How Far Have The Dolphins Come?

Is the question, 'How far have the Patriots fallen?' Or, should it be, 'How far have the Dolphins come?' Chad Henne had his breakout party at Tom Brady's expense on Sunday. It wasn't the first time that happened and may not be the last.

Have the Dolphins finally moved past the Wildcat?
Sunday's stirring 22-21 win over New England marked the first time since Tony Sparano arrived in Miami before the 2008 season that the Dolphins won without running a single play out of the much-debated formation.
They did run two direct snaps to Pat White, but those netted minus-15 yards, and the Wildcat itself never showed up.

That's mostly because Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning finally decided to take the training wheels off for starting quarterback Chad Henne.

As the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for a visit from their in-state brethren on Sunday, they must be wondering how much they should prepare for the Wildcat and how much they need to come up with a way to slow the suddenly productive Dolphins passing game.

Ranked 30th in the NFL coming into the rematch with the Patriots, the Dolphins piled up 328 yards passing against a struggling secondary. Henne threw for a career-best 335 yards and two touchdowns. He went 29 for 52, marking the most attempts for him since he was a Michigan freshman in 2004 and threw 54 times in a loss at Ohio State.

Of the 18 times in franchise history a quarterback has thrown 50 or more passes, the Dolphins have won just six times. The first five victories belonged to Dan Marino, most recently in 1995 against the Falcons.

The last time a Dolphins quarterback threw as many times as Henne did Sunday in a victory, it was 1990 and Marino was beating the Eagles in overtime.

No one is putting Henne in the Hall of Fame just yet, but the early indicators are very encouraging.

"The kid shows me an awful lot," Sparano said. "He's just getting better and better. He likes being in tough situations, and that's what you want."

Tough? Try being down 14-0 to the three-time Super Bowl champs -- who hadn't lost consecutive games in more than three years -- one play into the second quarter.

Tough? Try being down 21-10 three minutes into the second half, and still down 21-19 with 3:44 to play and the ball at your 26-yard line.

That Henne had the poise to lead the Dolphins 51 yards in 10 plays to set up Dan Carpenter's 41-yard field goal for the win -- Henne's third fourth-quarter comeback victory in just nine starts -- should give the Jaguars significant headaches this week.

LINEUP WATCH: Donald Thomas, the second-year man who took virtually every snap at right guard over the first 10 games this year, rotated for a second straight week with fellow second-year man Nate Garner. Thomas hasn't been listed on the injury report and Tony Sparano talked last week about the need to keep him fresh, but Thomas was barely seen in the second half Sunday.

UNDER THE RADAR: The Dolphins got LB Erik Walden, the special teams ace, back from a lingering hamstring injury. Walden, who had missed the past three games, resumed his "four-core" role on the special teams units, but he also was flagged for being illegally downfield on a Dolphins punt early in the fourth quarter. That wiped out a running-into-the-punter penalty on New England that would have given the Dolphins an automatic first down.

--ILB Channing Crowder didn't have to move very far to corral the first interception of his five-year career. Tom Brady hit him right in the gut with a wild pass under heavy pressure on New England's final offensive play with 35 seconds left.
--OLB Cameron Wake didn't see many snaps again Sunday, but just as he has several times this season he made himself a factor in the late going. Wake had Brady by the ankles as he threw that game-deciding interception to Crowder. Afterward, Sparano vowed to get Wake more action.
--LG Justin Smiley missed his fourth straight start but did see significant action with Nate Garner sliding over to right guard in the second half. Smiley came out early in the fourth quarter clutching his right wrist/hand area and was seen in the X-ray area after the game, but it's unclear if he will be hampered this week in practice.
--WR Davone Bess has been far more productive since huddling recently with injured quarterback Chad Pennington. Bess had career highs of 10 receptions and 117 yards with a touchdown against the Patriots. He also averaged nearly 10 yards on three punt returns.
--CB Vontae Davis was burned early on a 58-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss on the game's sixth play, but the rookie rallied to hold Moss (with significant help from the safeties) to just one more catch for 8 yards. Davis, who typically lines up exclusively at left cornerback, flipped sides often to make sure he shadowed Moss.

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