A turning point?

The last time the Dolphins went to Denver, they left the Mile High City feeling ... well, a mile high. They recorded a thrilling 24-22 victory on a Sunday night in October and came home with a 5-1 record in the 2002 season. But as they return to Denver this weekend, the Dolphins are in disarray as they play out the string in the worst season in franchise history. And there are some suggesting that it all started to go downhill that fateful night at Denver.

The two main things that happened to hurt the Dolphins that night involved injuries to quarterback Jay Fiedler and wide receiver Chris Chambers.

Fiedler was off to a great start that season -- yes, Jay Fiedler was playing near Pro Bowl level at that time -- and he broke the thumb on his throwing hand when he hit a helmet after releasing a pass.

He would miss the next six starts and his replacement, Ray Lucas, absolutely bombed.

The Dolphins could only score 10 points in each of Lucas' first three starts and the Dolphins quickly fell to 5-4.

As for Chambers, he sustained a concussion when he was leveled by safety Kenoy Kennedy in the first half. It was a somewhat questionable hit and it later drew a fine from the NFL.

Chambers would miss the following week's game against Buffalo, but even after returning Chambers didn't look right the rest of the season and there were whispers he became a little tentative as a result of the hit.

The Dolphins wound up missing the playoffs in 2002 despite the quick start, and we know what has happened since then.

So there might be some merit to the idea that the Denver game in 2002 was a turning point for the Dolphins.

Interim head coach Jim Bates was the defensive coordinator at that time, and he was asked about that idea.

"That's two years ago," Bates said. "Last year this franchise won 10 football games. Look at how many teams are going to win 10 football games. We had some injuries last year. I don't think that was a turning point of this franchise. Last year we very easily could have and should have won 12 games."

There's no question the big victory at Denver in 2002 had some serious ramifications because of the two injuries, but turning point? We're more inclined to look at the 2002 season finale when the Dolphins blew an 11-point lead in the final five minutes to get knocked out of the playoffs.

That, to us, was more symptomatic of a team that wasn't going to get any better as it was constituted.

So while it makes a great story to say the Dolphins' fortunes turned around that Sunday night at Denver two years ago, it's too easy an answer.


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