IT'S A LONG SEASON

Dolphins players were relatively subdued after Sunday's 49-21 season-opening rout of the Detroit Lions, and that's because they know very well the game didn't mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. In fact, the Dolphins know that as well as any team in the NFL, if not better.

The Dolphins are used to getting off to fast starts, having won their last 11 season openers.

But the Dolphins also haven't been able to finish strong in recent years, and that's why nobody was jumping for joy after the Detroit game.

"You are always pleased when you come out with a win, but we can do much better," said cornerback Patrick Surtain. "We have to get better each week."

The last two Super Bowl winners certainly proved that you have to get hot at the end of the year, and not the beginning.

Baltimore in 2000 and New England in 2001 both ran off long winning streaks to close the regular season and carried that momentum into the playoffs.

Don't get us wrong. Detroit was a team the Dolphins needed to beat, and beating them as convincingly as they did demonstrated the possibilities for this Dolphins offense.

And, yes, it would be very easy today to start dreaming about the Super Bowl after the way the Dolphins demolished the Lions. But Detroit is destined to be one of the worst teams in the league and the Dolphins need to show that type of offensive prowess against better competition.

It's a much tougher test that awaits them Sunday at Indianapolis, and another convincing victory there could send expectations skyrocketing.

But it's always important to remember never to get too high after a win and never too low after a loss.

That may be the Dolphins' biggest challenge this week.

That's why it was encouraging to see Dolphins players pointing their shortcomings after Sunday's game and not doing a lot of patting themselves on the back.

Leave it to linebacker Zach Thomas to take it to the extreme, as he did when he expressed his dissatisfaction over the way the defense played against Detroit.

"We've got to play better," he said. "I'm glad we won, but today we were mediocre. We need to play better next week (against Indy), or it's going to be ugly."


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