Turnover tale

Although the Dolphins have valiantly fought back from an 0-3 start to still have a playoff heartbeat with two games left in the season, it's clear why they're not in better position.

Aside from their tough schedule, the Dolphins went from a league-best plus-17 in turnover ratio last season to a 25th-ranked minus-7. This week's opponent, the Texans, are minus-2 and ranked 19th in the league. Quarterback Matt Schaub has tossed 13 interceptions.

First-year Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne has gone 7-4 in his first 11 starts, but his poor decision-making has contributed to that negative turnover category with 12 interceptions, including three in Sunday's overtime loss to the Titans and eight in his last four games.

Thanks to rookie Vontae Davis' team-leading four interceptions, the Dolphins do have 13 picks, five fewer than last year.

But lately, usually reliable running back Ricky Williams has developed the dropsies with four fumbles — two lost — in his last two games. Last year the Dolphins recovered 12 fumbles compared to just four this season. They've fumbled the ball away 10 times compared to six last season.

Miami is 1-5 in games in which it has committed more turnovers than its opponent, including a victory over the Jaguars in which the Dolphins were a minus-3.

"It's ridiculous, it's very critical," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "Looking at it right now, we're about 10 more interceptions and 10 more fumbles right now than we were last year at this time. That's not good football, that isn't winning football. That's not what we talk about, that's not what we try to practice, just not good. Can't win like that. Can't win consistently.

"There's a lot of energy put into overcoming those things. We overcame it last week and won the game, fought our tails off this week and didn't win the game, but got back into the game only to lose. Every week, we start the week off, 'this is a key to the game.' That's not good."

Sparano said Williams' fumble was more a result of a good hit by defensive tackle Tony Brown than poor technique. While he said that Henne did make a few ill-advised throws, Sparano has praised him for learning to throw the ball away as the season has progressed.

Sometimes turnovers come down to bad bounces, like when six-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Jason Taylor sacked and stripped quarterback Vince Young in the third quarter only to have Titans offensive tackle David Stewart fall on the ball. On the next play, Young hit Nate Washington for a 32-yard touchdown that gave Tennessee a 24-6 lead.

"We had two of those (Sunday), and throughout the year we haven't been able to scoop those up. It's one of those things where sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't," said linebacker Akin Ayodele, who did force a fumble by running back Chris Johnson on Sunday that was recovered by Dolphins rookie cornerback Sean Smith.

Linebacker Joey Porter, who's been nicked up all season, forced a team-leading four fumbles last season but just one this season.

The second component that has hurt the Dolphins all season has been giving up the "chunk" pass plays. Miami allowed five pass plays of 20 yards or longer, including three for touchdowns Sunday, and thus far the young secondary has yielded 28 pass plays of 25 yards or more with nine touchdowns, compared to 28 and four TDs all last season.

That doesn't bode well with Texans receiver Andre Johnson coming to town as the NFL's leading receiver with 1,433 yards on 90 catches at 15.9 yards per catch.

"As a defense, there's two ways you get deep, around the edge and over the top," linebacker Reggie Torbor said. "We're doing both of those right now. You can't win football games like that.

"We're stopping them ... and then get hit for a chunk, running, throwing, however it is. When we've made teams work and drive meticulously down the field, we've had success."


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