This isn't the first time the Dolphins have gotten off to a 5-1 start. In fact, they've now done that three of the past four years. But you just get the feeling that this isn't your typical Dolphins team.

You know the one, the typical Dolphins team that starts off really strong, fades down the stretch and then falls flat on its face in the playoffs.

When the Dolphins began the season 5-1 in 1999 and 2000, they never made the number of statements the Dolphins have made so far this season with victories over probable AFC South champ Indianapolis, defending Super Bowl champ New England and possible playoff team Denver.

And we haven't even mentioned beating the dreaded Jets. That's just a bonus.

The biggest difference, of course, is the presence of Ricky Williams in the offensive backfield. It's pretty clear by now that he's just what the Dolphins needed and he makes everybody else on the team better.

But there's more, something intangible.

Maybe it's a new sense of confidence that runs through the team. Maybe it's indeed because of Williams' presence that the Dolphins feel there is something different about this year's team.

It's fair to ask whether the Dolphins of recent years would have won Sunday's game at Denver or would have fallen apart after Jason Elam made that 55-yard field goal with under a minute left.

This Dolphins team simply refused to give up and found a way to win, with Randy McMichael salvaging the worst game of his short NFL career with a great catch and then Dedric Ward showing amazing concentration to come up with another clutch catch.

This Dolphins team looks better because Jason Taylor is playing the best football of his NFL career — and that's saying a lot; because Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison continue to give the Dolphins tremendous cornerback play; because Olindo Mare, for all his kicking problems, is still a tremendous clutch kicker.

The Dolphins have built their roster through addition (Williams, McMichael, Norv Turner) and subtraction (Daryl Gardener), and have come up with what looks like a championship formula.

Yes, it's still early and many things can happen, but the Dolphins have talent across the board, better team unity than they've had in recent years now that Gardener is gone, and they have a belief that they will win.

Perhaps more than anything else, that was what Sunday night's big victory was about.

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