AFC East: Dolphins Finally 'Getting It?'

Are the Miami Dolphins finally starting to turn the corner? Is it too late for head coach Tony Sparano? Inside look at the AFC East Miami Dolphins.

Sparano believes Dolphins' pieces coming together

   The Miami Dolphins during the first half of the season didn't do much right. Amid the team's seven-game losing streak to start the season, the Dolphins at least responded well to defeat.

   They didn't win. But while the losses continued to pile up, they said the right things. They continued to practice well, coach Tony Sparano said. They didn't give up. They kept their frustration, at least publicly, to a minimum.

   Tony Sparano appreciated that about his team -- that it didn't fold. Now he's about to learn something he hasn't yet this season: How the Dolphins respond to success. After earning their first victory of the season on Sunday against the Chiefs, the Dolphins this weekend host the Washington Redskins.

   Just days removed from a seven-game losing streak, the Dolphins are now starting at the chance to put together a winning streak. The possibility is certainly within reach, given the Redskins will enter Sun Life Stadium with a four-game losing streak.

   The Dolphins don't have a reason to take any team lightly. Not with their 1-7 record. Asked if he was worried that his players might become overconfident entering this weekend, Sparano laughed.

   "No," he said. "I'm not worried about that. They'll be here to work on Wednesday and they'll be ready to go. This is the kind of group that this group has been. I've been trying to say that. I don't know if everybody believes that.

   "These guys have been really professional."

   So the Dolphins have that, at least. They don't have many victories. No real hope of the playoffs. But Sparano has admired how his team his responded to adversity. Now he'll find out how it responds to success.

AFC East Contenders?

   --Before the Miami Dolphins had ever played a game, coach Tony Sparano made a bold proclamation. The Dolphins would not only be competitive, Sparano said then, but they'd be good enough to factor into the AFC East race. Sparano dared the doubters to doubt.

   Of course, the Dolphins through their first seven games didn't live up to Sparano's lofty expectations. And didn't come close to doing so. They lost their first seven games in a variety of ways.

   One week they were allowing Tom Brady a record-setting passing performance. And another week they were giving away a 15-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation against the Denver Broncos. And on it went.

   On Sunday, though, Sparano saw what he'd been expecting out of the Dolphins all along. They dominated in a 31-3 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs and, perhaps more important, their pieces fit together -- and the way Sparano had envisioned -- for the first time.

   Reggie Bush ran effectively through the tackles, and outside of them, and he also factored into the passing game. Charles Clay, the rookie H-back, helped stretch the field in the vertical passing game while he proved to be a difficult matchup.

   And the defense, the expected strength of the team entering the season, finally played like it. The Dolphins kept the Chiefs out of the end zone.

   "I think a large part of this has to do with time missed and I think now all of a sudden that's catching up with the players," Sparano said.

   He was, of course, referring to the lockout, which robbed the Dolphins and every other team in the NFL the chance to hold off-season workouts and minicamps. When training camp began, it was rushed.

   "Had you have had some of these guys for the amount of time that you would have had them for," Sparano said, "maybe you would have had a little bit better idea of the way you want to use Reggie a little bit better."

   Against the Chiefs, the Dolphins had a clear idea of how to use Bush. And Clay. And Brandon Marshall, who caught his second touchdown pass of the season.

   And the defense, for a change, resembled the one that dominated at times during the 2010 season. The Dolphins finished with five sacks and effectively limited the Chiefs running game.

   Overall it was the kind of effort Sparano had expected all along. The kind he hopes to see this weekend against the Redskins and beyond.

Sparano keeping Davis incident in-house

   As he did after the victory against the Chiefs, coach Tony Sparano on Monday declined to go into detail about the altercation that happened in the previous week between cornerback Vontae Davis and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

   Sparano also declined comment on an report that called into question Davis' professionalism.

   Sparano said, "It's going to stay within us. If it's going to get to you people, it's going to get to you people not through me, OK. So that's just the way I am, it's the way I prefer it. So that's the way it's going to be." Sparano said Davis would play this week if he's healthy.

   --Sparano said Monday that he couldn't relax in the final minutes of the game against Chiefs -- not even with a four-touchdown lead. He'd already watched his team give away fourth-quarter leads in three losses.

   "At one point there was about three-and-a-half minutes left in the game, I think, and I'm on the sideline and I'm grinding them and I'm grinding them," Sparano said. "And I look over and (Jason Taylor is) laughing at me.

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