ONE LAST LOOK

With the Dolphins off on Tuesday before they begin their preparations for the game against Buffalo, here are some final observations from the big victory at Denver.

-- At first glance, the decision to switch from a two-point conversion attempt to kicking an extra point after the Dolphins went up 13-12 in the fourth quarter looks pretty lame. But think about it a little more and it start making some sense.

The two-point conversion would have given the Dolphins a 15-12 lead and would have protected them from losing with a Denver field goal, and the Dolphins were preparing to go for it before Randy McMichael was called for a false start. Pushed back to the 7-yard line, the Dolphins decided to kick the extra point.

The first thing to remember is that there was over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and there figured to be more scoring. By going for the safe point and a 14-12 lead, the Dolphins put themselves in a position to have a nine-point lead with another touchdown, which is exactly what happened after Patrick Surtain returned an interception for a touchdown.

As it turned out, going for one almost cost the Dolphins, but it could have worked the other way had Jason Elam not made a 55-yard field goal. Think about it. Had the Dolphins not kicked the extra point after Ricky Williams' touchdown and missed the two-point conversion, the score would have been 20-12 and Denver could have tied the game with a two-point conversion.

Dave Wannstedt's strategy actually worked perfectly, except that the Dolphins allowed Denver to march downfield for a field goal in the last two minutes.

"We knew we'd have to get points again to win the game," said Wannstedt. "It wasn't like time was running out. We had a two-point play, but then we had the penalty. We talked about the way Denver was playing defense, and we just didn't feel real good about our chances."

-- It won't change what happened, but the Dolphins at least got some justice from the NFL for Kenoy Kennedy's cheap-shot hit on Chris Chambers.

Kennedy was suspended one game by the NFL and might be fined later in the week. He already has been fined twice this season for illegal hits.

Kennedy can talk all he wants about not wanting to hurt anybody, but that doesn't change the fact he went at Chambers with his helmet first. And that's just plain cheap.

Wannstedt called the hit "inexcusable. Ray Lucas took it a step further, saying it was "(expletive) (expletive)."

-- Wannstedt said the Dolphins talked about the possibility of running another play to make Mare's game-winning field goal attempt a little easier. Here's another case where the Dolphins made the right decision.

Of course, it's easy to say that after the fact, but the truth is Mare kicked a 60-yarder in warmups before the game, so being able to make one from 53 yards was not an issue.

There were 11 seconds left, and the Dolphins had no timeouts left. So the only thing they could do was throw a short out pass. This was a case was the risk clearly outweighed the potential reward.

"As aggressive as their defense was playing, they were going to blitz because they knew we were in field goal range," Wannstedt said. "Now you are taking a chance for a sack or a negative play that might mess the thing up."

-- We have to take exception to Wannstedt's praise of punter Mark Royals. The veteran has been having a good year for the Dolphins, but he came up way short on a couple of occasions against Denver.

The first one occurred in the third quarter after the Dolphins botched a scoring opportunity and had to punt from the Broncos 37-yard line. Royals shanked the punt off the side of his foot and it went only 13 yards, giving Denver the ball at the 24-yard line. At that rate, the Dolphins almost would have been better off going for the first down on fourth-and-17.

The second instance occurred after the Dolphins failed to run out the clock with a 21-19 lead in the final three minutes. The Dolphins were punting from the Denver 47-yard line, but Royals' kick easily made it into the end zone, giving Denver the ball at the 20-yard line.

That made Denver's drive for the go-ahead field goal easier that it could have — and probably should have — been.

-- On the flip side, if Royals didn't come through in the clutch, Mare certainly did. So much for a slump.

"Obviously, we have to talk about Olindo," Wannstedt said during his day-after press conference. "Pressure kicks don't get any bigger than the one he made at the end of the game up there. Everybody on the team had confidence that he could make it and he is a special guy. It was good for him to kick that thing not just to win the game, but also because he has missed a couple. I think that really did great wonders for his confidence."

-- As great a game and as great a victory as the Dolphins pulled off against Denver, the injuries to Jay Fiedler and Chris Chambers certainly took something away from the enjoyment.

"Sure it does," Wannstedt said. "Anytime you get any player hurt that is going to miss some time, it is disappointing, but it is a part of the game.

"We just have to look at Buffalo this week, which is a big division game for us. They are playing awfully good right now. We just need to piece this thing together and figure out what we need to do as a staff and as a team to win this football game."

-- One aspect of the victory that was very encouraging is that every unit contributed almost equally.

That may sound simplistic, but just think back to the last couple of years when it seemed the defense won the majority of the games by themselves.

That no longer is the case with this team.

"It was a great team win," Wannstedt said. "Most of our wins have been that way this year. There are very few that have been totally one side or the other."


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