Turnovers, costly mistakes doom Dolphins

Chad PenningtonThe Miami Dolphins’ blue print for success in 2008 was rather simple when you think about it: Play good defense, keep opposing teams off-balance and don’t turn the ball over. Those three facets helped the Fins go from 1-15 to 11-5 in just one offseason and propelled them to their first playoff appearance since 2001.

The last time the Dolphins were in the playoffs, they were stifled by a Baltimore Ravens team that held them to only three points in a 20-3 loss in the Wild Card round. Déjà vu struck for the Dolphins again on Sunday, as the Ravens’ defense once again played a huge role in shutting Miami down in their 27-9 Wild Card victory.

The Dolphins did just two of the three things that helped get them to the postseason. They limited the Ravens to just 286 total yards, but five turnovers and one costly mistake by second-year receiver Ted Ginn Jr. doomed them over the course of the game.

Chad Pennington was at the center of Miami’s turnover parade, tossing four interceptions – one of which was returned for a 64-yard touchdown by Baltimore safety Ed Reed. It looked as if Pennington was trying to erase the perception that he lacks arm strength by throwing the ball down field and forcing passes into coverage. His fourth and final interception came in the red zone while the game was still somewhat close at 20-3 late in the third quarter. Patrick Cobbs also fumbled early in the second half, which led to an 8-yard Le’Ron McLain touchdown, while Ginn fumbled the hand off on an end-around and while he eventually recovered the mistake, it eventually killed a potential scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter.

This was a frustrating loss for the Dolphins because they played so out of character. It’s hard enough to beat the Ravens, let alone beat them when you turn the ball over five times. One bad loss doesn’t erase what a great season Pennington or the Dolphins had, but this was a game that highlighted the team’s need for more playmakers on offense. Ginn, Ronnie Brown and Davone Bess can make plays in the open field, but the Dolphins will need to keep adding more pieces to their offense before they can move any further.

Still, what an amazing ride for Miami. Nobody expected this team to be in the playoffs this year and it’ll be interesting to see what they do in the offseason in efforts to keep improving. It’ll also be interesting to see whether or not Bill Parcells stays with the team, or returns to the sidelines like rumor has it.

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