A BLESSING IN DISGUISE?

The Dolphins have taken a lot of abuse in every NFL circle since they dropped a shocking 21-20 decision to the second-year Houston Texans on opening day. But could this loss, however bad it was, actually help the Dolphins in the long run?

One thing is for sure, nobody is going to be talking Super Bowl around the Dolphins for a while now after that depressing loss to Houston.

The Dolphins didn't look like Super Bowl contenders on Sunday; they looked like the team that choked down the stretch last season by losing its last two games to turn a division title into a non-playoff season.

But think about it for a second. Don't these Dolphins — the nucleus of guys like Sam Madison, Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, etc. — perform better when little is expected of them.

Just think back to the 2000 season, Wannstedt's first at the helm after replacing Jimmy Johnson.

The Dolphins were expected to struggle that season; instead, they won the AFC East title with an 11-5. That's the team's last division title since 1994.

What gives? It's no great secret that this team is somewhat emotionally fragile, that it doesn't take much to make the wheels fall off.

The other truth is that the Super Bowl talk, while certainly entertaining, obviously was premature. Yes, there are Pro Bowlers everywhere on defense, but has it performed consistently enough over the past several years to call it a Super Bowl defense.

Let's face it, while the Dolphins have good talent on defense, they don't have a defensive lineman as good as Warren Sapp, they don't have a linebacker as good as Derrick Brooks, they don't have a defensive back as good as John Lynch.

Not yet at least. That may be proven otherwise throughout the course of the season, but it's not there yet.

So what do we make of the Dolphins after one game? And why did they look so bad against Houston?

Well, a big to-do was made of a comment defensive end Jay Williams supposedly made to former teammate Zach Wiegert, now an offensive lineman with Houston, suggesting Williams told Wiegert, "See you after practice."

Coach Dave Wannstedt said he didn't believe Williams would every be serious about something like that, but a couple of Dolphins players admitted perhaps taking Houston lightly in the opener.

How could they not have? Everybody keeps talking about how the Dolphins are this, the Dolphins are that, the Dolphins are headed to the Super Bowl.

There are a lot of fans who jumped off the bandwagon after the opener, and that's probably a good thing for this team. Because those guys seem to play better with a chip on their shoulder.

And they should certainly have one after losing their first opener since 1991.


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