The Start of Something?

Before the Miami Dolphins had ever played a game, Coach Tony Sparano made a bold proclamation. The Dolphins would not only be competitive, Sparano said then, but they'd be good enough to factor into the AFC East race. Sparano dared the doubters to doubt.

Of course, the Dolphins through their first seven games didn't live up to Sparano's lofty expectations. And didn't come close to doing so. They lost their first seven games in a variety of ways.

One week they were allowing Tom Brady a record-setting passing performance. And another week they were giving away a 15-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation against the Denver Broncos. And on it went.

On Sunday, though, Sparano saw what he'd been expecting out of the Dolphins all along. They dominated in a 31-3 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs and, perhaps more important, their pieces fit together — and the way Sparano had envisioned — for the first time.

Reggie Bush ran effectively through the tackles, and outside of them, and he also factored into the passing game. Charles Clay, the rookie H-back, helped stretch the field in the vertical passing game while he proved to be a difficult matchup.

And the defense, the expected strength of the team entering the season, finally played like it. The Dolphins kept the Chiefs out of the end zone.

"I think a large part of this has to do with time missed and I think now all of a sudden that's catching up with the players," Sparano said.

He was, of course, referring to the lockout, which robbed the Dolphins and every other team in the NFL the chance to hold off-season workouts and minicamps. When training camp began, it was rushed.

"Had you have had some of these guys for the amount of time that you would have had them for," Sparano said, "maybe you would have had a little bit better idea of the way you want to use Reggie a little bit better."

Against the Chiefs, the Dolphins had a clear idea of how to use Bush. And Clay. And Brandon Marshall, who caught his second touchdown pass of the season.

And the defense, for a change, resembled the one that dominated at times during the 2010 season. The Dolphins finished with five sacks and effectively limited the Chiefs running game.

Overall it was the kind of effort Sparano had expected all along. The kind he hopes to see this weekend against the Redskins and beyond.

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