All along, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has said the rebuilding program would be a "process," however until Sunday's stunning 38-13 blowout of the mighty Patriots, it's been a process without progress.
And it took the old college try to accomplish Sparano's first victory as an NFL head coach as the Dolphins utilized a spread offense with an option that Miami quarterbacks coach David Lee used to use when he was coaching Raiders rookie running back Darren McFadden at Arkansas. Ronnie Brown went hog wild with the formation, taking six direct snaps from center while quarterback Chad Pennington was split out wide, and running back Ricky Williams came around for a reverse handoff or face.
Brown, who started for Williams for the first time this season and for the first time since blowing out his knee in a Week 7 loss to the Patriots last October, accounted for all five Miami touchdowns, including four coming out of the bizarre formation. Brown gained 113 yards on 17 carries, including a 62-yard touchdown and a 19-yard option touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano.
Suddenly, the 1-2 Dolphins have some pep in their step from this confidence-building victory over the Tom Brady-less Patriots, who had their NFL-record 21-game regular-season winning streak snapped in front of a somber Gillette Stadium gathering. Now Miami heads into its bye week on a high. It was the worst home loss in Bill Belichick's reign in Beantown. The Dolphins next play an angry Chargers team, who have lost their first two games by a combined three points.
"We had trouble with their new stuff and trouble with their old stuff," said Belichick, whose previous worst pounding at home came 10 years ago in a 41-17 loss to the Chargers. "There's not much to say here. They outplayed us and outcoached us."
|"It was killing (Tony Sparano) and it was killing us. It's a good relief, but we're trying to make this a habit now." -- DT Jason Ferguson, on not settling for one win.|
Tony Sparano (AP)
Miami did it with a balanced attack that had been missing in its first two losses, particularly with an awakened ground game as the much-anticipated Ricky and Ronnie Show finally got going, as the backfield tandem combined for 211 yards.
The fact that the Dolphins finally got off to a good start did wonders for Pennington, who was now able to use play action, shotgun and no-huddle to near perfection as he completed 17 of 20 for 226 yards. Miami had been outscored 30-7 in the first half this season, but led 21-0 Sunday. In their previous 18 games, the Dolphins had scored just 32 points in the first quarter, less than two points a game.
For the first time this season, he was able to get his wideouts heavily involved in the passing attack, spraying 10 of his 17 completions to the wide receivers, including a season-high five for 49 yards to the much-maligned Ted Ginn Jr.
The Dolphins didn't have any turnovers, and now have just one in their first three games. Dolphins defensive end Randy Starks had his first career interception to thwart a Patriots drive inside Miami's 9.
Miami's young defensive ends Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford dominated their older counterparts, as Miami sacked Matt Cassel and rookie Kevin O'Connell four times. Even trash-talking linebacker Joey Porter was able to back up his midweek boasting when he correctly stated that Cassel, in his second NFL start, was no Brady and that it wouldn't be too hard to get their first win.
Not even Porter could've thought it would be this easy.
--QB Chad Pennington was on fire, completing 17 of 20 for 226 yards with a 113.8 passer rating. His completion percentage of 85 is a career best and the second highest in franchise history with a minimum of 12 attempts. At one point, Pennington completed 11 straight passes in the first half.
--RB Ronnie Brown started in place of Ricky Williams for the first time this season, and went berserk, having a hand in all of the Dolphins' five touchdowns, including four runs and a 19-yard option pass to TE Anthony Fasano.
--FS Renaldo Hill, who started 23 straight games at free safety for the Dolphins until blowing out his knee in Game 7 against the Patriots last season, recaptured his starting position Sunday against the very team he was injured against. He replaced offseason acquisition Chris Crocker, who struggled in the first two games this season. Hill dropped an easy interception and an alert Wes Welker caught the deflection to set up a 44-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in the second quarter. Hill had a pick in the fourth quarter negated when DE Vonnie Holliday was questionably flagged for roughing QB Matt Cassel just as he threw the ball.
--KR Ted Ginn Jr. still didn't return any kickoffs Sunday after his duties had been taken away by undrafted rookie Davone Bess in the first two games. However, Ginn had a solid day with a season-high five catches for 49 yards. Bess struggled, averaging just 15.7 yards on three kick returns.
--OLB Joey Porter backed up his midweek boasting with three sacks and a forced fumble.
--CB Michael Lehan injured a hamstring in the fourth quarter and didn't return. He should be fine after the bye week.