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Dolphins' red-zone problems alive and well

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Posted Sept. 26, 2011 @ 3 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Despite the rocky start, all indications were that coordinator Brian Daboll had brought a spark to the Dolphins' offense and that Chad Henne had improved as a quarterback.

Unfortunately for Miami, the Dolphins are 0-3 due in part to the same problems from last season under former coordinator Dan Henning — an inability to get the ball into the endzone, and Henne's lack of late-game heroics.

Up until the Browns' final drive, the defense played a stout game, with one Sean Smith gaffe leading to the Browns' lone touchdown prior to the decisive drive. Colt McCoy's TD pass to Mohamed Massaquoi with 43 seconds left gave Cleveland the lead, and the win.

But the Dolphins never should have been in that situation.

The PFW Spin

The Dolphins' offense is 13th in the league. Their scoring offense? 27th. Last season, Miami finished 30th in the league in points, which certainly didn't help when five of its losses were by eight points or less.

In Week Three, Henne got the offense inside the Browns' 20-yard line three times, coming away with one touchdown and two field goals, but the failures shouldn't be limited to the red area. For this, let's focus on the 23-yard line, which the Dolphins penetrated a total of five times.

  • The Dolphins' first trip to the red zone was the only one that ended with a touchdown, thanks to a Henne-to-Daniel Thomas 10-yard TD pass on a screen play.
  • Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Miami was driving to go up by two scores when Reggie Bush coughed it up at the Browns' 22-yard line, turning the ball over.
  • With the game tied 7-7 at the end of the first half, a Henne-to-Brian Hartline completion set the Dolphins up first-and-goal at the Browns' eight-yard line. Two incompletions sandwiched around a three-yard run by Thomas and Dan Carpenter was forced to kick a short field goal.
  • Miami got to the Browns' five-yard line again in the third quarter after a long Hartline reception and a two-yard gain by Daniel Thomas. But an incomplete pass, a sack and an unnecessary-roughness penalty on Brandon Marshall moved them back to the Browns' 23-yard line. The result was another Carpenter field goal.
  • A 15-yard Browns unnecessary-roughness penalty put Miami at Cleveland's 23-yard line late in the fourth quarter with a chance to put the game away. Thomas rushed for three yards, Bush for no gain and Henne missed Davone Bess on a short pass. You guessed it: another Carpenter field goal that made it 16-10.

Five times inside the Browns' 23-yard line resulted in three field goals, one touchdown and a lost fumble. Thomas had four rushes for 11 yards in those situations, Bush had one rush for zero yards and a fumble and Henne completed 2-of-6 passes for 22 yards and was sacked once inside the Browns' 23.

Through three games, the Dolphins have five TDs and five field goals on 13 red-zone drives.

Then, when Henne got one more chance in the final seconds, the Browns gift-wrapped him an opportunity to get the Dolphins a win with two penalties. But three incompletions and an interception later, the quarterback whose fourth-quarter play was much-maligned last season showed that some things don't change, new coordinator or not.

Things are unraveling in Miami in a must-win season for Tony Sparano, Henne and GM Jeff Ireland. In addition to the lack of scoring, the defense has not played to its potential and the O-line is still struggling. Things don't get easier in Week Four against San Diego, where the Dolphins will have to score points to win.

Henne's overall game might have improved thanks to Daboll's schemes, but no one will notice if he can't get the ball in the endzone and win games.

 

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