Heartbreaker for Dolfans, but look on the bright side…

This was the night the Dolphins would reclaim the home-field advantage they had let slip over the years — “Win the crowd,” as coach Tony Sparano had put it.

This was the game quarterback Chad Henne would do the same, winning cheers and trust, finally removing the question mark that has dogged his NFL future.

 

Yes, this was the pulsing opportunity — season opener, national prime-time TV, a mighty division opponent — for the Dolphins to make football fun again for Dolfans.

 

And it all worked splendidly!

 

Well, for about one half of one quarter, that is. And then for not nearly enough after that.

 

Then it was gravity: Hope gradually floating back down to Earth.

 

Then it was reality: New England Patriots 38, Dolphins 24.

 

The positive to arise from Miami’s 46th franchise season-opener was that Henne looked in command of a re-tooled offense in a way he has not the past couple of years.

 

The Henne we saw here Monday night was good enough to have a future in Miami and to succeed in this league — or at least to inspire renewed hope that he might.

 

He was not good enough to win in this game but the shame for why that was must be largely redirected. See, Henne was mostly brilliant but Pats counterpart Tom Brady, NFL royalty, was better.

 

That isn’t on Henne as much as it is on Miami’s defense, or startling lack thereof.

 

Henne, playing as a team captain for the first time, would complete 30 of 49 passes for 416 yards. He would throw for two touchdowns and run for another. His only interception was off a deflection on the game’s final play. Miami’s new and more attacking offense would see him complete passes of 24, 22, 26, 22, 25, 27, 21 and 31 yards.<

 

That is encouraging. Very.

 

“Outstanding,” Sparano called Henne’s effort. “Thought the kid played a great game.”

 

Last season’s Dolphins offense was three yards and a cloud of doubt, a showcase for the punter — the antithesis of the club’s lightning-bolt mid-‘80s offensive halcyon days of Dan Marino and the Marks Brothers.

 

The offensive improvement seen Monday night — especially in an electric first series that started with consecutive plays of 24, 17 and 13 yards — inspired hope.

 

That early lead gave you the idea it could be such a special night.

 

In addition to the national eye of ESPN and a glamour opponent, miniature American flags were handed out in a nod to the 9/11 anniversary. Honorary captains included franchise luminaries Dan Marino and Bob Griese. There was a pregame rededication of the statue honoring club founder Joe Robbie.

 

So much pomp and circumstance, too little defense.

 

And the thing is, when your team is coming off consecutive 7-9 seasons and last won a playoff game 10 years ago, this is what you are relegated to: Sifting through the beach sand for the odd piece of shiny metal. Looking from all angles to see a glass half full.

 

The reality as the new season launches is that for once the problem for Miami was not Henne.

 

The problem was just about everything else.

 

There was too much lousy Dolphins pass defense to overcome as Brady completed 32 of 48 passes for 517 yards and four touchdowns. That “517” is, unfortunately, not a typographical error.

 

“Not the defensive performance we were looking for,” Sparano said. “That’s an understatement.”

 

An NFL record was set for combined passing yards in one game, to the great shame of Miami’s pass defense. Any Dolphins being paid to defend Brady Monday night should be made to forfeit a month of paychecks and walk around all week wearing dunce caps. What an epic embarrassment.

 

Remember when cornerback Vontae Davis called himself and Sean Smith the league’s best tandem? Oy.

 

Part of the nightmare was the Dolphins’ inability to cover opposing tight ends, too, a carryover problem from last season.

 

Everywhere you looked, there were problems not named Henne.

 

There were too many ill-timed penalties by Miami.

 

Too little pass rush to dirty Brady’s uniform much.

 

Too little protection to keep Henne upright enough.

 

And there wasn’t much offensive balance to make Henne’s night easier, either. The team’s new-era running game disappointed, with newcomer Reggie Bush debuting with only 38 yards rushing on 11 carries.

 

Gas tanks had been placed in the Dolphins’ locker room this past week as inspiration, “to make sure they’re loaded and ready to go,” said Sparano of his players.

 

Offensively those tanks had plenty of fuel Monday night.

 

Defensively those tanks were exploding and starting fires.

 

After it all, it was hard to get back to the positives in Henne’s performance when so much was a shambles all around him.

 

After it all, the Dolphins’ home stadium looked and sounded much as it did throughout last year, when the Dolphins were going 1-7 in home games and the place was littered with despair.

 

Late Monday the home stadium was emptying fast as the minutes wound down, and too quiet but for the fans of the other team.

 

Lost in the end was Henne’s great night, buried by his own team’s defensive shame.

 

Source – Miami Herald