Looking for Blame?: A Case for the Defense

The Dolphins find themselves on Monday looking to regroup after the disappointing 46-34 loss to the Saints instead of celebrating what would have been a huge, possibly season-turning victory. A lot has been made of the ill-fated timeout taken at the end of the first half as a major turning point, and it was, but to pin the loss on that one moment wouldn't be fair. There's another place to look.

Abandoning the running game in the second half after it produced pretty good numbers early on? Yeah, that didn't help, either, particularly when the Dolphins went three-and-out twice with three consecutive pass attempts.

Bad drops by the receivers, specifically Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Fasano? Yes, factors, too.

But how about something much simpler: The defense just can't stop giving up big plays and simply isn't good enough at this point.

Yes, it's harsh, but try to argue with the facts.

The Saints scored 36 points in the second half to come back from that 24-10 halftime deficit. Sure, two of the Saints' five touchdowns in the second half came on interception returns -- and that's where Ginn comes in -- but that doesn't explain New Orleans gaining 302 yards in the last two quarters.

It doesn't take great math skills to figure out that translates to 604 yards for a game.


On their last four drives of the game, the Saints gained 82, 79, 60 and 64 yards. Again, not good.

The pass rush, which produced five sacks, stopped getting close to Brees. The run defense, which was so good in the first half, suddenly was getting gashed.

Simply put, the Dolphins became powerless to stop the Saints.

Just like there were plenty of defensive heroes early in the game — Jason Taylor, Nathan Jones, Yeremiah Bell come to mind — it's hard to find one guy who stepped up with a big play in the fourth quarter. Not Taylor, not Bell, not Joey Porter, nobody.

Sure, it didn't help that Will Allen sustained a torn ACL in the second half, but does anybody really think that would have made the difference?

The troubling issue is that it wasn't the first time this has happened to the Dolphins.

The game against Indy is the other obvious example because of all the big plays given up, but also remember that as great a victory as the Dolphins had against the Jets, they still had to come back twice in the fourth quarter because the defense couldn't stop Mark Sanchez and the New York offense.

The secondary has taken a beating in the media all year, but the blame on defense has to be spread equally when it comes to the game against the Saints.

Coach Tony Sparano said Monday he thought the momentum in the game really turned late in the third quarter on a New Orleans drive that began with a 35-yard run by Mike Bell, continued with other runs of 5, 13 and 6, and ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Marques Colston.

That's not the secondary's fault.

Yes, the Dolphins made bad mistakes on offense, too, starting with Ginn's drop on that third-quarter pass that led directly to Darren Sharper's interception return for a touchdown (side note: he was a free agent this offseason; wouldn't he look better in the Dolphins secondary than Gibril Wilson?).

The ill-fated timeout late in the first half also never would have happened had it not been for Davone Bess' fumble near midfield.

Yet for all the offensive mistakes, the Dolphins still led 34-24 heading into the fourth quarter.

But the first play of that period should have been foretelling: It was the deep pass down the middle to tight end Jeremy Shockey, who broke a tackle attempt from Vontae Davis and then ran down the field another 20-30 yards while keeping Wilson away with his left hand.

When he was done, the Saints had a 66-yard gain to the Dolphins 13-yard line. They scored two plays later, and the fourth-quarter nightmare had begun.

Before it was over, the Saints would add four more pass plays of 10 yards or longer.

Yes, the Dolphins did go three-and-out on their first two possessions of the fourth quarter, but they still put up 34 points and that, if you hope to have championship aspirations, should be good again.

It won't get any easier from here on out with Allen out for the year and the Dolphins now starting two rookies at cornerback, but Miami can forget about beating good teams on a regular basis until they shore up that defense.

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