Banged-up Dolphins reeling
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Time and again the Miami Dolphins have referred to themselves as a running team first. The numbers over the last few games do not support that notion.
In a humiliating 16-0 loss to the Chicago Bears at Sun Life Stadium on Thursday night, the Dolphins ran a total of 13 times for 39 yards, Almost half of those rushes (6) were by quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who accounted for all but 12 of the yards.
"In the last two games we had 43 rushes for 127 yards and our runners, never mind the quarterbacks or the reverse plays, have 33 carries for 92," said Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, whose background is as an offensive line coach. "So that isn't good enough. I think from our standpoint we probably got to go back and just start to identify the staple runs."
With Thigpen making his first start for Miami and first since 2008 when he started 11 games for Kansas City, he was asked not only to kick-start the passing game with a patchwork offensive line, but to make the correct reads when he had the run-pass option. Sparano pointed out that on a few occasions Thigpen passed when the coverage dictated run.
Another factor in the dearth of running plays against the Bears: the number of minus plays executed by the offense. Penalties, sacks and a fumbled exchange on an end-around between Thigpen and wide receiver Brian Hartline all set up long second- and third-down situations, which dictated pass.
"The bottom line is in the first 11 plays we ran the ball five times and we had minus-8 yards. So that's not very good and we got to do a better job of that," Sparano said. "Everybody wants to know why you didn't run the football, but we had 23 plays in the first half of the football game, and the last four of those 23 plays we were in a two-minute drive just there at the end where we got the ball back with about a minute and 40 seconds left. So those were four passes."
Thigpen was sacked six times by Chicago, three times by defensive end Julius Peppers, for a total loss of 38 yards. Peppers also tipped one pass to cornerback Charles Tillman for an interception as Miami's banged-up offensive line didn't have an answer for the Bears' pass rush or run defense.
In addition to opening the game without regular starting center Joe Berger (knee injury), Thigpen lost backup center Cory Procter to a knee injury in the first quarter. Left guard Richie Incognito moved over to center and Pat McQuistan took over at left guard, lining up next to a less than 100 percent Jake Long at left tackle.
Long, the Dolphins' first-round draft pick in 2008 and No. 1 overall, made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and gutted it out Thursday night with a dislocated left shoulder. He played with a harness keeping his left arm close to his body, which limited what he could do against Peppers and the other pass rushers for the Bears. Long gave up an uncharacteristic three of the six sacks.
"I think we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot," Long said after the game. "The penalties, negative plays and getting Tyler hit and having him run around, you can't do that against this defense. We've got to get better at that and we will."
He left questions about whether he should have played or stayed in the game to Sparano and the team doctors; Long has yet to miss a start in 42 games.
Sparano did pull Long late, when the outcome was apparent, and inserted Lydon Murtha at left tackle because he didn't want to risk further damage at that point and because Long conceded the shoulder was getting sore.
"I think you've got to evaluate (Friday) how he feels after playing those plays, see where his strength is, all those things as we go forward here," Sparano said. "I've been in constant communication with Jake and with our trainers and the doctors here to make sure that we're doing the right things and not the wrong things."
Miami has 10 days to get ready for the Raiders in Oakland, which will be used to get Long, quarterback Chad Henne, WR Brandon Marshall and the others healthy.
Received 11/19/10 02:02 pm ET