Final Game 3 Observations

The Dolphins got the day off Tuesday to collect their thoughts before they start their preparations for Sunday's game at San Diego. For us it's a chance to take one last look at the most recent game, in this case the 17-16 loss at Cleveland.

• Any discussion of this game has to start with the final few minutes, which were ugly on both sides of the ball.

• The offense actually had the first shot at slamming the door on the Browns, with a first-and-10 from the Cleveland 23-yard line and a three-point lead. A touchdown here and the game is over. Instead the Dolphins went 3-yard run by Daniel Thomas, run for no gain by Reggie Bush and incomplete pass before Dan Carpenter kicked a field goal. Some have criticized the play-calling on that set, but that's called playing the result. If Bush breaks his run for 9 yards, it's a great call.

• The defensive sequence that followed, though, was bad. As in, real bad.

• We'll start with a coaching mistake, and that's the failure to throw the red flag to challenge the spot on a pass from Colt McCoy to Greg Little. The situation was this: It was second-and-five from the Browns 37-yard line, McCoy hit Little with a pass in the left flat, he spun around a tackle attempt and his knee appeared to hit the ground during that process. Little proceeded to move to the 46 for a first down. The replay clearly showed his knee hitting the ground, so the ball would have been spotted at about the 37 to make it third-and-5 instead of first-and-10 at the 46. The Dolphins had only one timeout left, so we'll figure that's why Tony Sparano didn't want to risk the challenge. But it should have been done.

• Next we move to the fourth-and-4 from the Dolphins 37-yard line when it appeared Cameron Wake forgot he was supposed to cover running back Montario Hardesty coming out of the backfield. We say this because Wake made a beeline for McCoy before making a quick U-turn when he saw Hardesty get out into the flat. The end result was that Hardesty was wide open and easily gained 10 yards.

• Jason Taylor got a sack against Houston when he correctly guessed the snap count and beat the tackle to the corner. But that move bit him bad when he was called for an offside on a third-and-10 from the Miami 27-yard line. As a guy who's been around, Taylor should have known better. Cleveland converted the third-and-5 on the next play.

• Not going to bash Jimmy Wilson for getting beat on the touchdown. The rookie actually had decent coverage, but just mis-timed his jump a little bit. The kid is going to be a good player.

• If you want to complain a cornerback mis-playing a ball for a touchdown, do that with Sean Smith, who lost track of the ball and never made a move for the pass that Josh Cribbs caught in the back of the end zone. Yes, it was a great catch by Cribbs, but Smith really was in position to make a play and didn't.

• All of that, however, probably wasn't as bad as that putrid last offensive series. The big problem is that it seemed the Dolphins were overly concerned with throwing near the sidelines because they had only one timeout left. The reality is that, yes, they only had one timeout, but they also only needed about 15 yards and they did have 36 seconds left. So there was no need to be so obsessed with the sidelines.

• The second-down pass to rookie Clyde Gates was the most questionable. No offense, but it's not like the Dolphins have connected on that pass often this year — preseason or regular season. It's a very low percentage play at a time when the Dolphins couldn't afford one of those.

• That last series continued a very ugly pattern for Chad Henne. This is what he's done the last two years with the Dolphins tied or trailing and under five minutes left: against the Jets, trailing by 8, 4-for-6 for 66 yards but one interception on fourth down; at Green Bay, 1-for-1 for 8 yards in overtime when the running game set up the game-winning field goal; vs. Pittsburgh, incompletion, 2-yard pass, interception; vs. Cleveland last year, three incompletions followed by a pick; vs. Buffalo, 7-for-10 for 57 yards but turned the ball over on downs; vs. Detroit, 7-for-9 for 58 yards with an interception returned for a touchdown for the winning margin for the Lions; at Cleveland this year, three incompletions followed by an interception. Yikes! Until that changes, Henne is going to be criticized. And rightfully so.

• Daniel Thomas had another good game and it's clear — again — he's the guy who should be the every-down back and not Reggie Bush.

• Brandon Marshall needs to make the tough catches and, better yet, he needs to avoid stupid penalties like the one he took near the goal line that forced Dan Carpenter to make a 41-yard field goal instead of a chippie 26-yarder.

• Speaking of Carpenter, he's obviously no longer automatic. It's just one of the many problems facing this team.

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