Nightmare Mercifully Over

The way the 2007 season has gone, why should we have expected anything different than what happened Sunday afternoon at Dolphin Stadium when Miami dropped a 38-25 decision to the Cincinnati Bengals? The season finale, actually, was a pretty good snapshot of what went on during this most disappointing of seasons.

The Dolphins again weren't really that competitive, and the final score wasn't quite representative of how the game went.<>The pass defense got torched by Carson Palmer, who completed 23 of 32 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. And his numbers would have been even better had he not missed a wide open Chris Henry, who had gotten behind Travis Daniels on a fly pattern.

The Dolphins secondary got beat on deep routes and got beat on short routes. Chad Johnson caught only four passes, but he made them count for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder in the first half when he took advantage of a Dolphins defender falling down.

The Dolphins didn't have much better luck with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who finished with nine catches for 90 yards.

And then there was the offense, which had another difficult outing.

Don't get fooled by the passer ratings that both Cleo Lemon (97.9) and John Beck (96.3) were able to amass, neither quarterback was overly impressive.

Beck, in fact, was a disaster until he directed a late drive that ended with his 22-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hagan.

On his very first play after replacing an injured Lemon, Beck dropped the ball after taking a shotgun snap, and the Bengals returned the fumble 54 yards for a touchdown that increased their lead to 28-10 in the third quarter.

It was the type of mistake we've seen too often this season.

Just like there was another moment when you had to wonder what Cam Cameron was doing.

That happened on Johnson's 70-yard touchdown when replays showed pretty clearly that he had stepped out of bounds between the 3- and 4-yard line of the Dolphins. Cameron actually walked down the sideline and made it all the way inside the Dolphins 15-yard line, but he never threw the challenge flag before the extra point was kicked.

This was a game where the Dolphins, first and foremost, again appeared outmatched.

Cincinnati came in with a 6-9 record, but with the type of weapons the Dolphins simply don't have.

The best we can say about the 2007 season for the Dolphins is that it's finally over. We also can say the Dolphins should feel fortunate they didn't go 0-16 because their one victory easily could have been a loss, if either Brian Billick had shown some intestinal fortitude instead of kicking a field goal on fourth-and-1 with 18 seconds left or if Matt Stover hadn't gagged on a field goal attempt in overtime.

But that's only a small consolation. It was, very clearly, a dreadful season from start to Sunday's finish.

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