The improvement has been as improbable as it has been undeniable.
In the course of one crazy, constantly changing season, the Miami Dolphins came together like few believed they could.
And they undoubtedly saved their best game for last.
Who could have possibly seen this coming when the Dolphins started the season 0-7? Who could have imagined five victories in their final nine games culminated Sunday by a pulsating, come-from-behind, vintage FitzMagic performance in a 27-24 victory over the New England Patriots.
Yes, the same Patriots that handled the Dolphins 43-0 in Week 2 at Hard Rock Stadium.
But these aren't the same Dolphins that began this season. No way. No how.
Confident. Efficient. Creative. Bold. Aggressive. Take your pick. The Dolphins have been all of that and more.
And Sunday was the crowning achievement by this group of relative No-Names led by a coach in Brian Flores who instilled a belief and a confidence in them that in so many ways defies logic.
You can't have this many strangers and become one. You can't change almost half of your roster from the opening game and produce a victory like this one against a Patriots team with so much at stake. You can't have 17 players on injured reserve and have so many rookies playing key roles and then go outplay the defending Super Bowl champions in just about every statistical category.
Yes you can. The Dolphins emphatically proved it in what will go down as one of the great upset victories in team history.
They beat the Patriots at their place for the first time since 2008. They did it on a cold late December day when nobody is supposed to do that. They did it behind the pinpoint passing of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the acrobatic catches of DeVante Parker, an inspired effort by the entire defense and, finally, with Fitzpatrick hitting Mike Gesicki on a 5-yard pass for the game-winner with just 24 seconds left.
And when it was over, there was Flores, raising both hands high in the air, walking across a field that had been his field for 15 seasons. How can you not appreciate what that moment must have meant? Beating his old team at their place. Emptying the playbook to do so. Finishing off a season in unforgettable fashion.
Flores earned this win. Deserved this win. Should be saluted for this win. This had to be so special. I know he's only a first year head coach. But this one will stay with him his entire coaching career, which looks like it's going to last quite a while after what he has been able to pull off with this roster and this team.
"This is just the beginning, trust me with that," Flores told his team afterward.
After what we've seen over the last nine games, we trust you coach.
See, the lasting impression of this season should be anything but the final 5-11 record. The lasting impression is how this team has improved, how these players, many of them just learning each other's names, have turned negatives into positives and how they became so downright enjoyable to watch.
Enjoyable because they came at you hard every week. Enjoyable because they overcame so much and somehow made it work. Enjoyable because in so many ways this team took on the determination of its coach and the fearlessness of its quarterback.
From done to fun in one season. Quite a turnaround, don't you think?
Meanwhile, the Dolphins didn't back into this victory. They earned it. Didn't turn it over. Was penalized just four times. Gained more yards, had more first downs and held the ball longer than the Patriots. Had leads of 10-0, 17-10 and 20-17 before falling behind 24-20 and needing that 13-play, 75-yard game-winning masterpiece.
What do you focus on first? Eric Rowe becoming the first player in Dolphins' history to return a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown? Or Parker continuing his late season surge, finishing the game with 8 catches for 137 yards, and doing most of it against All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore? Or how the defense did a number on Tom Brady for much of the day? Or maybe those four trick plays that showed the extent of what the Dolphins were willing to do to win this game?
Nope, you've got to start with Fitzpatrick, the MVP of this team, perhaps both on the field and in the locker room. He was outstanding Sunday, completing 28 passes for 320 yards, throwing for one score and running for another. He was at his best on that final drive, converting third-downs and making some huge pressure throws.
I'm not here to predict what the future holds for Fitzpatrick as part of this organization. That will play out in time. But I can tell you for this team and this season he could not have possibly been a better fit.
And he could not have possibly scripted a better ending.