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Playing Defending Champs Adds Something Extra

Posted Oct 6, 2013

Dolphins can make a statement today against the Ravens.

Without fail, every defending Super Bowl champion preaches about how the following season there is a target on their back. This afternoon at Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Dolphins get to take aim at the Baltimore Ravens.

Depending upon whom you ask in the locker room among the players and the coaches, there is either extra motivation because this is the team that held up the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February, or it’s just another game. There is a pretty good mix within the Dolphins right now as far as whether or not that motivation carries over into today.

“For me personally, no,” said Pro Bowl left guard Richie Incognito, who is in his ninth NFL season. “I think what they did last year is awesome and it’s tremendous. It’s hard to win football games let alone win a Super Bowl, so I think that’s last year. This is a new chapter for them. They’ve had a lot of turnover and a lot of new faces. This is the 2013 Baltimore Ravens playing the 2013 Miami Dolphins.”

Younger players tend to take a different view in games of this magnitude, just as they do for games like the one last Monday night in New Orleans against the Saints. The rookies and second-year guys spoke about the anticipation for that contest inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the loud crowd, which ended up helping New Orleans knock Miami from the unbeaten ranks.

So when the schedule was released back in April, today’s opponent was circled by just about everybody in the organization. Second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon certainly believes a lot can be gained from beating a Ravens team fresh off of winning the Super Bowl.

“People weren’t behind us when we were over there in New Orleans and the loss didn’t help us that much,” Vernon said. “So this would be a big statement game to go against the defending champions and beat them, but they’re a good team and you can’t knock them. Even though they lost a lot of guys they’ve still got a lot of talent on that team and they’re still going to come in here and prove that they still have a chance to go back to the playoffs and be that contender. We ourselves are trying to be contenders so it’s going to be a big game.”

Head Coach Joe Philbin has had a lot of success convincing his team to not look too far ahead and to truly take one game at a time. He has a simple message taped throughout the locker room emphasizing his philosophy and it basically encourages the players to strive for a 1-0 record each week.

But even the head coach understands the difference between facing the team that reached the pinnacle the prior season and facing another team. Baltimore enters today’s game with a 2-2 record, which is one game behind Miami at 3-1, and not entirely representative of the caliber of team it will field.

“Well, I mean I think the truest thing is look at the film. I think they are an excellent football team on tape,” said Philbin, who won Super Bowl XLV three seasons ago as the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers. “They’ve got very good players. They are extremely well coached. They’ve had a lot of success over a long period of time, so I think that is plenty of motivation.”
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