... in the NFL there's little or no defense for a perfectly thrown pass, and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick uncorked a season's worth of them in one game.
They played some basketball at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday and a football game broke out.
Jump-balls abounded as the Miami Dolphins outscored the Philadelphia Eagles, whose cornerbacks often were scorched, 37-31.
But upon further review, cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby didn’t play as poorly as perceived, because in the NFL there’s little or no defense for a perfectly thrown pass, and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick uncorked a season’s worth of them in one game.
His first came when the Dolphins faced a fourth-and-4 at the Eagles’ 43-yard line late in the first quarter. Fitzpatrick lofted a rainbow down the left sideline that only the 6-foot-3 DeVante Parker, who was matched stride-for-stride by the 5-11 Darby, could catch.
Both leaped for the ball, which landed in the hands of Parker around a half-inch higher than the fingertips of Darby. Parker was able to turn and walk a tightrope for a spectacular touchdown that turned a 10-0 Eagles lead into a 10-7 game.
Fitzpatrick and Parker connected on a 42-yard bomb in the second quarter to set up another touchdown. Once again, Parker leaped over the smaller Darby, who was right with him.
Later in the same series, an egregious pass interference penalty was called on Mills after a replay challenge of an uncatchable pass thrown behind Parker in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 10. That gave the Dolphins new life at the 1, and still they needed one of the craziest gadget plays to score from there four plays later.
The Dolphins’ third touchdown came when Parker appeared to get away with a push-off on Mills in the end zone to create just enough space to catch another perfect toss from Fitzpatrick — this time from 17 yards in the third quarter.
Their next series was finished off by tight end Mike Gesicki’s leaping 14-yard touchdown catch over Mills in the back of the end zone. Mills did bite and made a move forward when it looked like Fitzpatrick, who was scrambling around the right end, was about to make a run for it. But the throw was so precise that it wouldn’t have mattered. Gesicki is 6-6. Mills is 6-0. No contest.
Parker went up over Mills to catch a 34-yard pass in the fourth quarter. That led to another score. Again, the throw was to a spot where only the receiver could get it, though Mills stumbled on the play, which put him slightly out of position. Still, Mills was in position to break up anything thrown lower. Parker needed full extension on his leap to make the catch.
Mills could do nothing in the locker room afterward but give Parker credit.
“He had a day,” Mills said. “They get paid too. He’s an NFL receiver, and everybody has a day.
“... It’s not the first time I played a taller receiver. I mean, at the end of the day, we’ve just got to make the plays that come to us.”
Especially when the throws are perfect, like Fitzpatrick’s were.
But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was having no parts of that suggestion on Wednesday.
“There is no excuse,” he said. “There are tall receivers in the league. Our corners can jump. Sometimes you get a ball caught over you and you come back and you play the next one. You’re not going to win 100% of those all the time. Like I said, we were probably in that 65% of winning those over the last month, and in this game we were, whatever four-of-13 is, 30% or whatever it is. ... You just have to win your fair share of those and get them stopped in other ways.
“When you combine those plays that they made and a penalty that keeps the drive alive or them going for it on a fourth down or whatever else, then you end up in the position that we were in. We went through a lot of different things to try to settle guys down.”
Which is why Schwartz is wisely sticking with Mills and Darby on the outside instead of panicking and submitting to what the general public wants, which is execution by firing squad.
“Again, Darby and Mills had made those plays,” Schwartz said. “I think as a coach, you have to give those guys a chance to be able to get out of that and be able to make those. We’re confident in our guys to be able to make those plays, and I think we will.”