THE RIGHT CALL

It is so incredibly to second-guess after a decision backfires, and that's exactly what a lot of fans, newspapers columnists and television broadcasters did after the Dolphins' fourth-down gamble on Sunday ended with a big turnover.

Call us homers if you want to, but that was absolutely the right decision. Actually, just to show we're not homers we'll tell you that Wannstedt foolishly wasted a timeout when he challenged Drew Bledsoe's touchdown sneak in the second quarter.

Yes, it was obvious the play clock had expired before Bledsoe took the snap, but the refs blew that call badly and instant replay can't overturn rulings dealing with the clock. So the only challenge was Bledsoe being stopped short of the goal line, and it was very obvious that Bledsoe reached the end zone.

Back to the other controversial call.

The situation was this: Buffalo had scored late in the first half to cut the Dolphins' lead to 14-10. The Dolphins had begun their next drive at their own 16 and marched to the Buffalo 36-yard line, where they faced a fourth-and-4. There was a little under a minute left in the first half and Buffalo was out of timeouts.

With the wind in Miami's face, a field goal obviously was out of the question, so the two choices were going for the first down or punting.

Here's what happened: The Dolphins called for a quick hitch to a wide receiver on either side. But both receivers were covered, Ray Lucas held on to the ball and he eventually was hit from behind. He fumbled, defensive end Chidi Ahanotu recovered for Buffalo and advanced the ball to the Dolphins 31-yard line.

Moments later, Drew Bledsoe hit Peerless Price with a touchdown pass and Buffalo had the lead and the momentum heading into halftime.

Now, the Dolphins are supposed to be playoff contenders. Do playoff contenders really pass up a chance to score before halftime because they're afraid of the worst-case scenario?

No. You go for it. As Wannstedt pointed out after the game, he figured the Dolphins were going to need more points to win this game — and he obviously was right.

Punting the ball away would have been playing not to lose. It's funny because the Dolphins have been accused of being too conservative at times, and this time it's the opposite.

And we'll tell you it's the opposite only because disaster struck.

Once the receivers were covered, Lucas should have had the presence of mind of getting outside the pocket to see if he could run for the first down.

Or he could have simply thrown the ball away instead of hanging on to it for so long and taking the sack.

This one was on Lucas, not Wannstedt.

The worst-case scenario should have been the Dolphins throwing an incomplete pass and giving Buffalo the ball at its own 36 with about 45 seconds and no timeouts left.

That's manageable. Not the disaster that happened.

But taking an aggressive approach was the right way to go. This was a totally makeable first down, and the Dolphins had enough time to tack on a touchdown, or at the very least a field had they converted.

Do you think anybody would have accused Wannstedt of making a bad decision had the Dolphins gone ahead and scored a touchdown to take a 21-10 lead into halftime?

Didn't think so.

Anybody can make the right decision after the play is run. But even if the results were disastrous on this particular play, the decision to go for it was the right one.


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