Final Game 4 Observations

Now that owner Stephen Ross has given Coach Tony Sparano a vote of confidence, the Dolphins can spend the bye week focusing on working on making improvements in various facets of their game in preparation for the Monday night game against the Jets on Oct. 17. In the meantime, let's take one final look at the most recent game, the 26-16 loss at San Diego.

• Was it deja vu all over again when Chad Henne went down with a shoulder injury? Remember that in their last visit to San Diego, the Dolphins lost quarterback Chad Pennington to a shoulder injury before losing 23-13, a score awfully similar to this past Sunday's.

• What was really frustrating about Henne's injury is that it happened because Lex Hilliard wasn't ready for a handoff after Henne changed the play call at the line of scrimmage. The other weird thing was that it didn't look like Henne's fall to the ground was that violent.

• As for Hilliard, say this for the guy, he runs hard. He also showed good stick-to-it-tiveness on his touchdown dive, even though replays seemed to show the ball never crossed the goal line.

• Speaking of the running game, didn't Sunday's game only reinforce the notion that Daniel Thomas needs to be the feature back. Really, can there be any debate about this?

• Reggie Bush got off to a strong start against the Chargers, then did nothing the rest of the way. And, again, why is he being utilized so infrequently in the passing game? That makes no sense?

Matt Moore did a solid job in relief of Chad Henne, but anyone who thinks he can be a savior for this offense is wrong. The problems on offense go way beyond the quarterback position.

• Everything starts with the offensive line, which remains suspect at best.

• Of course, it would help if Brandon Marshall would stop dropping passes. He said the sun was in his eyes on the long sideline pass that he should have caught and taken for a touchdown, but there was no such excuse for the third-down drop on the first drive of the second half.

• That drop, mind you, set the tone for the second half. The Dolphins trailed only 13-10 at the time, but the next time they got the ball they were down 20-10.

• It would have helped on that ensuing possession if the defense had been able to stop San Diego on a third-and-15 (converted with a 20-yard pass to rookie Vincent Brown) and later on a second-and-18 (converted with that 42-yard screen pass to Ryan Mathews).

• Of all the troubling things on defense on Sunday, perhaps the worst was the fact it didn't make a stop once after scoring. Dolphins score a touchdown to go up 7-0, Chargers come back with a touchdown. Dolphins get a field goal to tie the game 10-10 with 1:48 left in the first half, San Diego comes back with a field goal to go up 13-10 at halftime. Dolphins get a field goal to close the gap to 20-13, Chargers come back to make it 23-13. Dolphins close it to 23-16 ... yep, you guessed it, Chargers come back with a field goal for the final margin.

• The problems on defense? Yes. No pass rush. Linebackers not making plays. Breakdowns in the secondary. All of the above.

• Speaking of the secondary, what happened to Sean Smith against Vincent Jackson was more of what we've seen from him. Take away the long touchdown, which we'll touch on later, but the other catches he gave up. Practically every time Smith had good coverage but just didn't make the play on the ball. At some point, Smith is going to have to start doing that, otherwise the Dolphins may need to look elsewhere (Will Allen?) for answers.

• As for that long touchdown, South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde seemed to suggest it was Smith — and not Yeremiah Bell — at fault on the play. Whoever it was, it was a breakdown of epic proportions and one that simply cannot happen.

• Free safety Reshad Jones had another tough outing. He keeps missing tackles, making mental mistakes and yet hasn't made one play all season to negate that somewhat. It's probably time to go back to Chris Clemons, who hasn't made many plays — if any at all — in his time with the Dolphins but is sounder than Jones.

• Of course, everything would be easier on the back end if someone, anyone, would get some pressure on the quarterback. Sure, Cameron Wake had a sack against San Diego, his third in four games, but he didn't apply consistent pressure and NOBODY ELSE up front was there to help or pick up the slack. That was a major concern heading into this season and it remains that way now.

• Yes, Jason Taylor had a sack and a couple of pressures against Houston but he did nothing the other three games and that's a problem. And it's not like Koa Misi suddenly is going to become a pass-rushing force.

Yes, there are problems everywhere, and that's why this team is 0-4.


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