Monday, September 24, 2012

Fins' crunch-time decisions critical in loss to Jets


The story of the the Miami Dolphins' 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Jets Sunday was missed opportunities, most notably two missed late-game field goals.

The entire afternoon was a messy affair, with both quarterbacks playing inefficiently and key players from each side going down with injuries. Despite drops, penalties and ugly interceptions, the Jets found a way to walk away with a win. In games like these, the outcome is usually decided by leadership and coaching decisions.

Which is exactly why the Dolphins fell short.

Mark Sanchez followed up his anomalous Week 1 light-show with his second consecutive lousy performance but was able to make the key plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime that the Dolphins couldn't.

During that same timespan, Joe Philbin and the Dolphins' coaching staff made a number of questionable decisions. Specifically, on their final drive of regulation down 20-17, they chose to fire two deep balls to the end zone rather than trying to push closer for a more realistic game-winning touchdown.

Instead, with three timeouts in their pockets and 33 seconds left, they took the two futile shots at the end zone and essentially settled for the equalizing field goal. There's obviously no guarantee they could have gotten in for six points, but to concede so readily is disheartening for the fans.

The players weren't happy with outcome either.

"It's frustrating," Ryan Tannehill said regarding that final-minute drive, according to the team's website. "I think we left some plays out there...we had our chances, so it didn't just come down to a kick or anything like that. So yeah, it's frustrating."

The sequence seemed to be a part of an overall strategy to keep the game out of Tannehill's hands, by limiting the play-calls to just 36 passes to 43 running plays. The vast majority of those passes were short out patterns and comeback routes.

The conservative play-calling is one way to limit mistakes, such as the third quarter interception that was returned for the Jets' first touchdown, but it places the pressure on the kickers and defense to control the game.

Unfortunately for Miami, kicker Dan Carpenter would miss two long field goals and the defense would eventually allow a few big plays, giving the Jets just enough opportunities to pull this one out.

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