The Long Answer

Dolphins Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long hasn't been his usual dominant self through the first half of the season. He sat out the preseason with a sore left knee and has struggled with some inconsistent play, but Coach Tony Sparano has no intention of giving Long a breather.

"No, Jake would punch me in the face if I considered that," Sparano said. "If you ask him that question maybe he won't punch you but he'll punch me.

"It's not that. Jake played against a good player (Sunday, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora). And to be honest with you the guy played, I think Jake played 58 plays and had six or seven minuses during the game. It's just you see the glaring ones. That's what you see. He's on an island out there and at times the nature of the position that Jake plays you have to say hey Jake, you have him. That's hard duty when it's Osi and it's DeMarcus Ware and it's those people.

"Sometimes they're going to win one. At the end of the day Jake won more than they won. It's just you see the critical ones. I'm not disappointed in the way Jake is playing. I think Jake is playing well. And I think all Jake will do is get better and better here as we get going."

— The Dolphins have been outscored 59-25 in the fourth quarter this season, including losing late leads to Denver and the Giants the past two weeks.

"I can't tell you what the players are thinking. I can't tell you that they're out there thinking that something can go wrong in those situations," Sparano said. "I think the game happens too fast. I don't really think that's an issue at all. I think they're just playing."

For Sparano, the key is maintaining leads and building confidence in finishing off victories.

"The common thread to me is that eventually you have to make those plays," he said. "You have to make those plays in the fourth quarter that you were making.

"They weren't doing anything different. In other words, the Giants didn't do anything different. The same route was thrown; we really didn't do anything different. The same kind of coverage's were being played, the same protections were being called. It just the circumstances end up a little different when you go behind."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The guys in that locker room got a lot of guts. They played their heart out. It wasn't good enough. We lost the game. We're not any better than we were a week ago. But there was a lot of improvement made in a lot of areas against a good football team. And right now we'll have to forge forward and get ready for the Kansas City Chiefs." - Coach Tony Sparano.


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