Stillers 28, Dolphs 17 ���. Sep 7, 2006 ����Game #1
Stillers-Dolphins Postgame Analysis and Grades
The Stillers kicked off the 2006 season with a hard-fought 28-17 win over the Dolphs. The Stillers were behind going into the 4Q, and, poised to go ahead on 1st & goal at the Fish 1, Batch botched the snap and turned the ball over. But on the very next drive, Batch opened with a sharp completion on a flag to Miller, and Heath left Jach Thomas in the dust en route to the longest TD reception by a TE since Joe Namath played for the Jets. Joey Porter sealed the victory with an INT return for a TD.
QB: Batch got the start in place of BenRoth and his appendectomy. Batch acquitted himself well, going 15 for 25 for 209 yards and 3 TDs. All 3 TDs were pin-point passes, and 2 (to Nate, Heath) were thrown with just enough touch combined with just enough zip. Batch had a good scramble for 11 yards late in the 3Q. There were some negatives, though. He threw a poor out, behind to Holmes on 3d & 5 in the 2Q. Batch forced a long pass to Wilson in the EZ, amidst double coverage, in the 2Q, and only by the grace of God was it not INT'd. On 2d & 9 on the Miami 25 in the 3Q, Batch double pumped and then held the ball far too long, taking a 10-yard sack. Last, but certainly not least, was the horrific fumbled snap on 1st & goal at the Fin 1. Faneca did not jar the ball loose, as NBC pondered. Batch simply failed to corral the snap, and this could very well have been the play that lost the game. Nonetheless, an overall solid, heady game by Batch. B.
RB: Parker, freed of the shackles of having to waste PT with Fat Jerome, responded with a superb effort, toting the ball 29 times for 115 yards, good for 4 yards a crack. Parker ripped off a 32-yard run, but gained most of his yards grinding out 3 and 4 yard chunks at a time. Park also had a nice juke and 2d effort on a 2Q screen, which netted 9 yards and a critical 1D. On the very next play, he easily rumbled through a Jach Thomas tackle and ripped off the 32-yard gainer. Yawn�.what was the bullshit about missing Fat Jerome�.? Haynesie blocked a lot out of the SG formation, and toted the ball once. Staley dressed but never touched the pig. A.
FB: Kreider didn't see a plethora of work. He caught a valve dump in the 2H, and had a good lead block on Parker's 6-yard gain early in the 4Q. Kreider had a poor blitz pickup on 2d & 8 midway thru the 2Q, causing a Batch TA (throwaway). B.
WR: Hines Ward led the way with 5 grabs for 53 yards and a clutch TD in the back of the EZ. Ward didn't have any dazzling plays, but almost every catch he had was a clutch grab in tight traffic with punishment taken after the catch. He had a good block on Parker's wide run in the 4Q, but had an equally poor block on a Parker run in the 1Q that was stuffed for a 3-yard loss. Nate had 2 grabs, with one being a clutch pluck of a Batch pass in the EZ for a sterling 27-yard TD, his 1st regular season grab in the NFL. Nate also had a nice pluck on a bubble screen, which netted 5 yards. Nate did have a drop on the 1st series, on a 3d & 4 in tight coverage. Cedric was held catch-less, but drew a critical PI flag on Bennie Goodman that set up the Ward TD. Holmes made his 1st NFL grab, on a tough opportunity in which he bobbled but then held onto. Oddly enough, Willie Reid, who had a terrific camp and preseason, did not dress. If this is the trend, he may as well go down to Sears and buy the largest, thickest seat cushion he can find. A-.
TE: As I'd stated in my pre-game analysis, "Jach Thomas is at a point in his career where he can't cover a picnic table with a tarp, much less cover a quick TE like Miller."�. and "That's quite a few new faces to assume duties in a unit that requires the utmost of understanding, teamwork, and cohesiveness on the gridiron. Clearly, this secondary is a weakness for the Dolphs, at least at this early juncture of the season." Miller left Jach Thomas in the dust, and a botched coverage by Will Allen allowed Miller the huge RAC for the 87-yard TD. Miller finished with 3 grabs for 101 yards, and we can only wonder why he wasn't the recipient of a few more passes. Miller clumsily allowed pressure in the 1Q while pass blocking, which led to a Batch flush for no gain. A.
OL: The O-line had a decent day. They open up some nice holes for Parker and held the Smalphin pass rush at bay. There was some grotesque ugliness, however. KenDoll Simmons was simply a wretched piece of shit. He whiffed miserably of Fat Keith Traylor in the 2d series of the game, causing a 4-yard loss by Parker. A short while later, he was totally whipped off the snap by Jason Taylor (rushing from the inside,) on 3d & 13. In the 3Q, Fat Traylor once again whupped Simmons and caused a 3-yard loss by Parker. Hell, were it not for Ken Doll, Parker may have averaged 5 yards a crack tonite. Marvel Smith was shoved back and then shoved aside by Taylor on a 3Q pass play in which Batch was hit as he threw, and only an illegal contact penalty on Miami covered this embarrassing boner. B.
DL: The line was stingy all nite long, helping to limit Brown to a meager 30 yards on 15 carries. Hampton wasn't dominant, but was solid. Smith and Keisel were active and at times disruptive. Keisel got away with a block to the back on Culpepper on the Porter INT return for a TD. (Just kidding !! This was merely inserted for all the imbecilic morons that claimed Seattle should have been penalized in the Sup Bowl for knocking Ben Roth down on the exact same type of play�..) Kirschke, Hoke, and Bailey provided adequate relief, although Bailey looked a bit sluggish. A.
LB: Joey Porter made the defensive play of the game, peeling out of a 3-point stance and then snaring a slant, and then returning it 42 yards for the game-clinching TD. As good as that play was, sadly, there were a few that were equally shameful. On the 2nd play of the game, Porter wandered far inside in pass coverage -- nearly running into a fellow 'backer -- leaving an acre of room for Peelle to catch a short dumper in the flat and rumble 16 yards. One of the worst defensive plays of the game was the 1st down at the Stiller 15 right after the long Welker punt return. RB Ron Brown ran a simple out route right in front of Big Joey's face while Big Joey -- "the most feared man in the NFL" -- was in zone coverage, and not only did Porter do nothing to defend the route, but he was also so slow and feeble that Brown snared the short dumper and then ran unmolested after the catch for a 13-yard gain. On a play that began at the Stiller 15, one would think that it would be nearly impossible for a dumpoff to a RB, right in front of the "star LB" in perfect zone coverage, to net 13 yards, but it did. This was as shoddy as it gets at this level of football. As quick as Porter moved on the big INT, he moved as slow as Alaskan molasses on this play. Also, on the 4Q Chambers reverse that Chambers fumbled but retained and kept running, Big Joey not only got bamboozled and gave up the corner, but then got leveled by a crushing block, which allowed Chambers to run for a nice 5-yard gainer. Joey had 2 sacks -- one in which he was soloed by FB Darian Barnes, and another in which he was soloed by a TE (McMichael) in motion. Lastly, lest I forget, in a scene nearly as sickening as Cowhard kissing Kordella in the win over Balt. in '97, Gay Joey kissed Cowhard after his TD, a scene that I pray we never, ever see ever again. What a homo !! Farrior was fairly steady. Haggans seemed a bit quiet, although he most often held his own and registered 7 stops. Foote was a total non-factor. Harrison drew a hold by LJ Shelton in the 4Q. A.
DB: A bit ragged of a performance. The new mega-millionaire, lke "Skates" Taylor, spent the evening imitating a Hawaiian surfer-dude that was ice-skating for the first time in his life. Taylor slipped & slid on every single play that he was involved in. Worse, he gave larger cushions that DeWayne Washington gave during his hey-day. Sorry Ike, but we ain't paying you $26M to line up 11 yards off the opposing receiver. And there were a plethora of poor plays by Taylor. Late in the 2Q, Ike never broke down on a short pass to Welker, and Ike whiffed like a GilDong, allowing a 20-yard gain. In the 3Q, there were 4 -- count 'em, FOUR -- consecutive weak plays by Ivan Taylor. Ike whiffed feebly after a 0-step hitch to Chambers, getting his face shoved into the turf on a stiff-arm; 7-yard gain. Next play, Brown ran wide right and easily eluded a flailing Taylor, gaining 8 yards. Next play, a loopy, off target pass in the EZ should have easily been INTd, but Taylor bobbled this gift and tumbled OOB before he could grasp it. On the 4th play of this sequence, Taylor had a simply chance to tackle Brown before the goal line, but he weakly just dove at Brown's legs -- using no hands whatsoever -- which allowed Brown to easily score the TD. Ike did have good coverage and a bust-up of a deep ball to Chambers in the 2Q, but clearly, he has got to play at least 4 times better if this team is going to go far in '06. Townsend was a bit quiet. Clark laid a good lick on Booker in the 2Q, forcing an incompletion, but on the TD run by Brown, Clark was far, far too slow on a play that he was in perfect position to stuff. Carter had a horrific slip on a short curl to Booker, which then allowed a gaudy 52-yard gain. McFadden laid a big hit on McMichael late in the game, although we can all do without his excessive theatrics afterwards. Pola had huge INT in the 4Q, and actually led the team in total tackles. Overall, much work needs to be done, as a mediocre WR corps that missed its #2 WR for 60% of the game managed to turn in receptions of 52, 31, 19, 16, 14, 14, 13, and so on. C+.
Spec teams: An absolutely wretched evening. My gawd -- this hearkens me back to 1993, 1997, and 2001. The punt coverage sucked ass all nite long, culminating in 37 and 47-yard PRs and a 30-yard KOR by Welker. Pis Gardocki got off shoddy hang time on his longer boots, and on a punt from Miami territory, he booted it into the EZ for a TB. Colclough fielded a bouncing punt and bobbled it in the 1Q. Holmes fielded a punt on his own 4, and then slipped, getting stopped on his own 6. Clark and Arnie Harrison both whiffed on the 37-yard PR by Welker. Sean Morey, the man is keeping Reid in street clothes, did absolutely nothing on STs. J. Harrison was flagged for a hold on the long KOR by Ricardo. Reed hit a grotesque duck-hook on a critical 4Q FG that would have put the Stillers up by 7. This was an uglier FG attempt than the Vanderjagt miss in the divisional playoffs last season. Corrections had better be made to these STs, and soon. F.
OC: Not shabby. Kenny chipped away with the ground game at the elder, veteran Dolphin defense that was prone to getting pooped. The quickie pitch to Parker on 4th & 1 was a nice call. The pass to Miller that netted the long TD was adroit, although, especially with Ward seeing a ton of double coverage, Miller's number should have been called earlier and more often. B+.
DC: Dick had an ok evening, totally shutting down the Fin ground game. The down side saw the defense waste 2 TOs (one per half) at the LOS due to confusion and, in the 1 case, 12 men on the field. TOs are too scarce to be wasted, especially when you have a veteran defense that doesn't have a single starter without at least 3 years in the NFL. I wasn't overly pleased with the incessant use of Troy Pola as, quite literally, a pass rushing nose tackle. I like Troy's blitzing ability, but when he's lined up centimeters from the center's face, and he pass rushes in a futile manner against a lineman that weighs 100 more pounds, it wastes the overall talents of this man. Pola needs to rush, most often, in SPACE, not in the confined quarters of a nose tackle. Further, the litany of long completions, combined with some horrendous tackling, must immediately be addressed and fixed. B.
HC: Cowhard had his usual fits with opening day slop n' slather, with pitiful spec teams & utterly shoddy tackling. To the team's credit, the team hung in there amidst a 4Q deficit and even the costly TO on the 1-yard line, which was impressive. My biggest beef with Cowhard was the undeniable pure fact that nearly the entire team was wearing the wrong type of cleats during this tilt. Ike Taylor slipped at least 17 times. Holmes slipped about 5 times; Parker at least 9 times, including a wide run in the 4Q in which he slipped without a defender even touching him; Nate slipped about 4 times; Ty Carter slipped on the 52-yard gainer by Booker; and so on. Yes, Heinz Field is the worst field in the NFL, but Miami players weren't skating around on ice like the Men in Black were. For Pete's sake, this is absolutely sickening at this level of football. Yes, you can lay blame on the equipment manager as well, but the buck stops directly at the desk of the mega-millionaire head coach. B.
Synopsis: A big "W" to start off the 2006 season and the defense of the title !! As I stated in my pre-game analysis, "The Stillers will prevail in a hard-fought victory over the Dolphs, aided by 2 key turnovers created by the Stiller defense." The team showed good grit, resiliency, and moxie in turning the 4Q deficit into the winning margin. This was the kind of game that good teams win and mediocre teams lose. But this team cannot rest on it laurels, as a road trip on MNF in Jax looms in 10 days. This will be a very rugged test (as we found out last year), especially if Benji has to skip the start. Jax's tilt with Dallas should make for some interesting watching this Sunday as we prepare for the Jagoffs.
(Still Mill and Stillers.com -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)