Different Dolphins

In a lot of ways, the Dolphins of December look a lot like the Dolphins of October and November when they went through of stretch of six losses in seven games. But there is one clear difference, and it's been big enough to turn the season around.

See, the Dolphins couldn't make the big plays at the end of games. There are, unfortunately, too many examples of that.

The Ronnie Brown fumble at Buffalo. The long pass allowed against the Jets that converted a third down in the game-clinching touchdown drive. The late interception thrown by Gus Frerotte against Atlanta. The two long passes allowed against Tom Brady after the Dolphins had taken a 16-15 lead. The four failed shots at the end of that Patriots game.

You move up to December, and it's all turned around.

Suddenly, you have Chris Chambers capping the tremendous comeback against Buffalo with his fourth-down touchdown catch in the final seconds. You have the Dolphins holding off the Jets' final drive, with Yeremiah Bell knocking away a fourth-down pass. Then you have the game against Tennessee where Ricky Williams slams the door shut on the Titans with a 35-yard run followed by a 19-yard touchdown.

Why the Dolphins are making these plays now when they weren't earlier in the season comes down to confidence. That's what Nick Saban said on Monday.

And there might be something to that. Just think back to the Dolphins under Dave Wannstedt, and it seemed they always found a way to come up short in the clutch.

Then look at Wannstedt himself. Don't mean to pick on the guy again, but he never struck anyone as an overly confident guy.

Say about you will about Nick Saban, but he sure comes across as someone who knows what he's doing and knows full well he knows what he's doing.

Bottom line, Saban knows he'll win; Wannstedt was hoping he'd win.

Look, the talent level on this Dolphins team still isn't up to snuff to compete with teams like Indy, New England and Denver on a week-to-week basis.

That's why it serves no purpose to look back at those missed opportunities earlier in the season and start thinking about the Dolphins maybe competing for the Super Bowl if only they had come through.

Bill Parcells once said something about you are what your record says you are. And at 8-7, that says plenty enough about this year's Dolphins.

Add a little talent to this group and keep the same confidence and mind-set that's been developed late in the season, and you have the makings of some interesting possibilities.

It's just too bad we'll have to wait until next year to find out.


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