The Miami Dolphins sit at a surprising 2 – 2 on the season and with that record comes the reality that this season is already one quarter finished. So with that, it may be a good time to review Washington…the quarter that is.
The Dolphins finished the pre-season strong back in August with 3 wins. The teams victories in those meaningless games gave way to an not so familiar feeling…hope. The Phins had a swagger, a pride, and an attitude that hasn’t been seen in Miami for a very long time. With a new QB, the return of a RB tandem, and new offensive and defensive faces, the Miami fans prepared for the biggest game to kick things off. The New York Jets.
Much was made of the week 1 contest that pitted two bitter rivals against each other to kick the 2008 season off. The Dolphins opened at home and former Jet Chad Pennington was at the helm for the Phins while the ageless Brett Favre switched from Green and Gold and Lambeau Leaps to Puke Green and White and toxic swims in the Hudson River. The Jets came in with a plethora of new high-dollar faces while the Dolphins new faces were second and third tier no-names.
Many Dolphins fans assumed that following the pre-season record, the team would find itself exploding against the Jets and start the season off with a win. Others however expected the Dolphins to lose but wanted a complete game showing with not quit. They got it.
Trailing in the 4th quarter by 5, the Dolphins made a late charge in a game that came down to the Jets getting the lucky bounces. The final drive would end in a Chad Pennington end-zone interception with about 20 seconds left on the clock. The Phins would lose, but despite some sloppy play, most felt decent about the game and the condition of the players.
When week 2 rolled around, many fans were a bit skeptical about the Arizona Cardinals and by the time the plane touched down in Tempe, the game was already over. Sloppy play was evident from the start and the licks just kept coming and coming just as fast as the Cardinal scores were. When all was said and done, which was by the end of the first quarter of that game, the Dolphins were obliterated, embarrassed, and sulked home. Tony Sparano refused to go home opting instead to pull an all-night game film breakdown until the late morning hours after the return flight home. Players refused to watch TV, talk to the media, anything. They were destroyed.
The Week 2 loss gave way to old fashioned Joey Porter trash talk as the Dolphins prepped and readied themselves for the defending AFC Champion (and Super Bowl chokers) New England Patriots. Porter said Miami would harass Matt Cassel early and often. He backed up those words. By the time the game, the weekend, and the week was over, the Miami Dolphins had an award for AFC Offensive Player of the Week…in Ronnie Brown, the Fed-EX Ground Player of the Week…in Ronnie Brown. The Chevy Defensive Player of the Week…In Joey Porter. The Motorola Head Coach of the Week…Tony Sparano. Then capped it off with a Rookie of the Week nomination for 2nd rounder Phillip Merling. To hang on their wall as they entered the bye week, the Dolphins had the final score…38-13. The teams first win of the 2008 season. The teams second win in 22 tries. The first loss by the Patriots in regular season in 22 games. If nothing else went right the rest of the year, this game was enough.
The Dolphins would introduce a new wrinkle into their game plan. A formation called “The WildCat“. It lined up Ronnie Brown as the QB, split Chad Pennington out wide, put LT Jake Long next RT Vernon Carey, and created more confusion for Bill Belichick than his cell phone calls between his wife and mistress.
The Phins would enter their bye week riding a phenomenal high, but they needed to prove that the win was not a fluke. The gimmicks were not a fluke. The team was not a fluke. They needed to prove that the Arizona game was the exception and not the rule. The problem was they faced San Diego next.
The Chargers had battled the Patriots in the AFC Championship game the year before and although the team was struggling with victories this year, the Bolts were still expected to play in it again. With LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Phillip Rivers, Darren Sproles, and a returning to South Florida Chris Chambers. The task was not going to be easy.
Unfortunately for the Chargers it was. The Dolphins gave up a first drive FG to the Bolts and would not surrender another point until the 4 minute mark of the 3rd quarter. Posting 17 points of their own. The Dolphins would need to fend off a late rally by the Chargers to hold on to a 7 point win, but somewhere along the line, someone forgot to tell these Dolphins that they are not supposed to be winning.
One Washington is in the books and already Dolphins fans are chomping at the bits to see if this can continue. Already fans are jumping the gun and taking a re-look at the schedule and pinpointing key games and winnable match-ups. Doing the math to see if there are enough winnable games to “dare-they-say-it” make the playoffs.
In one quarter of the 2008 season, Bill Parcells has given this franchise something that has been gone for 10 years. Hope. That hope comes in the form of two guys that until this past off-season, few knew. Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. This season has 3 more quarters to go, this staff has a few more seasons to prove they are for real and turn this ship around. If the first quarter is any indication, that ship may not need to be turned at all…as it may already be on the right course.
To see my top 10 1st quarter surprises, click here.