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  Win Needed To Save Season
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Two years ago this past week, I wrote a column that declared the fifth game of the season, a road game at New England, to be the Dolphins’ final chance to salvage the 2004 season.


Those 0-4 Dolphins failed in that bid, on their way to a dismal 4-12 finish.


Fast forward to today, and the Dolphins once again face the same season-at-stake crossroads that their weak sisters did. Only difference is that the opponent is the less talented New York Jets in the New Jersey Meadowlands.


I’m not suggesting that the 2006 Dolphins are in the same sorry condition as was the case two years ago. While the record may not bear it out, today’s Dolphins are in better shape than that Dave Wannstedt swan song was.



Nevertheless, winning in the NFL is the bottom line and today’s Dolphins haven’t been. So comparing the on-field product to the one of 2004 is fair.


To save themselves from that shame, to save their season, and their playoff hopes, defeating the Jets is a must.


We’ve heard all the excuses, the latest one being that they “keep shooting ourselves in the foot”.


Whatever. At the end of the day, winners find a way to get over, losers keep going under.


Perhaps the Dolphins should read Nick Saban’s book, “How Good Do You Want to Be?”.


Right now it is hard for us to know how good these Dolphins want to be. Heck, it’s hard to know just how much “want to” there collectively is with this lot.


The truth of matter is that, at some point, this team is going to irreversibly define themselves one way or another.


They can’t recapture failed expectations against the Jets, but they can get themselves back on a path of self-respectability.


As for the fans, whether they drank the Super Bowl kool-aid or not, the pall of disappointment that lingers over this underachieving team is undeniable.


Really, the question is no longer one of playoffs but whether or not they’ll finish with a winning record. One would have to think that they’d have to end up at least as well as last year’s to even be considered a decent product.


For now, let’s be positive and try to see a way out of this mess.


Defeating the Jets this week and the Packers thereafter would get them to 3-4 before the bye week and the lock-up with the formidable Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.


Losing to the Bears would not be a crime, even if it leaves the Dolphins at 3-5. With two homes games to follow against the Chiefs and Vikings, followed by a road game against the sorry Lions, the Dolphins would still have a golden opportunity to get above .500 before December. From there, the playoffs become a realistic discussion.


At the very least, finishing on par with last year’s bunch becomes thinkable.


But it all must begin against the Jets. In the NFL, all of them are big but this one is BIG.


So what has to change?


On offense, the message is overly simplistic and obvious, yet paramount: find a way to get into the red zone and score touchdowns.


Pretty or not, any improvement will matter because the Dolphins are averaging 12.2 points a game, with just 6 touchdowns in five games. Only the Broncos and the Raiders have scored fewer touchdowns.


That’s flat pathetic given the talent.


I won’t replay the various issues on offense here. You’ve all seen the blotter. It’s time to put up or shut up. Simple as that.


Defensively, the picture is brighter. The Dolphins are ranked 5th in yards allowed per game, 4th in fewest penalty yards against, in the top third of the league against the run, 8th versus the pass, and 12th in points allowed.


They can win a lot of games with this defense. They should be 5-0 with this defense. That’s the good news.


The bad news is that they are 25th in third down percentage and, consequently, 24th in time of possession allowed.


The net of this is that they need to get the job done on third down, especially on passing downs, so they can get off the field, and help the offense with field position and more opportunities.


Again, I could write pages on what needs fixing on this flawed team. There’s very little the coaches and front office can do about the players they have right now, other than to keep coaching them.


They clearly don’t have the right players right now to win half the time, let alone every week. That can change but it has to now. The Dolphins have run out of time.


Clearly, 1-5 is over and out. Heck, even 2-4 is dim.


But the Dolphins can still get back in the fight. It’s a long shot but they can still do it.


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


I don’t know if the Dolphins can get their act together in time (or at all) to make the playoffs. That could be expecting too much of this underachieving lot.


Let’s see if they can prove otherwise.



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