Sunday, August 12, 2007

The story so far

I was on vacation last week, up in the new england area. I had fun, but there were soooo many people wearing their Patriots gear. Of course, I had to wear my Dolphins cap most of the time. I didn't get hasseled at all (thankfully), but I couldn't help overhearing some conversations about how the pats are loaded and ready to be crowned champs again. least they lost their first preseason game. :)

As for the Dolphins, they had their first preseason game last night. I didn't see it, since I'm still not home. But, like most of you, I read about it, and watched the highlights.

It looked very much like the first preseason game. Boring. Sloppy. But, they won. And I guess the fans booed.

So, rather than comment on that game, I'm going to take you back to another Dolphins-Jags game. This one is the one that I think summed up the downward slide the Dolphins have been on since 1999:

The Jacksonville Jaguars can sing it loud. They are a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

In the second-most overpowering playoff performance ever, the Jaguars routed the Miami Dolphins 62-7 yesterday to move one win away from the Super Bowl they've been pointing toward all season and singing about the past week.

With Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson stumbling through possibly their last game, the Dolphins (10-8) didn't offer much of a challenge. Still, for at least one day, those who doubted the Jaguars (15-2) because of their soft schedule and ridiculed them for their Super Bowl rap song can give it a rest.

Among the stars were Fred Taylor, who had two highlight-reel touchdowns, and defensive lineman Tony Brackens, who recovered a fumble and literally danced his way into the end zone.

"This was one of those games where things are going well, you get confidence, you get it rolling and you start making a lot of plays," said offensive lineman Ben Coleman. "Then we didn't let up. We made play after play after play and all of a sudden, we're running away."

To say the least.

Only the 1940 Chicago Bears, who beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 for the NFL title, have scored more points in the playoffs. The 55-point margin also is the second-largest in playoff history. The 62 points were the most the Dolphins have allowed -- ever.

It may have been the most embarrassing loss for Johnson and Marino in their storied careers. It was punctuated by a cold blast of water from the sprinkler system in the south end zone soon after a Jaguars touchdown made it 55-7.

"I've never experienced a game like this in my life," said Marino, 38, who deflected questions about his retirement. "Even as a kid, I've never had a game like this."

Marino was 11-for-25 for 95 yards before Johnson pulled him early in the third quarter. More telling: By the time gimpy Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell was lifted with a 38-0 lead, Marino had thrown two interceptions, no completions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

It was all part of a stunning 20-minute period in which the Jaguars pulled off enough spectacular plays to stake their claim as not only a Super Bowl favorite, but an exhilarating one at that.

It should bring an end to the issue of the soft schedule.

And the Super Bowl rap?

"We knew if we lost, that would be hanging over our heads," said one of the singers, defensive lineman Gary Walker. "That got taken out of proportion. I guess they can take it to the team that wins tomorrow and get it started again."

The Jaguars will play host to the winner of today's game between Indianapolis and Tennessee next week for the AFC championship. They'll have trouble topping this.

"When you look at who we've got -- Brunell, Taylor, McCardell, Smith -- you know you're going to put points on the board," Walker said. "But I can't say we expected that many."

Jacksonville's most memorable play might have been Taylor's 90-yard touchdown run, the longest in NFL playoff history.

The second-year running back appeared all-but-tackled behind a picket line of Dolphins defenders. Somehow, he stutter-stepped his way around the line to break into the open. Then, with a trademark burst of speed, Taylor won a 70-yard foot race with Brock Marion for a 17-0 lead.

Two plays later, Brackens provided another memory.

Sweeping in from the right, he stripped Marino and recovered the fumble. He got up and started strutting, mobbed by teammates who thought the play was over. Noticing Brackens hadn't been touched down, linebacker Bryce Paup shoved his teammate toward the end zone. By the time Brackens figured out what was happening, he had crossed the goal line.

On Jacksonville's next possession, Taylor took a screen pass and outmaneuvered four more flailing Miami defenders for a 39-yard score and a 31-0 lead.

Taylor finished with 135 yards rushing and 39 receiving. He sat out the second half and couldn't match his 162-yard performance in his postseason debut last season.

"I've been saying all week I was ready to play," said Taylor, hampered most of the year with a sore hamstring. "I got tired of sitting around watching other games. I guess I was ready to go."

Complementing the big plays were a 25-yard touchdown run by James Stewart, a blocked punt by Corey Chamblin and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brunell to Jimmy Smith.

In the second half, backup quarterback Jay Fiedler hit Smith for a 70-yard touchdown and followed with a 38-yard scoring pass to Alvis Whitted for a 55-7 lead. That's when the sprinklers came on, blasting the Dolphins huddle with cold water to pile on to an already humiliating day.

"It's tough to describe," said Dolphins center Tim Ruddy. "We made some blunders at the start and it went downhill from there."

The Jaguars led 41-7 at halftime, tying the postseason record for most points in a half.

Jacksonville held a 24-0 advantage after one quarter, leaving Johnson to spend most of the game with arms folded, staring blankly at the field, seemingly emotionless despite the humbling loss.

"I guess this thing is full-circle," Johnson said, sounding like a coach who has had enough. "I was on the other side of one of these where we got about seven takeaways from an opponent in the Super Bowl. It was a runaway, but I've never been on this side before."

The Dolphins committed seven turnovers. They closed the season losing seven of their last 10, fueling thoughts somebody has to go -- either the coach, the quarterback or both.

Marino is undecided about his future, but there's been widespread speculation he'll retire after he missed five games with a neck injury and finished with the worst quarterback rating (67.4) of his storied 17-year career.

Meanwhile, all Johnson has to show for his four seasons in Miami are two playoff victories, hardly memorable considering the way the Dolphins have exited the last two years: This loss comes on top of last year's 38-3 thumping at the hands of Denver last season that led Johnson to quit for a day.

...taken from Southcoast today and a writer named Eddie Pells.

What I can tell you is that a few weeks later, both JJ and Marino retired. And Jay Fiedler came to Miami that offseason. It was the beginning of something....ummmm...great. And certainly was the end of an era....
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