It took a lot longer than either he or the Dolphins had hoped, but Ray Lucas finally gave the team the kind of quarterbacking it was looking for from their temporary starter.

And that's by far the biggest reason confidence seems to have returned to the Dolphins locker room.

Lucas' teammates deserve credit for remaining supportive during his struggles, but it would be foolish to think that some of them hadn't started to think that it didn't matter what they did as long as Lucas continued making mistakes.

There were no mistakes on Sunday, and the result was a convincing victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

More than avoiding turnovers, Lucas also avoided bad decisions. In the Jets game, he wasn't intercepted but he could have been picked off three or four times had Jets defenders showed better hands that night.

Against the Ravens, Lucas threw the ball away on a couple of occasions instead of always trying to make the perfect throw.

That's what the Dolphins have stressed to Jay Fiedler from the time he took over as the team's starting quarterback, and the same applies to Lucas.

This Dolphins team was never built around the quarterback. It's built around a solid defense and a rejuvenated running game led by Ricky Williams.

The Dolphins only need for Lucas to make a few big throws and, more importantly, not make mistakes.

Lucas accomplished neither goal in the games against the Bills, Packers and Jets.

He's not going to be perfect and make every throw. Just think back to the first play of the game against Baltimore when Lucas overthrew a wide-open Randy McMichael.

But Lucas did was make enough throws during the game to get the job done. He also got help from his receivers, a prime example being James McKnight taking a short out pass and turning it into a long gain after burning the cornerback.

Tackle Mark Dixon suggested after the game that Lucas finally got comfortable, using cars as a metaphor.

"Anytime you have been out for a while, and he has been out for a couple of years and now he is back, I think the new-car smell is off of him," Dixon said. "You don't look at this as a new car that he is hopping in for the first time. He has broken in the seat a little bit and he knows how to drive this thing. I think that helps all of us seeing him feel that way."

Lucas only has one or two starts left before Fiedler returns from his thumb injury, and the Dolphins can only hope — to borrow from Dixon's line of thinking — it remains a smooth ride.

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