Final Game 16 Observations

Before we turn our attention to Sunday's playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, let's take one last look at the 24-17 victory over the New York Jets that gave the AFC East title and completed the greatest one-season turnaround in NFL history.

-- Yes, I know, the 1999 Indianapolis Colts also improved by 10 games over the previous year, going from 3-13 to 13-3. But it's just not the same as going from 1-15 to 11-5.

-- The reasons for the turnaround? Any list compiled by anybody absolutely has to include Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, Chad Pennington, Joey Porter and Brett Favre. And not necessarily in that order.

-- Brett Favre? Yep, if not for the Jets' infatuation with getting the future Hall of Famer in August, they don't get rid of Pennington. If they don't get rid of Pennington, he doesn't come to Miami and the quarterback this season likely is Chad Henne. Now, Henne looks like he'll be a great quarterback and fellow rookies Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan had very good seasons, but the Dolphins don't sniff 11-5 under that scenario. In fact, they're probably closer to 5-11.

-- It's not just Pennington's great accuracy that made such a difference, it was his leadership, his professionalism and the influence he had over his teammates.

-- In the season finale, Pennington did what he did all season. Made the plays at key moments. And was there a sweeter conclusion than Pennington sneaking for a first down that all but clinched the victory in the late stages?

-- On the other side, Favre continued to give to the Dolphins by tossing three interceptions. The difference in that game, as it was during the season, was the Dolphins had Pennington and the Jets had Favre. Plain and simple.

-- Absolutely loved the postgame comments from Jets linebacker Calvin Pace, who whined that the Dolphins had to resort to trick plays to win the game. That's right, Calvin, just watch the Dolphins use a few more Sunday in the playoffs while you're watching the game on TV.

-- Actually, the final score might not have been as close had the Dolphins not botched a couple of those trick plays, first when Ricky Williams dropped what might have been a touchdown pass from Pennington out of the Wildcat formation and then later when Ronnie Brown missed Joey Haynos running alone behind the secondary on another Wildcat play.

-- Combine those two with five pre-snap penalties and John Denney's errant long snap that gave the Jets the ball in Miami territory, and it adds up to a Dolphins team that beat the Jets despite playing less-than-perfect football.

-- What do you say about that, Calvin?

-- Ted Ginn Jr. sure picked a good time to show more receiver savvy than he had at any point in his time in Miami. On his touchdown, he just ever-so-gently pushed cornerback Dwight Lowery near the goal line. It was just enough of a tap to create separation, not enough to draw a flag. His second big play was even better. It came on a flea-flicker -- yes, Calvin, another trick play -- where Pennington actually underthrew Ginn while he was being double-covered. Ginn put the brakes on while the two Jets defenders overran the ball and then came back to make a 44-yard reception. Beautiful. It also came after the Jets had scored to take a 17-14 lead and set up a touchdown. Big.

-- Ginn's catch on the long pass was followed by tight end Anthony Fasano's nice adjustment on a pass thrown over his back shoulder. The guy has been huge for the Dolphins offense down the stretch.

-- Patrick Cobbs had another good day running back kickoffs, and we hope Tony Sparano will continue using him in the playoffs.

-- And kudos again to Davone Bess, who had a nice punt return and continues to do a great job at wide receiver.

-- With all the attention on Favre, let's not forget the fabulous job the Dolphins did on Pro Bowl running back Thomas Jones. They made him an absolute non-factor, which was no small task.

-- The guys up front clearly did the job. And how about Phillip Merling reading the screen pass, laying back and then intercepting Favre and returning the pick for a touchdown? Big-time play by a rookie.

-- So the Dolphins got their first AFC East title since 2000, which also was Dave Wannstedt's first year as Miami head coach? Why is it that we get the feeling Sparano's tenure won't take the same downward turn?


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