REPORT CARD

Breaking down how every unit on the Dolphins performed in the 20-17 loss at Minnesota.

QUARTERBACKS — Jay Fiedler certainly wasn't the reason the Dolphins didn't win this game. He finished with a high completion percentage and had two touchdown passes with one interception. The interception came as the result of a terrible decision to try to hit Chris Chambers deep when Chambers was double-covered and clearly not open. Fiedler also made a poor throw when Chambers was wide open on a slant, and the result was an incompletion. Fiedler didn't do much in the way of scrambling, although he did turn a bobbled snap into a 3-yard gain in the second quarter. Grade: B-

RUNNING BACKS — Ricky Williams finished with 67 yards, but only got to carry the ball 15 times mostly because the defense couldn't get off the field. Williams had a couple of really nice runs and made some plays in the passing game. Rob Konrad had a couple of catches out of the backfield. Grade: C+

RECEIVERS — This is one group that really let down the Dolphins on this day. Tight end Randy McMichael had a costly personal foul that turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-16. Wide receiver Dedric Ward later dropped an easy pass on a third-and-short, forcing the Dolphins to punt. Both Chambers and tight end Jed Weaver caught touchdown pass. Cris Carter had a chance to come up with a big catch on a third-and-goal late in the game, but couldn't come up with what would have been a difficult catch. The Dolphins wound up having to settle for a field goal, and that ultimately proved the difference in the game. Grade: D+

OFFENSIVE LINE — This is another area that had a difficult day. Rookie Seth McKinney made his first NFL start at tackle, and had his hands full with Vikings defensive tackle Chris Hovan. McKinney was flagged for a false start in the first half, but he wasn't the only one who had penalty problems. Left tackle Mark Dixon had a rough first half, getting flagged for a false start on the first series and for holding on the next. Right tackle Todd Wade was called for holding on a running play in the second half. Wade also was beaten badly by former Dolphins defensive end Lorenzo Bromell on a play that ended with Fiedler getting sacked by Bromell and Kenny Mixon. It looked like the Dolphins missed Jamie Nails out there. Grade: C-

DEFENSIVE LINE — The Dolphins pass rush always is a major factor at home, but struggles on the road, and this game was no different despite the fact the Dolphins got to Daunte Culpepper a couple of times. The Dolphins did do a good job against the run, as they totally shut down running back Michael Bennett. Jason Taylor and Jay Williams both had first-half sacks. Taylor committed two offside penalties in the first half. Both David Bowens and Larry Chester failed to come up with fumble recoveries on two different plays when they had a clear path at the loose ball. Chester's failure to come up with the recovery cost Miami three points, as the Vikings got a field goal on that drive. Chester did drop Bennett for a 3-yard loss in the first half. Grade: C

LINEBACKERS — The Dolphins linebacking story usually starts and ends with Zach Thomas, and in this game he really didn't do a whole lot. He wound up chasing Culpepper on a couple of QB scrambles and was easily outrun. He also made no plays that changed the momentum. Derrick Rodgers was invisible throughout the day. In fact, it was Morlon Greenwood who had the one big play by the linebackers, as he dropped Bennett for a 4-yard loss on a screen pass. Grade: D

DEFENSIVE BACKS — The Dolphins secondary was as impressive in the first half as it was unimpressive in the second. Minnesota scored on all three of its second-half possessions, and a big reason was the poor play of the secondary, which gave up way too much cushion. The biggest culprit appeared to be Jamar Fletcher, who looked as overmatched as he did early in the season when he was struggling. As we mentioned, though, the first half was impressive. Free safety Brock Marion might have been the Dolphins' most impressive defensive back on the day. Cornerback Sam Madison had a great sequence in the first quarter, stopping Bennett for no gain on one play and intercepting Culpepper in the end zone on the next. Cornerback Patrick Surtain and Marion lost deep position when he bit on a Vikings flea-flicker, but they got bailed out when Culpepper overthrew a wide-open Randy Moss. Marion came up with a big play late in the first half when he picked off Culpepper in the end zone. Grade: C

SPECIAL TEAMS — Mark Royals punted only once, so he wasn't a factor. Olindo Mare made his only field goal attempt and kicked off well. Travis Minor had a couple of big kickoff returns, although rookie Greg Jerman took a stupid holding penalty when he grabbed kicker Hayden Epstein on a kickoff return that ended with Minor getting pushed out of bounds at the Vikings 35-yard line. The penalty pushed Miami back to its 44. Grade: B-


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