The start of something big?

During Sunday's game at San Diego, CBS analyst Steve Tasker had this to say as the camera focused on Coach Nick Saban: "Get your licks in now because it's not going to be like this for very long." This, by the way, was before the Dolphins proceeded to shock the heavily favored Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Yes, there is good reason to be excited about the Dolphins again now that it appears they might finally have turned the corner.

It didn't happen quickly enough for the Dolphins to make the playoffs this season because New England only needs one victory to clinch the AFC East and because the Dolphins aren't going to make the playoffs as a wild card.

That's a shame, but we're talking long term here.

And the truth is the Dolphins' future looks pretty good right now, especially considering where we were last season and even earlier this year.

Just flash back to three weeks ago when the Dolphins were embarrassed at Cleveland. Didn't it appear at that time the Dolphins were an awfully long way from even thinking about being competitive, about beating a good team, about seriously thinking playoffs?

That loss was so bad that nobody could have expected the Dolphins to bounce back with consecutive victories over Oakland, Buffalo and San Diego.

The victories over the Raiders and the Bills could be dismissed as simply beating bad teams, but San Diego is not a bad team. In fact, they're good enough that more than one analyst suggested the Chargers could be the ones to hand Indianapolis its first loss of the season.

The Dolphins had shown flashes of being able to play good football earlier this season -- think back to the victories over Denver and Carolina -- but what they did against the Chargers was more impressive.

The Dolphins not only beat a San Diego team on a five-game winning streak, they handled them. The final score was 23-21, but it just as easily could have been 30-14 if not for the Ronnie Brown fumble at the goal line.

The next two games -- at home against the Jets and Tennessee -- are games the Dolphins really should win. That would put them at 8-7, with a chance to finish with a winning record in the finale at New England against a Patriots team that could have nothing to play for by that point.

Saban said the Dolphins are starting to play with the kind of consistency he's looking for. And it all goes back to the comment he made after the Cleveland game about not worrying about the score, the standings, anything other than the next play.

It was the comment that create a major commotion. Funny, though, the Dolphins haven't lost a game since then.

So maybe Saban knew what he was talking about after all, didn't he?

The standings say the Dolphins probably will be left out of the playoffs; they're playing right now like a team that should be playing in January.

In the big picture, that's a major accomplishment for the Dolphins this season.


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