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WEEK 13 IN THE NFL

Even Jets can't slow Dolphins

December 03, 2007|Christine Daniels | Times Staff Writer

It's going to be tough to stop the Miami Dolphins now.

The last realistic obstacle in their path to imperfect immortality -- the New York Jets -- came and went Sunday, dropping a 40-13 defeat on the Dolphins as easily as Miami quarterback John Beck dropped the football -- twice -- when he wasn't throwing it to Jets defenders.

After three interceptions and two lost fumbles by Beck, the Dolphins were left at 0-12 with four games to play. They are the seventh team to open the NFL season with 12 consecutive defeats but the first to get there with seemingly no way out of an indelible 0-16 tag.*

(*The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 because 31 years ago, NFL rules prevented teams from losing more than 14 games during a regular season. That changed in 1978, when the league expanded its regular-season schedule to 16 games. The Buccaneers went on to lose their first 12 games of the 1977 season for an overall 26-game losing streak, but the record does show that Tampa Bay never finished a season worse than 0-14. Sorry, Dolphins fans. Rules are rules.)

Undoubtedly, the Dolphins will not be favored to win any of their final four games: at Buffalo, Baltimore, at New England (NFL has yet to sign off on the mercy rule concept) and Cincinnati.

Incredibly, the Dolphins were favored to win this one. Miami has not won a game since Dec. 10, 2006, and had not scored more than 10 points in a game since Week 7, but the Dolphins were favored by 1 1/2 points to beat the Jets, mainly because of often reliable "Now or Never" and "Time to Show Some Pride" principles of team sports.

Also, the Dolphins were playing at home.

Instead, Miami suffered its most lop-sided defeat of 2007, losing by 27 points to a Jets team quarterbacked by Kellen Clemens (pre-game passer rating: 56.9), a Jets team that is now 3-9 overall but 1-9 against opponents not named the Miami Dolphins.

Upon review, belonging to a big-league team that plays its home games in or around Miami is no advantage. This summer, the Florida Marlins finished last in the National League East at 71-91, 18 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. Sixteen games into their 2007-08 season, the Miami Heat is 4-12, last in the NBA's Southeast Division.

Also, the Jets did not play fair. Instead of their customary green and white uniforms, the Jets showed up at Dolphin Stadium clad in navy and gold, the "throwback" color scheme of their early-1960s incarnation as the New York Titans. This greatly confused the Dolphins and their coaches. They had spent long, draining hours in the video room last week, specifically preparing for a team dressed in green and white.

In their quest to become the NFL's first team to end a season 0-16, the Dolphins should closely study the final minutes of two more videotapes: Washington's 17-16 loss to Buffalo and New Orleans' 27-23 defeat against Tampa Bay.

The Redskins lost after their Hall of Fame coach, Joe Gibbs, dabbled in this newfangled trend of trying to ice the opposing kicker by calling a timeout just before the ball is snapped on a field-goal attempt. It worked marvelously when Gibbs got his timeout called just before Buffalo's Rian Lindell converted a 51-yard field-goal try.

Gibbs got so excited he decided to try it again.

Oops.

NFL rules prohibit teams from calling consecutive timeouts to freeze the kicker. Gibbs' team was penalized 15 yards and Lindell was soon credited with a 36-yard game-winning field goal.

In New Orleans, the Saints had a three-point lead and the ball at midfield with less than four minutes to play, apparently closing in on an NFC South gap-closing victory over first-place Tampa Bay. Once again, a coach trying to protect a lead got a little over-heated. New Orleans' Sean Payton called for a reverse, which resulted in Reggie Bush making a bad pitch and Tampa Bay's Jovan Haye recovering the ball at the Saints 37-yard line.

A few plays later, Buccaneers backup quarterback Luke McCown tossed a four-yard pass into the end zone for tight end Jerramy Stevens. Stevens hung onto the ball. With 14 seconds on the clock, Tampa Bay had a four-point victory and a three-game lead over New Orleans in the NFC South standings.

Something that can't be said every NFL Sunday: The McCown family went undefeated. With Luke completing 29 of 37 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns in relief of the injured Jeff Garcia, older brother Josh McCown completed 14 of 21 for 141 yards and three touchdowns in the Oakland Raiders' 34-20 triumph over the Denver Broncos.

In other words, the McCown brothers combined to complete 74.1% of their passes for five touchdowns.

And still, Josh did not make the biggest quarterback news in Oakland. No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell stole away that ripple of thunder by playing two series during the second quarter, marking his NFL regular-season debut.

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