Dolphins: Not Worried About Wildcard

The Miami Dolphins have control of their own destiny. If they win their final two games they win the Division. If they stumble, they aren't out, but they'll need help. That help could come Thursday in Dallas as the Cowboys face the Ravens. The Jets, Patriots and Dolphins would each benefit if Baltimore stumbled, but none more than New England who is on the outside looking in.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano isn't about to apologize for winning another ugly game Sunday, 14-9 over the 49ers, who dominated the game in several significant categories. He's also not worried about the complicated playoff scenarios ahead.

Sparano knows that if the 9-5 Dolphins -- who are tied with the Jets and Patriots atop the AFC East -- beat the 2-12 Chiefs in chilly Kansas City and then beat the Jets in The Meadowlands in the season finale, they will win the AFC East for the first time since 2000 and earn their first playoff berth since 2001.

The Jets go to 3-11 Seattle, in possibly Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren's final home game. The Jets are 0-3 on the West Coast this year. The Patriots host the slumping 8-6 Cardinals -- who have already clinched the NFC West -- and close on the road against the 6-8 Bills -- who have lost to New England 10 straight times.

"I only know one playoff scenario, and it's the only one I worry about right now," Sparano said. "So for me I'm really worried about Kansas City. The truth is from the locker room to the walk to the podium (Sunday) night, my thought was about how we get ready for this game."

The Dolphins edged the 5-9 49ers despite losing the time-of-possession battle by nearly 17 minutes and only having 42 offensive plays to San Francisco's 79. Miami had just 11 first downs to San Francisco's 24, converting only one third down all game.

Since Nov. 9, the Dolphins have five victories, four of them by five points or fewer.

"We're finding ways to get wins," nose tackle Jason Ferguson said. "They're not cute, but all wins are beautiful."

Whether the Dolphins beat or lose to the Chiefs on Sunday, they can neither clinch a playoff berth nor be eliminated. So it will come down to the Jets game in Week 17 in a dramatic matchup of Brett Favre vs. Jets castoff Chad Pennington.

The Dolphins will play their first game under adverse weather conditions Sunday. They were fortunate to have two consecutive dome games against the Rams and Bills (in Toronto), but Sparano believes the Dolphins' low-risk offense that features short passes, running and ball-control won't be hurt by cold weather.

"We need not make excuses, but the type of game we do play suits the elements," he said. "It's not like we're playing fast-break football out there. We're not a run-and-shoot team. We're not trying to spread it out and throw it all over the place. ... It's a pretty controlled passing game, and I think our running game is certainly one that is tailored more toward the elements than anything else.

"Our quarterback is a guy who has certainly played his fair share of games in ... wind, rain, everything that goes along with New Jersey."

The Dolphins are back in the wild-card picture with the Ravens falling to 9-5 Sunday. Baltimore travels to Dallas for a toughie, then hosts Jacksonville in Week 17. The Ravens hold the tiebreaker advantage over the Dolphins due to their 27-13 victory in Miami on Oct. 19.

--The Dolphins are the first team to go three consecutive games without allowing a touchdown since 2000, when the Steelers and Titans did so. Pittsburgh actually did it for five straight games.
"They've communicated very, very well," coach Tony Sparano said of his defense. "They don't get flustered a whole lot even when someone makes a big play against them. (Sunday) there were several times where they could've broke, but they didn't break. They find a way to come back and make a play."
--OLB Joey Porter sacked QB Shaun Hill on the 49ers final last-gasp chance on fourth-and-10 from Miami's 21 in the closing minutes. He has 17.5 sacks, one behind the Dolphins' single-season record of 18.5, held by Jason Taylor and Bill Stanfill.
--QB Chad Pennington completed his first six passes, giving him 17 straight completions over two games to surpass Dan Marino's franchise record of 15 set during the 1992 season. However, he acknowledged that the offense has to do a better job of controlling the ball to help the defense.
"We've got to convert some third downs and keep our defense off the field," he said. "That's part of playing complementary football, and we need to get better at that."
--The Dolphins didn't commit a turnover for the second game in a row and still have just 10, which is a record after 14 games. The Patriots had 11 after 14 games last season. The fewest turnovers in NFL history (since the 16-game schedule began in 1978) is 14 by the 1990 Super Bowl-winning Giants.


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