Pride on the Line Against Pats
by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
When you’re part of a 2-11 football team, it is very difficult to get motivated about anything. All you want is for the ordeal to end.
So many bad things have happened to the 2004 Miami Dolphins that January 3rd has been heavily circled on more than a few calendars…the final end to a wretched season.
Until then, there’s three weeks of football to be played. Pride, the respect of peers, is what’s left to play for. And, just maybe, a touch of revenge on a old nemesis.
Up next are the World Champion New England Patriots.
It wasn’t that long ago that Dolfans gleefully referred to their division rivals as the Patsies. And why not? They had earned the label as the Dolphins’ annual whipping boys.
All-time, the Dolphins have owned the Pats with a 45-32 record. It is unlikely that the Pats will ever be able to catch the Dolphins.
While trips down memory lane are fun, they don’t help you to win the next game.
In the here and now, it doesn’t take a genius to recognize the obvious. A win over the Patriots this upcoming Monday night would bring some much needed and deserved Holiday cheer to a group who has simply refused to quit.
When the schedule came out, it was believed that this contest could determine the AFC East division champion.
Unfortunately, the significance of this contest has been diminished. It serves now as nothing more than a hollow and sorry reminder of what could have been.
Still, this game presents an opportunity for the Dolphins to prove a few things.
It is a chance to exact some revenge for recently ruined Decembers. Think of the league-wide reaction of getting over on the world champs in a December game!
It is a chance for A.J. Feeley to prove to a national audience that he is the face of the future for the Miami Dolphins.
It is a chance for Derrick Pope to introduce himself to the NFL as Zach Thomas did in 1996.
It is a chance for Jim Bates to show the world that he can coach, no matter what his fate may be at season’s end.
It is a chance to show everyone that the Miami Dolphins aren’t quitters, 2-11 record be damned.
It is a chance for the Dolphins to wreck the Patriots’ chances at home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
It is a chance for the Dolphins to earn some respect.
Can the Dolphins pull this thing off? Can they give themselves and Dolfans everywhere a joyous Holiday gift?
Perhaps. They’ve played most everybody they’ve faced this season very tough. Perhaps if as few as 10 more plays had gone Miami’s way they’d be .500 team today.
Realistically, this should be a laugher. In fact, the Pats might start laughing when they watch the tape of the Dolphins in action.
How else to react when you have almost as many losses as the other team has wins?
Maybe the Dolphins will get lucky and catch the Pats flat. Maybe Charlie Weis will be thinking about Notre Dame and get distracted from his preparations.
Don’t bet on it. To earn this one, the Dolphins are going to have to stand up and punch the Pats out.
They can do it if they solve the confusing batch of blitz and cover packages that Bill Belichick is certain to throw at young A.J. Feeley.
They can do it if the defense makes life hell for Dolphin-killer Tom Brady and covers their cadre of dangerous receivers. Coming up with some turnovers would be helpful.
So would a trick play or two. Or three.
I, for one, believe in that old NFL saying that, on any given day, a lesser team can beat a greater team.
I’ll stop short of making predictions. As the great Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope reminds, “There’s only one way to get it right and a thousand ways to get it wrong.”
The Dolphins would love to get this one right.