Was yesterday Opposite Day and no one warned us? The Bucs were good, the Fins looked bad, and a horrified earth recoiled in horror and rotated right off its axis.
Okay, we exaggerate, but there wasn’t much to like as the Dolphins squeaked out a 10-6 win against Tampa in a soggy game split by a storm delay. A win is a win unless it’s a bad win in the preseason, and then it becomes a reason for concern.
Here’s an idea of the rough start: Tampa Bay ran 25 plays in the first; Miami had only 3. It took almost the entire first half to produce a first down: the Dolphins were 3-and-out on three of their first four first-half possessions and then finally earned one via penalty. Those four possessions produced a whopping 46 yards of offense. Not exactly time to crank the T-Pain.
Part of the problem was the offensive line. The first-stringers gave up two sacks, a handful of quarterback hurries, and couldn’t create running lanes. A check against their job descriptions reveals that’s a pretty big fail.
On the other side of the ball, secondary didn’t fare a whole lot better. In the first quarter Byron Leftwich had 100 yards in the air. Byron Leftwich -- without the Bucs’ starting receivers Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. Bench-swabber Maurice Stovall owes Sean Smith and Will Allen dinner for turning him into a star last night -- the man who's caught only 20 passes in the last 3 years earned five last night with Allen or Smith in his lap.
On the plus side, Chad Pennington defied stereotype with a couple nice throws downfield, including a 45-yarder on the money to Brian Hartline. Hartline, who was playing for a starting job, did well – not stunning, but good enough to get another look next week. The pass rush was consistent, notching four sacks and a number of hurries.
It wasn’t enough to make up for the teams’ faults, though. "We have to make sure we don't let a win overshadow what we need to do," said Pennington afterward. There's little chance of that, if Tony Sparano's demeanor was any indication. We expect it’s going to be a long week for the boys before next Thursday’s final pre-season outing.
The New Times notes that both Dave Hyde at the Sun-Sentinel and Jeff Darlington at the Herald made similar points about how the lightning delay in the second quarter was actually God becoming angry at the Dolphins, which begs two questions: do sports reporters eventually end up on the same monthly cycle (except Greg Cote, he's been through the change already), and will Tony Sparano cause frogs to fall from the sky if Lex Hilliard fumbles again? The former is inevitable, so we’re off to buy an umbrella.