Pieces Falling Into Place

It sure took long enough, but the Dolphins finally are starting to look like the team everybody expected to see this year. They're also starting to looking an awful lot like the team that closed out the 2005 season with six consecutive victories.

Mind you, the Dolphins aren't blowing opponents with a high-octane like the one we see in San Diego or Indianapolis. They're using a formula of solid, mistake-free offense and very tough defense.

The breakdowns in the secondary seem to have disappeared the last couple of weeks and more plays are being made by the defensive backs. We're thinking that might have something to do with safety Yeremiah Bell finally moving into the starting lineup in place of Travares Tillman.

But it's not as simple as just one player stepping into the lineup. Look, we like Bell a lot as a player, but he's not THAT good that he would make that kind of difference all by himself.

The defensive line has returned to being a dominant unit, with pressure consistently being put on opposing quarterbacks, as was the case Sunday with ex-Dolphin Damon Huard.

The linebackers also have picked up their game, and Zach Thomas had by far his best game of the season against the Chiefs.

Offensively, the big difference in recent weeks has been the play of the line, an improvement that coincided with the switch of L.J. Shelton and Damion McIntosh from left tackle to right guard.

The Dolphins now are able to do some damage on the ground -- although the two failed third-and-1 runs against the Chiefs was a major downer -- and that allows for more opportunities in the passing game and lessens the need to pass the ball so often.

Joey Harrington has done a solid job at quarterback for the Dolphins, but Miami doesn't want to have to rely on him to win games any more than was the case last season with Gus Frerotte.

Those guys need to be complementary players, not focal points.

Like it or not, the Dolphins are going to win games with their defense. That's what they did at the end of last season, that's what they did last season against the Bears, that's what they did Sunday against Kansas City.

That formula can work. We've already seen that. It's just got to be applied properly.

The Dolphins didn't come close to doing that, for several reasons, in the early part of this season. They have the last two weeks and we've got two wins to show for it.

With games against Minnesota and Detroit the next two weeks, there's no reason this mini-streak can't continue. If it does, before you know it, the Dolphins could be sniffing .500 and we could be talking about the possibility of a playoff run.

It's still a very long shot, but, hey, it's a lot better than what we were contemplating a few short weeks ago.


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