Andy Cohen: Plenty To Now Build On

Posted Nov 13, 2011

You could see it coming together. One piece at a time. One important play after another. A week ago it was a victory in Kansas City. Then Sunday, the Dolphins made it two in a row by disposing of Washington. This is progress. This is a football team growing before our eyes.

No, all the problems that caused an 0-7 start haven’t been solved. There is still plenty of work ahead. But two straight victories, the latest at home finally home, is clearly something to build on, something to savor.

Two Reggie Bush touchdowns. A couple of big interceptions. Some nice catches down the gut of the field by Anthony Fasano. A harassing pass rush. A defense that hasn’t given up a touchdown in two weeks. The formula is taking shape. The Dolphins are learning how to win.

A season that only two Sundays ago seemed lost now offers hope. For the Dolphins to win at home after so many heartbreaks here over the last two seasons is an important step in this building process. Players were celebrating. Fans were cheering. Smiles were everywhere. Game balls were handed out. This is what a home game should be all about. Yes, home cooking tastes good again.

Here’s one poignant scene as the final seconds ticked off the Sun Life Stadium clock. Matt Moore walks up to Tony Sparano and wraps his arm around him. They look into each other’s eyes. Quarterback and coach enjoying a victory. Special. Important. Meaningful.

For Sparano, it is another indicator that he keeps this football team believing, keeps these players playing hard. Give him credit for that. So many coaches could have lost their locker room during an 0-7 start. But Sparano never wavered. He should be saluted for that.

What I like most about all of this is that the Dolphins are finally establishing a clear-cut identity. They are being aggressive with the passing game. They are utilizing Bush to make the most of his many talents. They are re-introducing the tight end into the offense. They are, at times, playing Bush and rookie running back Daniel Thomas together, a dilemma for any opponent. They are calling plays for Moore that fit well with his skills.

But, more than offense, it is the defense that has undergone the most dramatic change over the past two weeks. First they limit Kansas City to only one field goal. Then the Redskins get only three field goals. That’s 12 points in two weeks. That’s how you win games.

The biggest difference on defense? There seems to be more of an attacking mentality. In the pass rush. In the play of inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, so crucial in a 3-4 defense. Maybe it’s more blitzing. Maybe it’s just a go-for-it mentality. Hard to know exactly. But what we do know is the bottom line, and the bottom line is that this defense has found another level, another gear.

Was that Vontae Davis intercepting a pass? Was that Dansby stopping a Washington drive with an interception of his own? Was that Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman with no time to throw when the outcome was still in doubt? When the defense plays this well, everything becomes easier.

So what’s the long-term picture right now? There is no long-term picture, not when you’re 2-7. For these Dolphins, it is as simple as growing a little each game, as taking what they did well against Washington and trying to do it a little bit better next Sunday against Buffalo and the next Thursday at Dallas.

Yes, the Dolphins are on a nice little roll. And it’s been a while since we could say that.
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