GETTING DEFENSIVE ON THE ROAD

The Dolphins defense has been very consistent over the past couple of years, but it seems that every time there has been a major breakdown it has come on the road. And that's a fact that can't be ignored with Miami traveling to Denver this weekend.

The evidence is overwhelming.

Take this year, for example. The Dolphins have had one bad game on defense, that coming in the 48-30 loss at Kansas City. In their three home games, the Dolphins have allowed 21, 3 and 13 points.

And the 21 points given up against Detroit was misleading because the Lions only scored after the Dolphins had taken big leads.

Last season, the Dolphins allowed 20 points or more in the regular season nine times; eight of those games were on the road, including the 42-10 loss at St. Louis.

In 2000, the one defensive breakdown came in the Monday nightmare against the Jets when the Dolphins lost 40-37 in overtime.

Defensive end Jason Taylor is at a loss to explain the reason behind the discrepancy.

"I don't know," Taylor said. "I don't have the answer for that. I know people out in public always seem to have the answers for it, so I kind of let them figure it out. I'm not sure what the stats are our how it plays out, but it is an area where we need to get better. Obviously in our last road game we didn't play real well, but we've got an opportunity this Sunday to redeem ourselves against a good football team."

It's not as though the Dolphins are incapable of playing good defense on the road.

After all, they did hold the high-powered Indianapolis Colts to 13 points earlier this season in their 21-13 victory. Don't think that's a big deal? That's Indy's lowest point total at home in over two years.

"Mentally, it is different," Zach Thomas said of playing on the road. "We have to play well on the road, which we did when we went up to Indy against a great offense. We have to get it back together and not worry about how good we played last week. Let's try to play good consistently and just have fun. It is tough to play on the road mainly mentally. I think it is harder on our offense because of the sound."

Defensive end David Bowens said a big difference is that teams playing on the road don't benefit from the energy provided by the home crowd.

"It could be a lack of enthusiasm," Bowens said. "Just being on the road alone does that. When we're at home we're more excited. I've kind of noticed that. I'm not saying we're not excited, not ready to play, but we don't have the crowd on our side, we don't have people cheering, we have to do it within our team. When we were at Indy, we were doing that, pumping each other up."

The bottom line is that the Dolphins failed their test on defense at Kansas City two weeks ago, and they get a chance to redeem themselves against a very good Denver team.

"I don't know. I think that is an excuse," Coach Dave Wannstedt said of the idea that playing defense on the road is more difficult. "I think that may be part of it but if you give good effort and you execute on defense, I don't care where you are playing or what the weather conditions are, you should play good defense. There is a sign hanging in our defensive room that says that. It's as simple as that."

Said safety Brock Marion: "You have to be aggressive wherever you go. You can't be passive and say we can't do this, we can't do that. We've got to have the same philosophy. If we're up, we've got to play like we're down. If we're down, play like we're up and just go out there and focus, and do whatever it takes to win the football game, pull out all stops.

"That's the mentality you have to have, home or away, especially when you're away because you're in a hostile environment and all you have is your team."


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