The Dolphins-Broncos game last night was the best NFL game so far this season. Intensity from the kickoff until the last tick of the clock. I am amazed on many levels that the Dolphins pulled it out. For starters, and I know I keep repeating this, Jay Fiedler is not the kind of quarterback that can lead a team from behind. Fiedler caught a major break when his last pass of the game slipped through the non-stick hands of John Mobley and Dedric Ward managed to hold on to it. That was just enough to give Olindo Mare a chance to win it with 6 seconds left. 39 seconds after Jason Elam's nailed a 55-yarder and then high-stepped along the Miami sideline, Mare answered by drilling a 53-yarder of his own to win it. On the replay, it looked like that kick would have been good from 60 yards out. Considering how much the Dolphins struggle on the road and how often they lose to teams that are as good or better than them, this was the best Dolphin win in years. They let a 10-point lead evaporate in the last eight minutes, but didn't succomb to the change in momentum and showed incredible fortitude in fighting back to win it. Phenomenal effort from Jason Taylor and the defensive line. The Broncos front seven dominated a large portion of the game and it wasn't until Patrick Surtain returned a fourth quarter Brian Griese pass for a touchdown that either team had any kind of control of the game.
Sam Madison had an interesting night. He appeared to intercept a ball in the end zone, but the replay clearly showed he dropped it. Because ESPN went to a TV timeout, the Broncos had time to see the play on the Jumbotron at the stadium. Mike Shanahan immediately challenged the play and it was overturned. Madison returned to the field with a big smile on his face, nodding his head, and chanting "I'll get mine. I'll get mine." A short time later, he got his, making a real nice play to pick off Griese.
Ricky Williams is a tough guy. He carried 20 times and struggled for every one of his 49 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, plus he caught 4 balls for 30 yards, taking a beating in the process. The Broncos have an outstanding run defense and they were hitting extremely hard all night. Al Wilson popped Ricky but good in fourth quarter. However, last night and hopefully for the rest of the season and career, Ricky embodied the spirit of the Dolphins -- nothing came easy, he got knocked down repeatedly, but he kept getting up, coming back, and fighting hard.
I have very mixed feelings about Dave Wannestadt as a coach. It's hard to argue that he didn't have the team prepared, because the Dolphins most definitely rose to the occasion to show they were a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. But I question his in-game coaching methods. Following a Bronco touchdown to cut it to a two point game, the Dolphins got the ball back with three minutes and change left on the clock. The first play they ran was a pass to Ricky Williams in the flat that was successful, but ended with Ricky landing out of bounds and stopping the clock. The Dolphins ran another pass play on second down that went incomplete and stopped the clock yet again. So, here they are in exactly the position they want to be in, leading in the fourth quarter with a chance to let Ricky Williams run out the clock, and they've run off eight seconds on the drive. Luckily, Oronde Gadsen made a great catch on a very low throw on thrid down to extend the drive and keep the clock moving. But, they failed to get another first down and wound up punting it back to the Broncos with enough time for them to drive. And then, when the clock was stopped late and the Broncos were already in field goal range, the Dolphins called a time out. I couldn't believe they would waste a time out, knowing the Broncos would probably make the field goal and the Dolphins would need everything they had to put together a drive of their own. Thankfully, none of these coaching blunders cost the Phins the game. Wannestadt must've done something right in motivating these guys and making them believe they could win right up until the bitter end.