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The Atlanta Falcons were up 28-3 over the New England Patriots late in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. No team had ever come back from such a deficit in the big game, and the Patriots didn't look like they were going to be the ones to do it. All Atlanta had to do was keep doing what they had been doing for the better part of 2 hours, and they would be NFL champions.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you who won.
The Falcons were good enough this year; they should have been able to beat the Patriots. But the one thing holding back, the lead weight around their necks, was their own history. The 1999 Super Bowl. The 2011 Divisional game. Now the 2017 Super Bowl. When a few plays late in the game went wrong, you could see the Falcons lose confidence that they could win. If you think you're going to lose, you're right.
I'm not a Falcons fan, but I do consider myself an Atlantan. This loss hurt. It hurt bad. Like a second betrayal by an unfaithful lover, it's the sort of pain you never get over. You can forgive, but you'll never forget. You can only blame yourself for believing she wouldn't do it to you again. A loss like this, in a city seemingly incapable of escaping it's terrible luck at team sports (1 MLB title, 0 NFL titles, 0 NBA titles, 0 NHL franchises), this loss leaves a permanent scar on our soul.
As my friend Keith, a Falcons fan since birth, said at the start of the postseason, "I'll believe the Falcons can win a Super Bowl the day after they win a Super Bowl." After this game, I don't think either of us will live that long.
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Last year, the Atlanta Falcons were no better than an average team, finishing with an 8-8 record. The year before, they finished 6-10, and the year before that, they were 4-12. You might have noticed a trend. After four years of steady improvement, the Falcons are in the Super Bowl.
Why can't other teams do that? Specifically, why not the Miami Dolphins?
Assembling a successful pro football team is a challenge of (1.) recognizing talent, (2.) acquiring that talent, (3.) developing a competitive strategy, (4.) coaching talent to work together to achieve the strategy, and (5.) executing tactics on the field.
In recent years, the Falcons have done all those things well. For the past few decades, the Dolphins have rarely gotten past step one.
But this year the Dolphins broke out of mediocrity and made the postseason. The Dolphins lost primarily because the injury bug did more damage than their opponent, but that the Dolphins have any talent good enough to make the playoffs is a hopeful sign that perhaps the team is finally turning things around.
If the Falcons can make the Super Bowl in four years, I don't see any reason the same can't happen for the Dolphins. Maybe 2019 will be a super year for Miami.
The Miami Dolphins have made the NFL playoffs! They play the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1PM EST on Sunday.
The last time the Dolphins played a playoff game was January 4, 2009. They lost that game 27-9. I'm not convinced that this year will be any better.
In 2009, the team lost mainly because NFL Comeback Player of the Year Chad "Noodle-Arm" Pennington threw four interceptions. That can't happen again, right? I mean, Pennington has long retired, but starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is still out with a bum knee, leaving backup Matt Moore in his place. Moore has a fair arm, but he can be a bit reckless. Surely he won't be four interceptions worth of reckless. Right?
If the Dolphins do manage to get past round one — they did beat the Steelers 30-15 back in October — they'll head into a second week rematch against the New England Patriots. They've played the Patriots twice already this year, losing 31-24 (with Tannehill) and 35-14 (with Moore). Yeesh.
So go Dolphins! (And better luck next year!)
The Miami Dolphins are guaranteed a winning season for the first time since 2008. It's an unusual sensation. I'd forgotten what it felt like to cheer for a winning NFL team.
If the Dolphins win on Christmas Eve in Buffalo and on New Year's Day versus the New England Patriots, they'll definitely make the postseason. There are scenarios in which they could lose one or both of those games and and still have a shot at playing for the league title. Given the Dolphins' history of poor performance in the snow and against teams much, much better than they are, I'm not holding my breath.
(It doesn't help that starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill busted his ACL in week 14 and may or may not return before September 2017. Great timing, that.)
However, don't let my pessimism about the future fool you into thinking that I'm not excited about the present. I am, indeed, very happy that the Dolphins won't finish the season as losers, something I predicted before the season started.
That's the best thing about being a pessimist. It's always a pleasant surprise when you're wrong.
Word on the street (ok, word via NFL.com) is that Jared Goff will be starting at quarterback for the LA Rams when the Miami Dolphins come to town this weekend.
I think that's probably a bad idea.
For those of you who haven't been paying attention, Goff was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. That means the Rams thought he wasn't just the best quarterback available, but the best player available this year. The Rams have taken an old-school approach to rearing the young quarterback and let him ride the bench while he learns the ropes. Most teams these days throw their new quarterback prospects out on the field immediately to see if they sink or swim (*cough* Miami Dolphins *cough*). But not the Rams. At least not until now.
The reason I say this might not be the right week to start the Jared Goff experiment is because the Dolphins aren't the sort to play nice with opposition quarterbacks. No team in 2016 has spent more on their defensive linemen than the Dolphins (by a margin of nearly $4 million!). In the past 10 weeks, the Dolphins have broken Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger, accomplished journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Tom Brady stand-in Jimmy Garoppolo. Is that the sort of meat grinder you want to put an unproven $20 million man in? I wouldn't.
So why this week? Maybe coach Jeff Fisher thinks that his previous starter, Case Keenum, is too important to risk feeding to the Dolphins' D-line. Maybe Fisher is frustrated with Goff and wants to punish him. Whatever the case, good luck, Jared Goff. You're going to need it.
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Screenshot from my phone on election night:
When the BBC is showing a mushroom cloud, you know things are bad.
So somehow this is a thing now:
I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I mean, I like M&M's (even with their unconventional use of the apostrophe). I have a bag near me now.
However, who wants a candy that tastes like the Miami Dolphins? They're not a particularly good football team. What would you expect a Dolphins-branded candy to taste like? Failure? Disappointment? Actual dolphins?
At least they don't taste like the Cleveland Browns.
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At long last, the 2016 NFL season is here!
Yesterday the Miami Dolphins opened the season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. (I'm typing this on Friday, but I feel pretty confident about what the outcome of the game will be.) The Dolphins can only get better from here, right? Not so fast.
FootballOutsiders.com predicts the Dolphins will win 6.3 games. FiveThirtyEight.com models call for 6.4 wins. ESPN (inheritor of the AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com prediction models) says 7. That might sound bad, but they're all based on the team's history. Over the last 10 years, the Dolphins have averaged 6.7 wins a season. Ouch.
Over the franchise's first 40 season, it averaged over 9 wins a season. How the once mighty have fallen. Is there any reason for optimism that the team will regain its former glory this year? Sure, why not. The team has a new, first time head coach and a healthy defensive line. That has to count for something, right? I mean, it's not like the team has the same mediocre quarterback and the same clueless owner and is still in the same division as the New England Patriots. Sigh.
(EDIT: On Sunday, the Dolphins did indeed lose to the Seahawks. The Dolphins' quarterback repeatedly failed to identify passing lanes, and the receivers repeatedly dropped the balls that did reach them as the team went on to score a paltry 10 points [the lone touchdown coming on a 2-yard quarterback keeper]. Every team in the AFC lost on opening day, every team except the New England Patriots, who now lead their division yet again. Take that, Nostradamus.)
Here's to the 2017 NFL season!
Eleven years ago, I attended Dan Marino's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The crowd was made up almost entirely of Dolphins fans. I imagine it was much the same thing for Packers fans yesterday when Brett Favre was inducted yesterday. However, I don't know, because I spent all day watching the Olympics.
I found out only after the fact that they canceled the Hall of Fame Game, the annual kickoff to the NFL preseason, because of poor field conditions. Apparently, no one had tested their field prior to today, and their choice of field paint made it too slick. That, or they worried that no one would be watching.
In years past, I've sometimes tuned into the HoF Fame because there was nothing else to watch. But because of 5 NBC channels of Olympic coverage — including Michael Phelps own the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay, Novak Djokavich loose a fantastic first round match of tennis, Gabby Douglas place third overall and still be disqualified from the all-around gymnastics competition — it never occurred to me to turn on the NFL Network. I suspect that I wasn't the only one.
Maybe I'll watch next year, NFL. But don't count on it. The Olympics come only every four years, but the NFL preseason is always too long.