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Cohen: Important Day For The Past, Present And Future

Posted Dec 16, 2012

With the ’72 Dolphins celebrating their 40th anniversary, the 2012 Dolphins put together one of their most complete performances of the season.

It only seemed fitting, didn’t it? On the day the 1972 Dolphins celebrated 40 years of perfection, the 2012 Dolphins savored an impressive victory.

Nobody was going to lose on this day. Not with all these great former Dolphins in the house. Not with the Dolphin Honor Roll adding Bill Arnsparger’s name. The scene was too right and the 2012 Dolphins made sure of it.

The defense dominated. The offense played well enough. It wasn’t a performance for the ages, but it was about as well as the Dolphins have played all season, an important step for a team that is desperately trying to re-establish itself, desperately trying to write a new chapter in this franchise’s storied tradition.

For one Sunday afternoon, everything seemed right again. The young quarterback looked so smooth, so confident, so quick. The defense dominated. Even Reggie Bush turned in a 53-yard sprint. Forget about the opponent’s record. This day was about the Dolphins.

After a few uneventful performances, Ryan Tannehill looked like a prize rookie once again, hitting an assortment of key passes and even, for a few plays, showed he can beat you with his feet as well.

This season has been a whole new learning experience for Tannehill. There have been tough moments, times when he looked like a player with very few starts on his resume and other times when he shows the promise everyone is hoping for.

Except for one fumble, Tannehill was pretty close to outstanding. He got to match passes with former Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne and it was evident from early on that Tannehill had the upper hand. He is the future; Henne is the past. He is the reason that we can swallow a 6-8 record because we know what this season is really about. It’s about Tannehill getting comfortable, about Tannehill setting a tone for future seasons.

Statistics don’t lie. Tannehill was 22-of-28 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was a season-best 123.2. Even Bob Griese, in the house with the rest of the ’72 Dolphins, would have gladly taken a game like this.

Now, it is important that Tannehill show some consistency. Translation: Follow this excellent performance with another one Sunday against Buffalo and then another one the final Sunday at New England. That’s the way to make a lasting impression. That’s way to build the type of confidence a quarterback needs.

While Tannehill looks for that consistency, the defense has already found it. Gaze back through this season and you’ll see very few Sundays when this defense hasn’t stepped up. Sure, there have been some shaky moments. But not very many.

The Jaguars and Henne were a mismatch for this defense. They couldn’t run, could hardly pass and had to settle for one uneventful field goal. This defense is still not getting the turnovers that Coach Joe Philbin keeps talking about, but that’s the next step. For right now, after 14 games, you’ve got to salute what it has done, how many offenses it has shut down.

Twice, with the outcome still in doubt, the Jaguars went for it on fourth down. Twice they were stuffed.

Cameron Wake is having a Pro Bowl year. Jared Odrick has raised his game several notches. Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are dominating the middle of the line. But the two players I have been as impressed with as anyone are inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.

Dansby already has more than 100 tackles; Burnett should soon get there. They have been dominant all season and once again stepped up big against the Jaguars. Leading with their voices. Leading with their performances. They are each in the prime of their career and have a chance to help take this defense to another level. They are smart, physical and productive. What else could you ask for?

And what else could you have asked for on this memorable Sunday? The Dolphins enjoyed a taste of their glorious past, got a nice win for the present and took some important steps for the future.

No, it wasn’t perfect; only the ’72 Dolphins can lay claim to that.

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