Dolphins on brink of elimination from race
The Miami Dolphins may have finally dug themselves a hole too deep.
The Dolphins have been coming from behind all season, and they did it again Sunday before losing in overtime at Tennessee. Now their 7-7 record may be too much to overcome, with Miami mired in the middle of the AFC pack pursuing the playoffs.
Six teams have a better record - six make the postseason - and five other teams are 7-7. That includes the Dolphins' final opponents, Houston on Sunday and Pittsburgh on Jan. 3.
``We're still in this race,'' coach Tony Sparano said Monday. ``The best chance we have is we have to win two games. We still have a pulse. We'll prepare that way.''
While the Dolphins' wild-card prospects are slim, their chances of repeating as AFC East champions are dimmer, with New England (9-5) holding a two-game lead.
``Even though things haven't gone how we want them to go, we still can control the next two weeks,'' linebacker Reggie Torbor said. ``We can go out and win those games. Whatever happens from there we can't control, so there's no need in worrying about it.''
The Dolphins have faced an uphill battle since starting 0-3. They knew they probably needed to sweep their final five games to make the playoffs, but that was too high a hurdle for a team whose longest winning streak this season has been two in a row.
Compounding the frustration about the situation was the close call at Tennessee. Miami repeatedly squandered early scoring chances and trailed 24-6 before rallying with three late scores.
In overtime, Chad Henne's third interception gave the Titans a chance to kick a field goal for a 27-24 win.
With a victory, the Dolphins would have controlled their destiny. Now they need wins in the final two games and lots of help.
``Losing control of our fate by our own hands is the worst,'' receiver Brian Hartline said.
But the Dolphins aren't real sure-handed, which has been a big part of their problem. After tying an NFL record with only 13 turnovers last year, they have 25 this season.
They're a minus-seven in turnover margin, eighth-worst in the league.
``It's ridiculous,'' Sparano said. ``That's not good football. That's not winning football.''
Turnovers are the reason Miami lost Sunday despite gaining a season-high 468 yards and enjoying a five-minute advantage in time of possession.
Ricky Williams ran for 80 yards to reach the 1,000 milestone for the first time since 2003. But he also lost a fumble and has fumbled four times in the past two games.
Henne passed for a career-high 349 yards, but he threw two interceptions in Tennessee territory and another on Miami's final play.
``Chad had a couple of balls that certainly were ill-advised balls, and then the ball at the end of the game just got away from him,'' Sparano said.
In his first year as an NFL starter, Henne has been prone to costly turnovers, and eight of his 12 interceptions have come after the third quarter.
``The quarterback gets all the glory when you win and all the blame when you lose,'' receiver Greg Camarillo said. ``But you can't put the blame on Henne. The kid was trying to make a play. Chad plays aggressively, and I'll never fault him for that.''
Henne's overtime interception became even costlier when Camarillo was penalized for unnecessary roughness at the end of the play. Michael Griffin made the interception and had fallen to the turf when Camarillo hit him.
Camarillo said he wasn't sure the play was dead when he hit Griffin.
``I hear no whistle, I hear all his teammates telling him to get up, so naturally I go after him,'' Camarillo said. ``It wasn't excessively physical. I didn't lead with my shoulder or my head. ... I don't think it was the right call.''
The 15-yard penalty put the Titans in range for the winning field goal. Sparano said he'll likely send a tape of the play to the league for review.
``I don't do it all the time,'' Sparano said. ``I do it very, very, very, very little - only when I want some clear description of what's going on, so I can bring the information back to my team and use it as a teaching tool.''