Finally, Reason For Hope

The Dolphins haven't had a lot of success in recent years, but they've made a habit of pulling off shockers, winning games no one in their right mind would ever think they have a shot at winning. There was a Monday night victory over New England in 2004, followed by the stunner at Chicago in 2006 and then Sunday's rout at Gillette Stadium. But there was something different about this victory.

It was something that should give Dolphins players, coaches and fans reason that things finally will get turned around.

What the other games, as well as a late-season victory at San Diego in 2005, had in common was that they came with the Dolphins' season already being practically over in terms of playoff possibilities.

This one came early in the season, at a time when the Dolphins actually can build on it.

Now, we're not suggesting Miami earned a one-way ticket to the playoffs with the 25-point victory over the Patriots.

But there clearly is clearly for hope.

Start with the performance of Chad Pennington, who was totally mediocre in the first two starts after being so good in the preseason. That was the Pennington we saw against the Patriots.

Pennington was nothing short of spectacular on Sunday, even though his performance will get overshadowed by the five-touchdown day of Ronnie Brown.

In addition to showing good movement and great awareness in the pocket, Pennington was incredibly accurate while completing 17 of 20 passes and made all types of throw.

Brown's performance indeed was incredible, but we already knew the Dolphins had two good running backs in Brown and Williams. Don't be surprised, actually, if it's Williams who has a day like this next time.

The running game was great, and the Dolphins finally were able to make some plays downfield in the passing game.

At last count they had five pass plays of 20 yards or more, which normally accounts for a three- or four-game stretch for them.

The defense also corrected things after last week's debacle at Arizona, although it's pretty clear that Matt Cassel is no Kurt Warner.

It was particularly encouraging to see Joey Porter become such a factor on defense, and if this was a case of Porter being extra motivated because of his controversial comments during the weeks, then let him keep talking.

Here's the best part about all this: It's not like the Dolphins played a perfect game.

For one thing, they had kickoff returns of 50 and 81 yards to Ellis Hobbs, and that's obviously something that needs to be corrected.

They also missed an opportunity to come up with an interception in the secondary when safety Renaldo Hill failed to catch a Cassel pass, which instead ricocheted to former Dolphin Wes Welker.

But obviously a lot more things went right than went wrong on this marvelous afternoon, which will send the Dolphins into their bye on a high note.

Instead of wondering just went they could finally win a game, now we look at the Dolphins and wonder they can repeat the upset of New England with an upset of San Diego in their next game after the bye.

There was a lot of optimism after the arrival of Bill Parcells that things would get turned around. In one afternoon, the optimism level just went up a couple of notches.

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