FEELING CONFIDENT

The Dolphins' loss to the Minnesota Vikings did a lot of things, and one of them was to bring back to talk of the Dolphins' December struggles. But Miami players aren't interested in that as they prepare for their key regular-season finale at New England.

The Dolphins know full well that a victory over the Patriots will get them the AFC East title, while a loss will put them in a position of needing help from other teams just to make the playoffs.

Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, for one, isn't paying attention to what's being said about the Dolphins this week.

"For me personally, I have spent time with my family and stayed away from the TV and newspapers and just tried to focus on this team and what I personally have to do to help us win," he said. "I know the other guys are doing the same thing. Hopefully, we can all do that and get a W."

Like it or not, there's no disputing the fact the Dolphins have struggled in December in recent years.

Just look at the numbers.

The Dolphins are 2-2 this year, losing at Buffalo and Minnesota. They lost two games in December each of the last two seasons. In 1999, the Dolphins went 1-4 in December and January. The Dolphins also lost two December games in 1998, 1997 and 1996.

It was supposed to be different this year with the addition of Ricky Williams and a Miami team that's probably more talented than any in recent memory.

But then came last Saturday's baffling 20-17 loss at Minnesota, where the defense couldn't stop the Vikings in the second half and the offense made too mistakes, from a stupid penalty on Randy McMichael to a bad interception by Jay Fiedler to key drops by Dedric Ward and Cris Carter.

"We're over it," Fiedler said of the Minnesota game. "This is a game where we need to go out there and play well this week. We need to win it to seal the division. Everyone is upbeat right now. Everyone is approaching this game with an aggressive attitude that we need to go up there, play hard and take the game to the Patriots."

The frustrating part for the Dolphins is that they realize they have a good team and have put themselves in a dangerous situation.

"Record-wise, we are not as good (as last year), but overall, team-wise, we are so much better than where we were even last year — twice as good," said linebacker Zach Thomas. "I don't know where the give is. I don't know who to blame. That is the truth.

"None of that means anything. We just have to want this game more than they do. They have their Super Bowl ring. We have to want it more than they do."


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