I can't believe I'm writing this, when the team I picked lost by 17 points, but the Dolphins really should have won this game. The Dolphins were ahead in the 4th quarter, and they should have closed out an inferior opponent. They did not, as Henne collapsed and threw 3 consecutive INTs in the final 3 minutes of the game, turning a prospective Dolphins' victory into a Bills' blowout. Most of my predictions about this game came true: the Dolphins' ground game was solid, and the Fins' accrued 5 sacks and numerous QB hits and hurries, including 2.5 sacks from Joey Porter. So why did the Fins blow it?
1. Their inability to close out games. The Dolphins have been terrible in the 4th quarter this year, and that trend obviously continued on Sunday. Of course, so had the Bills, which was the main reason I wasn't worried about the Fins before this game. But the Bills managed to put together an impressive drive (replete with the requisite observation by the announcer, seemingly made in every game about the team that BadNFL picked against, that "this is the best the Bills have looked all season") that tied the game, and then new coach Percy Fewell made the gutsy (I thought ill-advised) decision to have Ryan Lindell attempt a 56-yard field goal to give the Bills the lead. If he had missed, and he missed earlier from 44 yards, the Dolphins would have been set up with great field position to take the lead. But like every other gamble Fewell made on Sunday, that one paid off. And Henne was clearly not up to the challenge of playing from behind on the road late in that situation--even though he led a similar drive on national TV against the Jets litttle over a month ago.
2. They got too cute on the goalline. With the score tied 0-0, early in the 1st quarter, the Dolphins had the chance to pound the ball in on the ground from inside the 5. And why wouldn't they, given that the Bills' run defense is horrendous? Instead, the Dolphins decided to attempt a Ricky Williams pass out of the wildcat, and he threw a devastating and ugly INT in the end zone. That swung the momentum for the whole game, and gave the Bills, who I didn't think had a lot to play for entering the game, new life.
Be careful betting against new, young, energetic coaches who have replaced an tired and dour older coach. Pretty much every recap of this game mentions how energized the Bills are by new coach Percy Fewell. I thought that the swirling Shanahan rumors would undermine his credibility, but most reports have the players absolutely loving the coach and playing much harder for him. Particularly as contrasted to Dick Jauron, maybe he really is an effective coach for them. It's difficult to say, and I'm still surprised that this game didn't result in a decisive Dolphins' win, but in this case, it really appears that my "counterargument" that I discarded in my prediction came through and tanked the pick.