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News » MORE LIKE TUNA MELT Wrong time for Miami turnovers

MORE LIKE TUNA MELT Wrong time for Miami turnovers

MORE LIKE TUNA MELT  Wrong time for Miami turnovers
MIAMI -- Linebacker Joey Porter was resorting to trickery so the tears wouldn't flow. Quarterback Chad Pennington sat on his stool accepting condolences as if he had a dog named Marley who died, instead of a season.

And Miami Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano had the look of a little kid who just had his bicycle stolen.

After all, the wild-card Baltimore Ravens had swiped everything else in sight, including the happy ending to one of the Dolphins' most remarkable seasons of their 43-year history as they rolled to a 27-9 victory Sunday afternoon.

"We didn't come here for second place; that's not the way we set out," Sparano said. "From my end, I didn't prepare for this."

No one could have prepared for the manner in which the 2008 Dolphins ended an amazing turnaround from 1-15 to 11-6. All season long they were the standard-bearers for mistake-free Football, tying the NFL mark with just 13 turnovers. Their reliable steward was Pennington, the most accurate quarterback in NFL history, who had thrown seven interceptions while compiling a 97.4 passer rating.

But on Sunday, facing a tenacious defense that led the NFL in takeaways and interceptions, Pennington played like the rattled rookie the Dolphins were hoping to turn Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco into.

"When you've got big guys running at you full speed, you just throw the ball a little bit, not much zip," said Ravens defensive tackle Trevor Pryce. "It starts up front and ends with the guys in the back."

Seemingly getting leveled every time he threw the ball (three sacks, seven hurries), Pennington threw four interceptions, including two to Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who zig-zagged 64 yards into the end zone for his fourth defensive touchdown of the year to help give Baltimore a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.

"Four interceptions -- three of those I felt really good about," said Pennington. who had a season-low 53.7 passer rating. "It's a special year and that's why it hurts so much because you wanted to keep it going, and to see how far you could take it and have it be a really special story."

But this story would end similarly to the Dolphins' last playoff appearance, a 20-3 loss to the Ravens in a 2001 first-rounder. And also to an early season 27-13 loss in which Terrell Suggs had a game-changing pick-six and the Dolphins' running game -- including a declawed Wildcat -- was held to 71 yards.

They managed just 52 rushing yards Sunday -- three shy of their season low -- and probably should've abandoned the running game before Hootie sang the national anthem.

The lone pick Pennington wanted back came during the opening series of the second half, but as his defense had done throughout the afternoon, it kept giving him the ball back. However, tailback Patrick Cobbs coughed up their fifth turnover during a second-effort run, and the Ravens took over on Miami's 19.

Four plays later, Ravens' 260-pound bruiser Le'Ron McClain bowled in from the 8 for a 20-3 lead.

"We heard all week about they don't turn the ball over, but bottom line, we force turnovers and that's the thing we did today," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.

Instead of throwing in the white towels being waved by the fans, Pennington directed a trademark 74-yard, fourth-quarter TD drive, ending in a one-handed catch by Ronnie Brown to make it 20-9 after rookie Dan Carpenter had an extra point blocked for the first time.

A three-and-out later, there was Pennington exhorting his charges in the huddle, utilizing the no-huddle, shotgun until it was second-and-7 on Baltimore's 25. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning called for a flanker reverse to Ted Ginn Jr., who had two TD jaunts on the same play this season, but Lewis blitzed and disrupted the handoff enough for Ginn to dribble it back to the 44 and out of field-goal range.

"I could never get it clean," Ginn said. "They throw a lot at you and confuse you if you don't have the right play called.

"We went out there and chose to have a bad day. It hurt us, but at the end of the day we got to where we wanted to be . . . and next year we know what we can do and what we can't do."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 6, 2009

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Greg Camarillo Name: Greg Camarillo
Position: WR
Age: 26
Experience: 3 years
College: Stanford
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