Short-handed Miami Dolphins no match for Chicago Bears
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MIAMI GARDENS — Already without their first two quarterbacks - and as a result, without much of an offense - the Dolphins also lost their franchise receiver Thursday night.
And by night's end, they also probably had lost any realistic chance they still had to reach the playoffs.
Tyler Thigpen, subbing for the injured Chad Henne and Chad Pennington, proved unable to follow up on the relief job he turned in Sunday, and Chicago used a ball-control offense to grind out a 16-0 victory.
Lost for an indefinite period was wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who had to be helped off the field with a hamstring injury after catching an 18-yard pass at midfield late in the second period.
Marshall did not return to the field for the second half. The Dolphins are not likely to provide any details on his injury for several days.
The loss dropped Miami to 5-5 and leaves the club 2 1/2 games behind AFC East co-leaders New England and the New York Jets. The only good news for the Dolphins is that they have nine days to get healthy before visiting the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 28.
The Dolphins had been hoping to build off their victory Sunday over Tennessee.
"We felt it was a golden opportunity with two games in five days," coach Tony Sparano said. "We came out and did a lousy job.
"We tried to prepare them," he said of the coaching staff. "Obviously we didn't do a good enough job."
The last time the Dolphins had been shut out at home was 24-0 by the New York Jets on Nov. 18, 2001 - nine years ago to the day.
Marshall wasn't Miami's only significant injury. Backup center Cory Procter, replacing the injured Joe Berger, had to be helped off after injuring his left knee midway through the first quarter. That forced right guard Richie Incognito to move to center, with Pat McQuistan moving in at guard.
Offensive tackle Vernon Carey left briefly in the fourth quarter with a shoulder problem; left tackle entered the game with a similar ailment but managed to play.
The results were not good for the Miami running game, which never got rolling and finished with only 39 yards on 13 carries.
"It just seemed we couldn't crack any holes in there," Incognito said.
Added Sparano: "We only ran 48 plays today, so it wasn't just running the ball."
Incognito, who practiced during the week as the back-up center, said injuries were no excuse.
"We expect guys to come off the bench and contribute," said Incognito, who hadn't played center in a game since 2006 in St. Louis.
Thigpen, who had been sharp in helping the Dolphins finish a 29-17 victory over Tennessee four days earlier, finished 17-of-29 for 187 yards with one interception and was unable to move the Miami offense into Bears territory in the first three quarters.