Big Confidence Builder

Suddenly, there's a light shining at the end of the Dolphins' tunnel after demolishing the hapless Buffalo Bills, 38-10, Sunday in their AFC East opener for their first win of the season.

Coach Tony Sparano's fundamental tenets on how to win football games had been shaken in the first three games in which his team dominated time of possession, led the league in third-down conversions and was ranked third in run defense and rushing offense but was still 0-3.

On Sunday, the Dolphins did all of the above in blowing out an injury-depleted Bills squad that looked overmatched, but they also filled in a few missing ingredients such as winning the turnover battle (three to none), including a pick-six interception by rookie cornerback Vontae Davis that made it 10-0 in the second quarter.

They also didn't settle for field goals in the red zone, converting 4 of 5 red-zone forays, with four touchdowns, including two short runs by Ronnie Brown and another by Ricky Williams, who combined to gain 200 of Miami's 250 rushing yards, the most against the Bills since Dec. 1, 2002 when they had 270.

So next week's Monday nighter against the Jets, who lost their first game of the season, takes on added significance. The Jets (3-1), who have beaten the Dolphins five of the last six, have to be thinking payback after the Dolphins beat them in last year's season finale that eventually led to Eric Mangini's ousting and another short-lived Brett Favre retirement.

The run defense held Buffalo's not-so-dynamic duo of Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch to a measly 46 yards on 2.7 yards per carry, Buffalo's lowest total against Miami since gaining 46 yards in a 45-7 loss on Dec. 20, 1970.

Veteran corner Will Allen had two interceptions of his own, but the defensive backs were vastly helped by the Dolphins' pass rush, which sacked Edwards six times despite the absence of Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter (hamstring). Jason Taylor had two sacks and CFL import Cameron Wake had three, taking advantage of the lopsided score and also the absence of injured tackle Demetrius Bell.

"The kid's showing you what he's got. I've been around a long time and he does things that amaze me," Taylor said of Wake. "It's those young, fresh legs and that good cartilage in his knees and all of that stuff. Me and Joey always joke, we'll watch tape and we'll see Cameron do something, maybe dip underneath somebody, kind of get pushed around and he'll spin back and pop back up off the ground and Joey and I always look each other and say, 'Those are those good knees; the good cartilage.'

"So he does things that Joey and I just can't do right now, but I think we have a few things he can't do yet, too."

The secondary, which has been giving up long plays, held a seemingly indifferent Terrell Owens to three catches for 60 yards a week after he was shut out, and Dolphins' killer Lee Evans to just two catches for 60 yards.

Between the rushing attack and defensive domination, the debut of the Chad Henne era took a back seat. Even with a banged-up Bills secondary with three starters out, Henne proved he's far from a finished product. He was efficient but not spectacular in completing 14 of 22 for 115 yards, including his first NFL touchdown pass, a 5-yarder to rookie Brian Hartline. At times Henne overthrew receivers but it seemed like he was afraid to make mistakes; he was also sacked six times, including some coverage sacks in which he should've gotten rid of the ball.

"I thought our young guys played old and our old players played young today," Sparano said. "I loved (Henne's) look during the game. It was tremendous. Really communicated clearly, very well on the sideline, very good with receivers, excellent with (quarterbacks coach David Lee). I thought he had a really good grasp of what they were doing to him, which is all positive."


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