Tonights game between AFC East rivals Miami Dolphins and New York Jets could turn into the type of Monday morning water cooler talk that has been a staple of these two teams historic prime-time match-ups. Remember the Monday Night Miracle? The Fake Spike? Shootouts between Dan Marino and Ken O’brien? Tonights match-up could be that hard nosed defensive battle that everyone expects or an offensive outburst that no one does. But while the teams on the field will make attempt to take over or keep first place in the division, it will be the Miami Dolphins fans that will take center stage.
The Dolphins have rolled out the “orange carpet” this week in a bid to “pain the city of Miami orange” to go along with the orange jerseys they will wear tonight. Fans have been encouraged to wear orange regardless of whether it’s a Dolphins jersey or not. Don’t have an orange jersey? Wear an orange T-shirt. The premise is simple. Tonight on NBC the telecast should see, if the Dolphins get their wish, a massive orange wave of fans in the stands.
Oh, the thought is compelling enough but that is not what Miami fans will be talked about for come Monday. No, it’s the “howl”.
The Dolphins have adopted the “Feed the Wolf” cry this year and while the players have taken to “howling” prior to coming out of the tunnels, this is the first chance this season that the fans can contribute and by doing so, raise the noise level to a whole new level.
The Atlanta Braves were famous for the “tomahawk chop” and the Indian themed chant but not since then has a stadium taken to fan participation the way the Dolphins hope their fans will embrace this motivation. In other words, imagine a stadium full of orange clad fans howling as though a full moon were overhead. Think “Twi-hards” on crack. Tonight, it would all be about “Team Jacob“. Or in the case, “Team Henne”.
Dolphins fans are not as rabid as other cities, including the Jets. In fact, it could easily be argued that out of the AFC East, Miami fans are the most relaxed of all four teams. In other words, you never hear anyone say that going to play in Miami will face you with a hostile crowd. NY? Yes, Buffalo…Oh my God yes. Miami? Not so much.
Tonight, fans can change that. It’s a rallying cry, a show of support. This has all of the makings of something akin to how the Dawg Pound started in Cleveland. A comment, a philosophy, a simple slogan that fans embrace. Miami Dolphins fans may be howling ten years from now.
Before a stigma can be born however, the Dolphins must give the fans something to cheer about and tonight, a Chad Henne led offense will try and do what the Patriots couldn’t do last week. Beat one of the toughest defenses in the league. But they will do it behind an offense that has yet to display an ability to score a lot of points.
That alone paints a more defined defensive battle. The Jets scored 28 points last week behind a strong performance by Mark Sanchez. He will need to duplicate that again this evening to have similar success.
Perhaps the biggest point of tonights game though is history. Pit the two teams against each other and you never know what will happen. Regardless of the ranks statistically and regardless of records and talent, the outcome of these battles can often be attributed to fortuitous bounces and lucky breaks. Something as simple as a muffed punt bouncing back into the returner’s hands can determine the outcome of a game. A tipped interception or for that matter a broken play that ends in a touchdown. The Jets and Dolphins have seen it all. Each have been on both sides of the bounces and have won and lost because of them.
This evening should be no different.
“Jet Week” culminates in that rare early season prime-time showdown that could have significantly strong implications later in the season. With lucky bounces and strong defenses figuring into the outcome, the real home field advantage may be in the form of a “howl” instead of “roar”.
So tonight, feed your wolf.