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38 posts from September 2007

September 30, 2007

G4: Oakland 35, Dolphins 17. Preening, redeemed Culpepper has hand in all 5 TDs as Miami's season crumbles

     What I've been writing and saying for months you saw for real today: Cam Cameron picked the wrong quarterback. Daunte Culpepper is younger and better than Trent Green and his knee is fine and the exclamation on all of that was today's 35-17 Oakland rout that put Miami at an embarrassing 0-4.

     If only the QB situation were Miami's only problem. The run-defense is abysmal, a further embarrassment.

     What a mess this once-proud franchise has become. Miami may be the worst team in the NFL today (despite Ronnie Brown's upsurge). I'd have said it was Buffalo, but the Bills just beat a Jets team that just beat Miami.

     It may be time now to say to hell with it and hand the football and the season to rookie QB John Beck because, well ... can it get any worse?

     In-game ramble:

Aaaoakldn    Daunte Culpepper could not Aaadolph_2have dreamed this afternoon any better for himself. Another TD run makes it 35-17, Oakland, in the final minute. He has had a vital hand in all five TDs. Another awful loss for Miami, now 0-4. Embarrassing.

     Culpepper is almost singlehandedly beating the team he came here today to show up. His latest TD pass made it a 28-17 Raiders lead, mid-fourth quarter. Then he shot an index finger into the air. Culpepper has had a hand in all four Oakland TDs. And, once again: MCSTBR. Miami Can't Stop The Bleepin' Run.   

     Trent Green short TD flip to Justin Peele draws Miami with 21-17 in closing seconds of third quarter, the series set up by an Oakland fumble. We got us a game here, folks! Miami's desperation to finally win and Daunte Culpepper's maniacal drive to beat the team that dumped him have combined for some real drama. Good stuff.    

     Culpepper scores from five out, racing wide of the Dolphin defense and diving inside the pylon -- then rising to triumphantly and repeatedly point to his right knee as if remind Miami it's OK. Culpepper making no effort to hide the fact he really weants to stick it to Cam Cameron and this team. Oakland, 21-10 now, and the ex-Dolphin Daunte with a hand in all three TDs. Defense beaten for a 48-yard run  to set up the score.

     Good drive fizzles, Dolphins settle for short field goal to draw within 14-10, mid-third. Troubling: Miami continuing with a propensity to waste timeouts early. Two burned already in the second half, meaning only one left in what figures to be a close game late.

     Miami down 14-7 at the half, content to let the final 23 seconds expire while holding two timeouts. Hey, Cam. You're 0-3. Why not utilize the TOs and take a few shots down field?

     Green's second interception wastes a promising Dolphin drive highlighted by Ronnie Brown's 60-yard run. Another big day for the leaner 'n meaner Brown so far. But an awful pick by Green, lofting up a prayer off his back foot. Dumb. Dolphins gambled successfully on another 4th down. I wonder, though. Trailing 14-7, with 4th-and-2 from the Raider 26, is it smart to not take the makeable 43-yard FG and three almost-sure points?

     They're alive! Cameron's 4th-and-4 gamble pays big, on a 37-yard pass setting up an impressive 10-yard TD run by Brown. Fins within 14-7, early second.

     Culpepper sneaks in from one yard to put Oakland up, 14-0, late in first. Daunte outplaying Green so far, and Miami looking like it's skidding to 0-4. OY!

     Oakland parlays an early Green interception into a short Culpepper touchdown strike and it's Raiders up 7-0. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Brett Favre's 421st career TD pass has topped Dan Marino's record. Not a good day so far for Dolphin QBs.

     As for that lightning delay, what is this, baseball? Play ball!

     Pregame ramble:

     Even with a Dolphin win, we're probably not thinking playoffs. With a loss, though, maybe we should start thinking about a top-three draft pick. This is one of those very winnable games that will help determine whether the Dolphins could be around a respectable .500 this season or maybe be headed to one of those 3-13'ish years.

     Daunte Culpepper vs. Trent Green adding obvious spice today.

     Comments on the matchup and the Daunte Factor welcome before and during the game -- and afterward on the result and where it leaves the Dolphin season at the one-quarter mark.

     I'll have instant blog updates throughout the game, posted within seconds of score changes and significant plays.

Spoiler Marlins bury Mets

     The Marlins ended their season by beating up on the desperate Mets this afternoon, 8-1, in a game crucial to New York's playoff hopes. Coupled with the Phillies' 5-1 win, it bounced the choking Mets from the playoffs and put Philly in.

     Mets and Phillies. Florida's two most disliked opponents. Which would a Marlins fan least like to have seen make the playoffs? As for me, something about the sight of a crestfallen Mets fan that just makes my day. Marlins finished a disappointing season well, a factor in the playoffs, after all.

September 29, 2007

G5: Hurricanes 24, Duke 14 (and much more)

Aaaduke Aaahurr     A Miami Hurricanes team that last week looked great in dominating ranked Texas A&M then struggles Saturday to beat lowly Duke, 24-14. This, as they say, is why we watch.

     UM's result looked less bad as the weird Saturday wore on and all of the major upsets checked in. Five top-10 teams -- Oklahoma, Florida, West Virginia, Texas and Rutgers -- all lost. Does anybody want to challenge USC and LSU?

     As for UM, I thought it was one of those yawny, snoozy nooners that the Hurricanes would win by 30-plus. Duke's lousy as usual. But it was the ACC opener, and presented a necessary step en route to 4-1 and a presumptive spot back in the Top 25s. Besides, I don't know that UM has proved enough just yet to take anybody for granted.

     [Reminder to 'Canes fans: Get your votes in on our 'Greatest Hurricane' poll found a few spots down in the blog. We'll end the voting today (Sunday) and reveal the winner soonafter. Very interesting results so far, boiling down to pretty much a two-man race. Vote now!]

     Thoughts welcome here on the 'Canes' less-than-impressive win. The 4-1 record looks pretty solid, but, does this UM team impress you?

     Also inviting comments on the weekend's other college football wildness, especially:

     Colorado 27, Oklahoma 24: Loss by third-ranked Sooners opened a big door for Florida, which in turn said, "No thanks."

     South Florida 21, West Virginia 13: How'd USF get so good, and are we jealous?

     FIU at Middle Tennessee: It may be time for FIU students to channel the spirit of their '60s campus ancestors and take over the president's office in a "sit-in," refusing to move until the Golden Panthers finally end their long losing streak.

     Auburn 20, Florida 17: The tuneup for LSU Week was not to be taken lightly by The Gator. Which found out why.

     FSU 21, Alabama 14 (in Jacksonville): I was there. Interesting game. Even matchup, too, but not between the coaches. Grandpa Bobby vs. Satan Nick.

     Kentucky 45, FAU 17: Howard and the Owls got burrowed -- I mean buried.

September 28, 2007

Sticking up for Marlins fans

Aaamarlins      I'm tired of Marlins fans being trashed. This team has some of the most loyal fans in baseball, all things considered.

     The Marlins have averaged more than 20,000 fans a game for a season eight times, and as recently as 2005. Attendance is up about 20 percent this year despite the lousy record, despite the embarrassingly low payroll, despite the history of fire sales, despite the constant and continuing delays on the new-stadium issue.

     It also bears noting, and this is important, that Marlins local TV ratings are very solid, and consistently higher than the Heat's, for example. This is indicative of broad, wide interest in the ballclub even if crowds don't always show it.

     Two things need to happen:

     1. The city of Miami and Miami-Dade County need to end the mind-numbing delays -- the same torpor that saw the Orange Bowl grow delapidated and the Hurricanes leave -- and help build (rather than just talk about) a new retractable-dome stadium for this franchise and its fans. Look around the country. That's what big cities do that want to be both literally and figuratively big-league.

     2. Marlins ownership, in concert with the realization of added revenue streams from a new ballpark, needs to commit to the fans and the future by substantially increasing a minimal payroll and assuring that key players such as Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Hanley Ramirez are kept -- not jettisoned in a yet another fan-alienating cost cutting.

     Marlins fans are out there, and plenty of them. The staunchest, most loyal of them are out there at the park most every game, when their potshot critics certainly aren't. The rest will follow if you give them the new stadium that's been promised for a decade, a consistent owership that keeps its best players, and enough payroll to make a winning team an annual posibility.

     Note to Marlins fans: We'll be posting an end-of-season Marlins blog poll sometime in the next few days. Keep an eye out.

NFL Week 4 picks

Aadolphins      So far when we've referred to the Dolphins' "run-D" it's been a letter grade but I see the fellas rising up and reasonably containing Oakland's LaMont Jordan on Sunday and Miami finally getting off the winless schneid (though not covering the point spread). Not sure which I'm looking forward to more: The game itself. Or Daunte Culpepper vs. Trent Green.

     Click on Week 4 gems for all of this week's NFL picks by me.

     Featured: Dolphins (-4) over Raiders, 23-20. Game of the Week: Patriots (-7) over Bengals, 41-31. Aaanetwork_2 Upset of the Week: Cardinals (+6) over Steelers, 23-20. "Aawwk!" Other outright upsets: Falcons over Texans, and 49ers over Seahawks. Bonus prediction: Dan Marino in the CBS studio graciously congratulates Brett Favre for breaking his TD-pass record, then returns to his hotel room and in an inconsolable rage throws a TV out a 15th-floor window.

September 27, 2007

Daunte Culpepper, Sunday, 12:54 p.m.

Aaadaunte      Daunte Culpepper likely will start for the Raiders this Sunday here against the Dolphins -- the team that did not give him a chance to win the starting quarterback job this season and then released him in favor of Trent Green.

     If so and he is introduced just prior to the 1 p.m. kickoff ... how would you react? Cheering? Booing? Indifference? Also, with Culpepper returning to town,and having seen three games of Green, have your thoughts changed on whether Cam Cameron made the right decisions at quarterback?

    You'd click on Culpepper and Green head-to-head for today's column by me. Now what's your opinion? 

September 26, 2007

Feeling bad for Bonds, Vick

     Admit it. You felt a twinge of sympathy this week for two of our most unsympathetic sports figures. C'mon. Admit it!

Aaabonds      You saw where the Giants stated publicly that Barry Bonds would not be welcomed back next year and maybe you thought that's a hell of a thank-you note for a beloved (in San Francisco anyway) star who has put fans in seats for 15 years, just made baseball history and remains an effective slugger and walk-magnet.

Aaavick      Then you saw where additional state charges were filed against Michael Vick, on top of the federal dog-fighting indictments, and maybe you thought that seemed like sort of an unnecessary piling on -- yeah, even for a guy who just tested positive for pot. Like, enough already.

     Then again we acknowledge the alternate possibility that you think both guys are scum and threw a keg party to mark their latest indignities.

     By the way, play what-if for a second. Bonds in a Marlins uniform next season and Vick (eventually) with the Dolphins. If the price was right for each ... would you welcome them?

September 25, 2007

POLL: Pick the Greatest Hurricane Ever

     Finally, the Finals! Time to select the Greatest Miami Hurricane of all-time in football. The first round last month was by position, and more than 10,500 votes were cast. Advancing to the Finals were QB Ken Dorsey, RB Edgerrin James, REC Michael Irvin, OL Bryant McKinnie, DL Warren Sapp, LB Ray Lewis and DB Ed Reed.

     Also advancing: The non-wInners who garnered at least 20 percent of the vote (QB Bernie Kosar, RB Willis McGahee, DL Jerome Brown and DB Bennie Blades); two deserving additions of my choice (OL Jim Otto and DL Ted Hendricks) and one wild-card addition based on your nomination (QB Steve Walsh).

     That brought us to our 14-man championship Finals. We'll keep the poll up all week, with lobbying welcome in the comments section. Now vote for the best of the best:
Who is the greatest Hurricane of all-time?

BERNIE KOSAR: Quarterback, 1983-84
WILLIS McGAHEE: Running back, 2001-02
BRYANT McKINNIE: Offensive tackle, 2000-01
JIM OTTO: Center, 1957-59
ED REED: Safety, 1998-2001
WARREN SAPP: Defensive tackle, 1992-94
STEVE WALSH: Quarterback, 1987-88

BENNIE BLADES: Safety, 1985-87
JEROME BROWN: Defensive tackle, 1983-86
KEN DORSEY: Quarterback, 1999-2002
TED HENDRICKS: Defensive end, 1966-68
MICHAEL IRVIN: Wide receiver, 1985-87
EDGERRIN JAMES: Running back, 1996-98
RAY LEWIS: Linebacker, 1993-95

Picks 'n Fantasy: Week 3 results

      Our every-Tuesday update on how we're doing on our Friday Page NFL predictions, with our fantasy-league team, in the paper's Pigskin Challenge and on the Herald Experts panel...


     Friday Page picks: Solid week. Went 11-5 overall and 8-6-2 vs. the point spread in Week 3. Bull's-eyed another Upset of the Week pick with Packers over Chargers. ("Aawwk!") Also called Cowboys' outright upset of Chicago, and had 'dog Browns, Cardinals, Giants and Ttans with the points. For the season I'm at .688 overall and and a buoyant .581against the number.

Aaafennel_2      Bad Newz Fennelz: Not so good. My fantasy league team fell, 103-80, dropping us to 2-1 (tied for third among 12 teams). QB Tom Brady was a mega-stud as usual for me with 32 points but got little help. Hurt us to miss top WR Andre Johnson to injury, and RB Larry Johnson, my top draft choice, continues to run like his legs are broken.

  Aaapig2      Pigskin Challenge: Strong. My 33-15 is good for a two-game lead (over David J. Neal and Jeff Darlington) on the experts panel against five fellow writers and last year's reader champion. Overall that's good for a ninth-place tie among nearly 500 players, two games out of first.

  Aaaherald      Herald Experts: Very fine. Picking Dolphin games in each Sunday's paper vs. five other writers, I'm tied for first place. Only myself and the great, wise Edwin Pope are 3-0. Wish I could say the same for the Dolphins. Interesting pick this week with Raiders coming to town, especially if Daunte Culpepper starts. That'd be juicy. Wondering about the crowd reaction to 'Pepper. I'd guess fairly robust cheering.

September 23, 2007

G3: Jets 31, Dolphins 28 -- Final

Aaadolphs     Valiant effort toward the end, but a loss is a loss and 0-3 is 0-3. The Dolphins had what should have been a winning effort by the offense today led by a huge day from Ronnie Brown -- was that Ronnie Brown out there or Jim Brown? -- but were let down by disappointing defense, a kickoff-return touchdown allowed, and penalties.

     Weird game. So many positives on offense (albeit against a weak Jets defense). Still, the bottom line hurts. Miami, realistically is looking at a sixth straight season out of the playoffs.

     Your thoughts welcome on today's game and where it leaves this season.

     In-game ramble:

     Ronnie Brown -- career day! -- with another TD, pulling Miami within 31-28 with 1:15 left. Onside kick likely. Dolphins still needing a small miracle, but not going down without a fight. That wasted timeout is big right now.

     Hope lives! Ronnie Brown short TD run (what a day he's having) and Brown's two-poinAaajets_3t conversion on that Statue of Liberty variation they tried in the preseason pulls Dolphins within 10 at 31-21 with just under 9 minutes left. Too little too late?

    Chad Pennington keeps for TD and 31-13 Jets lead early in 4Q. The Dolphins are a football miracle from falling to 0-3. Second-half defense again is failing Miami, and a big day by Ronnie Brown seems to be going for naught. There is no joy in Camville.

     Trent Green intercepted. Game slipping away from Miami. Dolphins need a big play. Turnover. Kick return. Long pass. Something.

     Jets dominate Dolphin defense on long drive to open second half, finished by chip-shot FG for 24-13 NY lead. Does anybody have a clue why Miami wasted that timeout?

     Chad Pennington short TD pass to Chris Baker in closing seconds, after kickoff return of squib kick gave Jets good field position. NYJ leads 21-13 at half. Must be discouraging for Miami and Dolfans, because Dolphins are dominating yards and clock, Trent Green is sharp, Ronnie Brown had a big half -- and yet Miami trails by eight. Dumb penalties and kickoff coverage have hurt.

     Jay Feely 39-yard FG pulls Miami within one, 14-13, late 2Q. Dolphins dominating the game in terms of yardage and clock.

     Jay Feely 31-yard FG pulls Miami within 14-10, mid-2Q. Settled. Had 1st-and-goal from 7 after 4th-and-1 gamble resulted in first-and-goal from 7.

     Well, Miami had the momentum for, what, eight seconds? Leon Washington 98-yard kickoff return for TD. Jets, 14-7.

     Ronnie Brown 1-yard TD drive makes it 7-7. Brown's 42-yard run with screen pass was drive's big play. Jason Taylor, deployed on goalline offense to good effect, drew a pass-interference penalty in end zone.

     Dolphs driving as 2Q begins. Ronnie Brown looking good. Where was Cam Cameron's  faith in ground game the first two weeks?

     Chad Pennington short TD pass to Lavernues Coles. Drive aided by a Channing Crowder roughing-passer flag. Jets, 7-0, late 1Q.

     Dolphins promising opening drive ends with sack, punt. Trent Green takes too many sacks. This one erased a field goal try.   

   Pre-game ramble:

     "Must game." Hate the phrase, because it is usually deployed when not literally correct. But today is that for the 0-2 Dolphins in all but the literal sense. At 1-2 and hosting the bad Raiders next, rays of hope might shine through cloud over this team. At 0-3, I doubt even the staunchest Dolfan would hold out much realistic hope of 2007 ending the five -year playoff drought.

     Today seems an even game between teams in similar straits. To me a telling barometer will be run-offense. Ronnie Brown vs. Thomas Jones. I'd bet whichever of those two has more carries and the better afternoon will walk off the field a winner.

Aaajetfan       I predicted a Jets win, based mainly on the venue and the fact NYJ is on an 8-1 series run at the Meadowlands. Must say Zach Thomas' absence doesn't hurt my chances. I normally root for my picks each Sunday, but in this case, I'll admit I'd sacrifice a win and be perfectly pleased if this guy on the left had to shut up and was severely limited in his chance to participate in that annoying "J-E-T-S!" chant.

     Your thoughts on today's game and where it leaves this Dolphin season are welcome.