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  Last Chance to Salvage Season
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Last Chance to Salvage Season

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

This is it. This is the last chance the Dolphins will have to get 2004 pointed in the right direction.

The opponent is the World Champion New England Patriots. The venue is Gillette Stadium.

Beat the World Champs on the road, end their 18 game winning streak, and the Dolphins will get more than a spark...they’ll get a million watt jolt of juice that could get things pointed in a reasonable direction.

Lose and 2004 is all but mathematically over.

Right now you’re probably wondering if I have been sharing any of Ricky’s stash.

What last chance? Isn’t this season already over? What am I smoking?

Bear with me for a moment while I explain.

There’s no question that the Dolphins have hit a new low, a low not seen since the inaugural season in 1966. Most have already flushed this one down the drain.

I haven’t. Not for another week anyway.

An improbable win against the Patriots stops the hemorrhaging and gives the beleaguered Dolphins something to work with.

Even the most pessimistic of pundits will concede that this team has better than 0-for talent. It’s not like the Dolphins have been getting blown out; each game has been close and very winnable.

Problem is, the Dolphins keep beating themselves instead of the other team.

Herein lies the difference between winners and losers: winners find a way to get over, losers keep going under.

No matter how this season ultimately ends, this is a sick franchise that is in need of some very strong medicine. The Dolphins flat out stink. Beating New England won’t change the diagnosis.

That treatment will come at season’s end. For now, Patrick Surtain is right; the Dolphins must "stick together". Coming apart would be worse than continued losing. Much worse.

I agree that Foxborough isn’t exactly the best place to try and get a win, even under the best of circumstances. We all know that the Dolphins’ recent history there is not good.

At a glance, this contest figures to be a true laugher. The Patriots might even start laughing beforehand when they see the Dolphins on tape.

It doesn’t take a Don Shula to realize that Bill Belichick is sure to employ the same effective strategy that others have: lay back on defense and wait for the Dolphin O to cook themselves while Tom Brady tries to slow simmer the Dolphin D with his potent stuff.

So how should the Dolphins approach this?

Loosely. Play hard, play smart, have fun, and forget about 0-4. Keep the focus on the things they can control, like turnovers, penalties, and mental errors. Let the rest of the game take care of itself.

Wouldn’t things be interesting on Sunday if the Dolphins didn’t give their opponent the luxury of gift-wrapped touchdowns or ill-timed penalties?

We already know from past experience that the Dolphin D is good enough to play tough football with Brady and his boys.

We also know that Olindo Mare has a chip on his shoulder and would like nothing more than to kick the Dolphins to victory over the hated Pats.

Think about what a win against the World Champs would do for the Dolphins’ bruised confidence.

Right now, it would mean a lot.

Clearly, 0-5 is over and out. Heck, even 1-4 is dim.

But take 1-4 and the confidence they’d get, build on it with a very doable win against the hapless Buffalo Bills, and maybe...just maybe...the conversation changes.

Suddenly, 2-4 is not such an unrealistic place from which to climb back into the world of the living.

Strange things happen in the NFL. Just ask the 1992 San Diego Chargers. They actually made the playoffs after an 0-4 start.

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?!?

Again, I am not writing to you from a tent in the Australian outback. Nor am I predicting a Dolphin revival in 2004.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what we think. It matters what the Dolphins think.

The Dolphins still have a chance to make something of this difficult season. It is important they do everything they can to end the campaign with a respectable result.

Quitting is what true losers do. Winners fight until the fight is done. Winning is ALWAYS better than losing. Self-respect and pride demand it.

Cutting down on the errors, stealing a game or two, and buying the time to get back some of their better players, like Tim Bowens and Travis Minor, will really help the cause.

If the Dolphins believe they can still salvage a respectable season, they have a chance to do so.

If they wish to mentally check out, the drop from 0-4 to 0-16 is very easy.

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