I hate to say I told you so, and I'll avoid reactionism after only one game, but boy -- didn't Daunte Culpepper look exactly like the 2005 pre-injury Daunte Culpepper last night?
Pep put up flashy yardage numbers, thanks to some big plays, but was inaccurate on a lot of passes, as evidenced by his completion percentage of 48.6% and his two interceptions. Those interceptions, I might add, came on back-to-back passes.
It's not Daunte's fault the team strayed from the run despite being ahead in the third quarter, but when the pressure was on Culpepper he folded. He didn't look confident on his repaired knee, either, picking up only eight yards and getting sacked three times. He just wasn't his typical, mobile self, and Culpepper has never even approached being an adequate pocket passer. Maybe as time progresses and he gets more comfortable on his knee, he'll be able to become the type of hybrid quarterback that made him famous, but he wasn't there last night. The Dolphins' biggest weakness is on their offensive line, meaning when teams put eight in the box on Ronnie Brown or get after the quarterback Culpepper is going to have to rely on his legs to carry him, and his knee might be something that hinders that all year long.
It was always my belief that Culpepper was bailed out a lot by Randy Moss -- certainly, his pre-injury numbers as well as his performance last night support that. He's got a good deep threat in Chris Chambers, but Chambers made a couple of key drops as well, including one in the end zone.
Meanwhile, Charlie Batch defined "system quarterback," passing for three touchdowns (including the one phantom score by Heath Miller). They didn't put too much on Batch's shoulders, but he made the plays when he had to. It's the sign of a seasoned coach that, after Miami did a good job containing Willie Parker, Bill Cowher kept with the running game, and it eventually paid off. The 80+ yard strike to Miller was on a play-action pass that the Dolphins bit horribly on after Parker was able to start picking up yards.
As for the Dolphins' missed challenge, Saban did his best to pass the blame onto his coaching staff for not giving him the word to challenge quick enough, but he got the flag out in plenty of time. It's Saban's fault for half-assedly alligator-arming the flag 5 yards in front of him when he saw that all the officials were focused on the extra point. He should have ran onto the field and grabbed a ref by the jersey, if need be. That was a crucial play.
Most people are probably overrating the Steelers right now because they beat a team that was a "Super Bowl contender" in a pretty convincing fashion, but trust me, Miami isn't going to be the team people are expecting them to be. The Steelers simply went out and won a game they should have won.