Another Step Back

If the Dolphins' loss at Houston last week was disappointing and heartbreaking, the 27-13 setback against Baltimore definitely was more sobering. It was a game that really showed just far the Dolphins have to go.

The Dolphins didn't get blown out by the Ravens, and one could argue that it's a seven-point game if you take about Chad Pennington's horrible decision that led to the interception return for a touchdown.

But this was not a good Baltimore team the Dolphins faced, and it was a Baltimore team coming off three consecutive losses.

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco was really struggling coming into this game, but he looked very good against Miami. Way too good.

The game plan defensively for the Dolphins seemed pretty simple: stop the run and force Flacco to make the plays. Well, the Dolphins didn't stop the run and Flacco made plenty of plays.

It was particularly disappointing in the second quarter when the only times the Dolphins stopped the Baltimore offense was when Flacco fumbled on third down and Willis McGahee later fumbled after a long gain off a screen pass.

The Dolphins defense looked like a mediocre bunch once again, even if it didn't allow the long pass plays that were so problematic in the first weeks of the season.

On this day, the Dolphins were getting beat systematically.

It didn't help that nose tackle Jason Ferguson went out with an injury in the first quarter and that his backup, Paul Soliai, was inactive because he was suspended for a team violation.

No offense to Ferguson, but if the run defense is going to fall apart because he's out of the game, then there's a major problem.

It also didn't help that the Dolphins generated very little pressure on Flacco, something that could have made a major difference in this game.

Joey Porter got two sacks, but nobody else really came close to Flacco. For all the accolades Matt Roth got for his game against San Diego, he's been way too quiet the last two weeks at a position that demands major production in the 3-4 defense.

There's no need to continue harping on the secondary, which once again showed an inability to create a game-changing, such as the one that could have been made by Will Allen -- even though it, yes, would have been a tough catch.

Offensively, the major problem in this game was inability to run, which is something that wasn't surprising given the opponent.

On a day like this, the Dolphins need Chad Pennington to be at his very best, and he most certainly was not. In fact, he was much less effective than his passer rating of 92.0 would indicate.

He made questionable decisions throughout the afternoon, starting with the one where he tried to force a pass to Patrick Cobbs to avoid a sack, the result being Terrell Suggs' game-changing touchdown.

Pennington also wasn't quite as accurate as he had been in recent weeks. It was, in short, the type of performance the Dolphins have gotten from their quarterbacks on a regular basis in recent years.

It's a sign of progress that getitng that kind of quarterbacking now constitutes a disappointment, but we're striving for more here.

In losing to Houston, the Dolphins went toe-to-toe with a team that has its share of talent. That game looked like a hiccup on the road back to respectability.

The Baltimore, however, looked like a major pothole.

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