivers on the night, which is a good indication of how much he tried to spread the ball around. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (13) and running back Reggie Bush (10) got the most attention, but tight end Anthony Fasano was targeted six times and caught five passes for 82 yards. He had a one-handed catch that set up the first touchdown and finished with three catches over 20 yards, which stood out to Sparano.
“What Anthony did for us yesterday is he won some one-on-one match-ups against them,” Sparano said. “I think that’s important. It’s one think if Brandon or Bess or Hartline are winning those one-on-ones but if the tight end can start to win some of those one-on-ones you’re going to see what you saw last night.”
Sparano counted 15 big plays by the offense, which by his method constitutes a pass play of 20 yards or more or a running play of 10 yards of more. Four of those plays happened on the opening drive of the game, which ended with Henne’s 9-yard touchdown run.
All throughout training camp and the preseason Henne and Sparano described Daboll’s offense as an attacking offense and that’s what they achieved last night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough against New England, but it’s something the Dolphins can continue to build on as the season goes on.
“It’s not a good thing when you lose the football game, but big plays were generated because you won some match-ups,” said Sparano, whose offense last year finished 30th overall in the league. “Brandon wins in the first play of the game, Bess wins and runs after the catch and some of those things are really big plays during the game. I think the more we can win the one-on-ones the better we’ll be.”
POUNCEY AND ODRICK GET PASSING GRADES: Rookie center Mike Pouncey had the unenviable task of trying to block Pro Bowl defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth and was given a valuable lesson. But he also held his own during the course of game, while defensive end Jared Odrick showed the promise he was tagged with last year as the team’s first-round pick.
“Both players I would tell you did enough good things to really make you feel good about where we’re going,” Sparano said. ‘Again, they’re two young players and you’ve got to look at Jared just like Pouncey in this situation like he’s a rookie. He probably wouldn’t want me to say that but he didn’t play a whole lot last year.”
Odrick finished with two tackles, one pass defensed and an interception that he returned 39 yards to set up Miami’s second touchdown of the night. Pouncey had at least one pancake block on Haynesworth and handled the line calls and shotgun snaps without incident.
“All of that being said there’s enough things on film of both of those players from an inconsistency standpoint that needs to get better,” Sparano added. “The good news is this is week one and it’s not Week 8 or 9, so you have to assume that these things are just going to get better via practice and playing. They need game reps and last night I thought Jared when he got in the flow of the game and started to become more active and make a few more plays. At different points in the game Pouncey was really good and of course there were some things he needs to do a little better and see a little quicker.”
DEFENSE NEEDS TO REBOUND: As tough a loss as it was for Miami in front of the home crowd and inside the division, there is no time to dwell on it as Sparano expressed. He acknowledged the poor play overall of the secondary while highlighting some good individual performances, like safety Reshad Jones’ team-high 12 tackles the play of Odrick.
Of course a short memory is crucial in the NFL, but Sparano wants to make sure that unit learns from went wrong against the Patriots. Miami hosts the Houston Texans on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium at 4:15 p.m.
“We’ve got to turn the page here fast. As I said to them last night in the locker room, the clock runs and Houston has a jump on us right now,” Sparano said. “But we do have to see the corrections, make no mistake about that. We just can’t dismiss giving up that many yards out there (622 to the Patriots). There’s enough things out there with big plays, which is something that we don’t want to allow and we allowed them last night. There’s enough things on film right now to clean up and to get better at that we can’t just dismiss it and get on to Houston. We’re going to have to spend some time at it and watch it.
“All that being said, when we hit the practice field there’s no room for long faces right now. Long faces will get you at 0-2 and we need to be able to put that stuff behind us and get going. I tell them all the time, there’s two places that you go in this league every week. You go to heaven or you go to hell and last night we went to hell, but we’re going to get to heaven.”
Game Pass: Miami Dolphins