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  A Morning-after Hangover
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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The scene at the Dolphins training facility Monday morning was a somber one.


Coaches finished trolling the film from Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Texans, still studying what went wrong. Some had been at it since late last night.


Dejected players ambled in, many to get treatment for physical injuries that are fresh or have been lingering for months now. Before they left for the day, they were exposed to collective feedback from the coaching staff on their lack of performance versus the Texans. Needless to say, the session wasn’t pleasant. If anything, it only brought more pain to the reality that they are no longer realistically in the hunt for a playoff spot….and that they have no one to blame but themselves.


I doubt that the players cared much for being hammered under the circumstances. Again, they know what their lapses have cost them. And they are probably still numb from yesterday's debacle. They might even be numb from the collective impact of going 2-3 these past five weeks.


Yet, from an outsider’s perspective…and that’s what we all are in the end, fans and media alike…it is tough to understand how this team could come out flat in a game that meant everything to their season.


Think about how hard the Dolphins battled to recover from their 0-3 start to get into position for a playoff berth. Think about the resiliency this team has shown in overcoming injuries and the inexperience of young players, getting to .500, and at one point landing themselves in position to actually take control of the division.


Sadly, they threw it all away this past Sunday by not showing up ready to play. For a Bill Parcells/Tony Sparano team, it’s just unfathomable…and a little bit shocking.


Yes, there are talent issues. But those issues have been in play now for months.


Yes, there are injury issues. But those issues have been in play now for months.


Yes, they are tired from the grind of trying to climb back from 0-3. But that grind has been a part of their lives now for months.


Are the Dolphins just worn down? If that were true, there wouldn't have been any "light switch effect" in the second half of these past two games.


Did the Dolphins become complacent? It’s hard to fathom how this could be the case for a team battling for their playoff lives.


Is there some sort of locker room issue? If there is, the Dolphins have done a brilliant job of keeping it "in house".


Have the coaches failed to properly prepare and motivate the players? This is hard to say, though one could argue that the Dolphins were outcoached at the start of the last two games, only to rebound with some good second half adjustments.


Sparano believes in confronting problems, and judging by the fact that he was almost 30 minutes late to his Day After press conference, he had a lot of confronting to do. Still angry, he made it clear that he was disappointed and surprised with the lack of performance, starting with tackling.


 “What I’m surprised of, and this is my fault, this is what I’m disappointed in me for, is that I take great pride in the fact that we work our team hard enough, and that our team gets better as the season goes on”, he spat. “We didn’t get better in that phase, we didn’t get better fundamentally yesterday, we didn’t tackle well enough. There are some things that we didn’t do fundamentally well enough yesterday. I take that personally myself.”


The Dolphins missed ten tackles in the first half alone, accounting for 137 yards after the catch. That is part of what Sparano is angry about.


He went on about the apparent lack of fire in the team with the opening kickoff, pointing out that “they’ve been gritty and feisty the entire year”, while conceding “that didn’t happen yesterday necessarily in the first half of the game.” Ditto Tennessee the week before.


Yet Sparano quickly set it aside, preferring to point to his players’ lack of initiative as another reason for the slow start.


“I hear a lot of things out there, flat or this or that. We don’t want any of those things”, said an agitated Sparano. “We came out we didn’t make plays early in the game, they did and we didn’t make them on either side. So that snowball starts to take place and you start to stand around waiting for someone else to make a play which is exactly what I talked about during the week. Don’t stand around and wait for someone else to do it. You be the guy! I think Jason (Taylor) on the sideline was trying to encourage people to go out there and make the play.”


Unfortunately, no one listened until it was too late. That, folks, is the cruelest cut of all.


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