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  Time for Dolphins to Deliver
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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If the 2-4 Miami Dolphins want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, they’re going to have to get the job done this weekend in the Meadowlands and the following weekend in Foxborough.


Tall order? You betcha. But after starting this season 0-3, the time has come for them to prove their worthiness to be in the playoff discussion.


Beat these two divisional foes on the road, in concurrent weeks, and we’ll have something to talk about. Otherwise, the conversation should be left at the doorstep where other “not ready for prime time” teams are discarded.


Many already believe, including yours truly, that 2009 is all but mathematically over. Few teams (three to be exact) have overcome an 0-3 start to make the playoffs since the league went to a six playoff berth per conference format in 1990. All of those teams were better than these Dolphins are. Actually, teams with more talent than the Dolphins haven’t accomplished the feat.


Oh, and for all you dreamers out there, no 0-3 team has ever made the Super Bowl.


So if these Dolphins want people to start believing they are good, they need to go into Rex Ryan’s house on Sunday and beat his guys up. Then they need to head north on I-95 and do the same thing to Bill Belichick’s boys the following week.


That would get our attention. It would also get the Dolphins to 4-4 and earn them a sparkling 4-0 divisional record, with a much easier second half of the schedule (.415) to deal with versus the murderous first half (.673).


In other words, they would be giving themselves a somewhat realistic chance at making the playoffs.


Now whether or not the Dolphins can go 7-1 down the backstretch the way they did last season is up for debate, especially given the glaring issues we’ve seen. In a way, this clarity helps take away any illusions as to how good GM Jeff Ireland thinks his team is.


That being said, it is becoming boorish to criticize Ted Ginn’s hands, Gibril Wilson’s tackling, the passing game, the secondary, the coverage teams, Tony Sparano’s game management decisions, Ireland’s free agent signings, and refs who cannot see 20/20.


Excuses, all.


The BIGGEST problem is that the Dolphins keep beating themselves instead of the other team. This lack of consistency has been, and will continue to be, ruinous.


Let’s be blunt: the Colts and the Saints had no business whatsoever defeating the Dolphins. But herein lays the difference between winners and losers: winners find a way to get over, losers keep going under.


This is why Sparano is manic about his team “finishing” games. Too often this season, they haven’t been. When offensive coordinator Dan Henning says that nine players…NINE...made more mistakes than Ginn did last week, you know you have issues.


But I wouldn’t start shaking up the roster. That includes demoting, deactivating, or (as some fans have pleaded) cutting Ginn.


“Ted Ginn is the only player we've had since we've been here that's gotten behind anybody's defense and been able to knock the top off a defense,'' Henning said.


Henning’s quite right. Taking Ginn off the field would only help defenses pile up against the run, even if Ginn isn’t catching the ball. Still, one “tweak” Sparano could make is to decrease Ginn’s snaps on offense in certain situations.


As for the other issues, the options are few. Maybe Sparano should sit Wilson and let Tyrone Culver have a turn. Yet I feel that if they felt Culver was better, he’d be in there. At least I hope so.


One thing’s for certain; when you lose games in the grievous ways the Dolphins have, confidence tends to suffer. I know Sparano feels good about his team’s resiliency, and I tend to agree with him. But resiliency only goes so far when repeated dominance in time of possession and three touchdown leads aren’t enough to earn wins.


So how should the Dolphins approach these next two games? We already know that they’re good enough to beat the Jets. We also know they are good enough to go into Gillette and defeat the Patriots. These things have been done under Sparano’s watch.


The first thing is to have fun and stay loose. Tension is generally bad in sports, as Ginn is learning now. They should keep their focus on the things they can control, like turnovers, penalties, and unforced errors such as losing technique in coverage or blowing assignments. They need to be mentally prepared to compete.


These next two games are going to be hotly contested affairs that will probably come down to the fourth quarter. While both teams possess their own unique set of challenges, it is terribly important that poise and discipline be maintained. This, above all other things, is how you finish games.


It was about this time last year that the Dolphins figured this out. Will it be the same in 2009? 

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