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  Can the Dolphins Avoid 0-2?
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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If the Dolphins repeat their sorry season-opening performance on offense this Monday night against the Colts, they will lose the game. Guaranteed.


Iíll take that a step further. If they are only half as bad as they were against the Falcons, they will lose the game. Guaranteed.


Fact is, when you turn the ball over four times and suffer four sacks, thereís a lot of improving thatís needed in a very short amount of time, especially when Peyton Manningís pulling the trigger for the other guys. With Manning, it doesnít take many three-and-outs to get left in the dust. Thatís why the offense must find answers and soon.


The good news, if you will, is that what unfolded against Atlanta was uncharacteristic. As such, one cannot help but believe that improvement will be forthcoming. The worry is whether or not the fixes will be swift enough, timely enough, including those coming from unexpected places.


Left tackle Jake Long giving up two sacks? Preposterous!


Tight end Anthony Fasano catching two and fumbling two? Fuggedaboutit!


Quarterback Chad Pennington forgetting pocket presence and field vision? Impossible!


I use these interjections when I talk about Long, Fasano, and Pennington because they are the rocks of the offense, amongst the most dependable players the Dolphins have. You know youíve got troubles when they go wrong.


Thatís why it was so shocking to watch the proceedings on offense in the Georgia Dome. It wasnít so much what the Falcon defense did, a unit which isnít exactly a premier bunch, but what the Dolphin stalwarts failed to do that literally gift wrapped the win for the opponent.


I cannot remember a Dolphin game where three fundamentally sound players like Long, Fasano, and Pennington went so bad at the same time. Take Long for example. That was probably his worst game in six seasons, college and pro, this after whiffing on at least two occasions during the preseason.


Now John Abraham, his primary antagonist, is good; very good. But is he two sacks better than Long? Good enough to embarrass Long by bullrushing him into the ground? Not a chance. So one would think a healthy Long would be better against speed rushers than he was against Abraham.


Is Long injured, or did he just lack mental focus? Long says the latter. Sparano, after pulling out what little hair he has left, would probably agree.




So what about Fasano? Yeah, Mike Peterson stuck him pretty good on the first fumble, but that wasnít the first hard lick Fasanoís ever taken. In fact, his two cough-ups were his first dating back to before Notre Dame. Notre Dame! This, too, must make Sparano nuts.


"It just wasn't our brand of football," Fasano lamented.


No, it wasnít. Not when your offense features a $155 million line, a league MVP runner-up at QB, two Pro Bowl runners, and some good receivers. Not when they can only manage 7 points late in the fourth quarter against a mediocre defense.


That, friends, is a beat down. If it were the Ravens or Steelers, Iíd understand it. But the Falcons?


We saw warning signs during the preseason that the passing offense wasnít coming along smartly. Game 3 versus the Bucs would be a good example to look at. Could the Dolphins be choking on their own food? By this I mean that they are struggling to prepare for everything thatís in their playbook and, in the process, not doing much of it well.


The symptom of what ails the offense these days is plain and simple inconsistency. No two ways about it.


In his Falcon postgame press conferences, coach Tony Sparano cited turnovers as the big reason for the loss, quoting a statistic about how you only have a 10% chance of winning when you turn the ball over four times.


I assume he knows this because one of his stat guys studied every game where one or more teams turned the ball over four times. Actually, itís amazing that he even knew it at all.


What he didnít say is if he knows how to fix the cause of the ills against Atlanta in time to defeat Indy. I write this not out of disrespect for Sparano, but in reference to certain other nagging areas on the roster, like special teams, which thus far seem impervious to his corrective actions.


Not surprisingly, this weekís practice was not a pleasant affair. Call it Sparanoís way of getting peopleís attention. Don Shula used to handle things the same way on the heels of a loss, and you know how his career went.


Objectively, there is a silver lining here because the Dolphins did a lot of very good things against the Falcons. They ran the ball and stopped the other team from doing the same, and they got after the quarterback pretty good. These are all foundational elements of a championship team.


Pass defense? Still a bit of a worry considering the opportunities that Matt Ryan missed on. You can bet the ranch that Manning wonít miss those same opportunities. Heís not perfect, but the secondary will have to better than they were against Ryan if the Dolphins want a prayer of a chance in this one.


Same goes for the offense. Both quarterbacks, Pennington and Pat White, have to do a better job deciding and passing. The entire line has to remember their technique on every play. Receivers need to break off routes the right way on the blitz. Runners need to make sure they are solid in pass protection.


If everyone does their job, Monday Night will be a party. If not, itíll be 0-2 and a trip to San Diego with far too many unanswered questions.

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