Dolphins Begin Executing, Winning

The Miami Dolphins aren't too busy celebrating their recent success considering they are 3-6, but they are feeling better about the way they are playing. Plus, get an update on Daunte Culpepper's status.

If the rest of his teammates feel the same way as defensive end Jason Taylor, the Miami Dolphins haven't gotten carried away with their newfound success entering Sunday's home game against Minnesota.

"Why would you?" asked Taylor, whose team is still a lowly 3-6 despite two consecutive victories. "We know what we are. We know what we need to do."

Miami will probably need to win all of its remaining games for a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. While that is obviously a daunting task, the Dolphins have a solid chance at extending their current winning streak against the slumping Vikings (4-5) followed by Detroit (2-7) on Thanksgiving Day.

That would leave the Dolphins at 5-6 entering December with games slated against four current playoff contenders — Jacksonville, New England, the New York Jets and Indianapolis. Miami hosts all of those teams except the undefeated Colts, which could very well be resting their starters for the postseason by that Dec. 31 match-up. Miami's other road game is Dec. 17 at Buffalo.

But even if Miami falls short of the postseason, the Dolphins have performed like a playoff team the past two games with victories over Chicago (8-1) and Kansas City (5-4).

"We've been executing a whole lot better than we did the first half of the season," said Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, whose 246 combined rushing yards against Chicago and Kansas City sparked Miami's offense. "Also, we've been playing together as a group, offensively, defensively and special teams. We've all been doing a good job. The defense has been getting turnovers and we've limited our mistakes on offense."

Dolphins coach Nick Saban said he also noticed a difference in attitude after his players returned from their bye week standing at 1-6.

"We have a lot of guys on our team that have a lot of pride in their performance," Saban said. "I don't think they were satisfied with the negatives and some of the things that had happened. The leadership on the team ramped it up.

"We have played really well against two pretty good teams in the last two weeks. You have to have a little chip on your shoulder to play this game."

The Vikings will now take a swing at knocking that chip off, which is a challenge that Taylor welcomes.

"We're playing just as hard as we were before," said Taylor, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level. "I think we have a little bit more positive energy. We're optimistic about the outcome as opposed to waiting for things to fall apart.

"We're just executing plays better. We're protecting the football on offense, we're not committing dumb penalties, we're not turning the ball over like we had been. We're playing better defensively, getting turnovers and putting pressure on to dictate the game to them.

"That's been the biggest change. It's not like we're doing a lot of different things. It's the same stuff. We're just doing it a lot better."


  • As expected, Daunte Culpepper won't get a chance for revenge against his former team with Miami's injury report already listing the quarterback as out for the Vikings game.

    "He does want to be on the field," said coach Nick Saban, who yanked Culpepper as his starting quarterback after he struggled during the first four games. "That's one of the things you respect the most about the guy relative to all that he tried to do to get on the field and all he's done to try to get back on the field. This is a physical thing that we have to work together on. I respect what he's doing and how he's done it and I respected what he did before to try to do it as well."

    During a conference call with Vikings media, Saban said Culpepper does individual drills during practice, like dropping back from center and throwing pass routes. Saban also offered an update Wednesday on Culpepper's ongoing rehabilitation of his surgically repaired right knee.

    "We're very pleased with the progress he's making. We're not going to play him until we feel like he's 100 percent and he feels like he's 100 percent. And we're going to manage that on a day to day and week to week basis."

    Culpepper didn't speak to the media Wednesday, but replacement Joey Harrington provided some insight into his teammate's state of mind as he rehabilitates an injury suffered last October while playing for the Vikings.

    "Obviously, he's frustrated, which you can expect from anybody," Harrington told Vikings media. "As far as anything more than that, that's something you're going to have to ask him."

  • Almost 20 years has passed since the Dolphins last hosted Minnesota. Both franchises have played 292 games since that October 1988 encounter, which the Dolphins won by a 24-7 margin.

    To put that stretch of time in perspective, Dolphins starting outside linebacker Channing Crowder was four years old when the Vikings last came to South Florida during the regular season.

  • Ronnie Brown missed his first practice of the season Wednesday because of a groin injury that has him listed on Miami's injury report as questionable for the Vikings game. Brown, though, said he plans to play Sunday and should ease into practice later in the week.

    Brown actually could use a breather after logging 54 carries in the past two games, especially before facing the NFL's top-ranked rush defense.

    "They do a great job against the run," Brown said. "They (allow) 2.9 yards a carry. That's a big stat, especially on this level."

  • LG Kendyl Jacox will start Sunday in place of the injured Jeno James against Minnesota, coach Nick Saban said. Jacox started one game at right guard in September but struggled and returned to the bench.

  • LG Toniu Fonoti has quickly emerged as the top backup at both guard positions. A former starter in San Diego, Fonoti was signed last week because of concerns about veteran depth.

  • RB Ronnie Brown didn't practice Wednesday because of a groin injury and is listed as questionable for the Vikings game. Brown is expected to return later this week and start against Minnesota.

  • LG Jeno James is expected out for at least a couple of weeks following Tuesday's arthroscopic knee surgery, Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. The earliest James would be expected to return is Dec. 3 against Jacksonville.

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