Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Fall frenzy

Consecutive wins for Dolphins ease sting of 2007

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[October 08, 2008]  DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Miami Dolphins defensive end Vonnie Holliday was chatting with his teenage stepbrother at a recent family gathering when the subject turned to bad football teams.

Donuts"I'm asking him about his season, and he's like, 'We're 0-3 right now, but you guys were 1-15,'" Holliday says with a laugh. "That's what it has come to -- even your family and friends joking about 1-15. It's serious to me. He didn't know he hurt my feelings, but he did.

"That's the way it has been around here. We're trying to change that."

For last year's Dolphins, the past two games have been the best possible pain relief. With upset wins over January's AFC finalists, New England and San Diego, Miami has back-to-back victories for the first time in nearly two years.

A 2-2 record rarely felt so good. It means regardless of what happens in the next three months, including Sunday's game at Houston, the Dolphins are better than a year ago.

"We're not going to be 1-15," Holliday says.

He's one of 26 players remaining from the 2007 humiliation. For them, the turnaround the past three weeks is especially sweet.

"It's only two wins," linebacker Matt Roth says. "But coming from last year, it seems like we're on top of the world."

Once a playoff perennial, the Dolphins have had little success to savor in recent years. Not one player remains from Miami's 2001 team, the most recent to make the postseason. Losses in the first two games this year made it 20 defeats in the past 21 games.

Then came the abrupt turnaround. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Dolphins became the first team since the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers to beat conference finalists from the preceding year in consecutive games.


Those Steelers went on to the playoffs.

"The Dolphins are here," receiver Greg Camarillo says. "We have arrived. Other teams would doubt us before. Now they have to prepare to play a great team. We're ready to play anybody."

Last year everybody wanted to play the Dolphins, who flirted with becoming the first NFL team to go 0-16 until Camarillo caught a touchdown pass in overtime in the 14th game.

More than half the roster has since turned over under a new regime led by Bill Parcells. The steadily shrinking group of holdovers wondered about job security as first-year coach Tony Sparano and his staff auditioned several dozen newcomers during training camp.

"They were bringing in 30 or 40 guys, and you're like, 'Man, what's this all about?'" Roth says. "But if you make plays, they like you. That's what they tell you from day one. It was a little frustrating to see all these guys come in, but we've jelled real well. The strong survive here."

Not that Sparano didn't appreciate the frustration endured by the team he inherited. He watched the tragedy play out game by game.

"I came here and we dove into the film, and there was a point where I was watching all of this tape where you see them trying so hard, and it just didn't work out," Sparano says. "That part of me is what feels good for this team right now -- it's that all of a sudden, those players are starting to feel pretty good."

The holdovers are instrumental in the Dolphins' improvement.

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Running back Ronnie Brown is tied for the NFL lead with six touchdowns and has thrown for another. Position changes have benefited Roth, middle linebacker Channing Crowder and weakside linebacker Joey Porter. Crowder and Holliday made the fourth-down, fourth-quarter stop on a goal-line stand that preserved the lead against San Diego. Tackle Vernon Carey and center Samson Satele are the lone returnees on an improved offensive line, and Camarillo has assumed an increased role and leads the team in receptions.

The two victories weren't flukes -- Miami outgained the Patriots by 235 yards and the Chargers by 188, putting a little more distance between these Dolphins and last year.

But the holdovers remain divided as to whether they've been able to erase 2007 from their memory.

"I try," Roth says. "I don't want to think about it. I don't want to talk about it. This is refreshing. It feels good. I've got family and friends calling and saying, 'Good game, good win.' Last year I got no phone calls."

Says Brown: "Last year is out the window."

But Holliday wants to remember the most miserable season of his 11-year NFL career, even if it means being the butt of an occasional joke from his stepbrother.

"You can't forget about it," Holliday says. "When people around the league think about the Dolphins, they think about the 'almost winless Dolphins.' For me it's motivation. To go through that season was tough. It makes these wins that much better."

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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