I can't help it - I'm already worried.
I know I shouldn't be. I know that one game against the defending NFL Champions does not a season make. I know that throwing two interceptions, giving up a few sacks and giving up a big play or two is not the end of the world.
And most of all I know that it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Still, I can't help it. I'm worried.
The Dolphins lost against the Steelers on Thursday night for a lot of different reasons. The secondary gave up too many big plays. The offensive line couldn't make room for a running game and gave up two sacks in the fourth quarter. Daunte Culpepper threw two interceptions.
And there was Nick Saban's lame flag toss.
None of those things, individually, worried me too much. What did worry me is how the team played at the end of the game.
Last year, the Dolphins had to play tough in the fourth quarter to win many of their games. The home win against the Bills was the biggest example, but there were many other cases where the Dolphins had to make the big plays late in the game to win.
And they did. By the end of the season, the Dolphins were playing their best football in the fourth quarter of games. That is one of the biggest reasons that the Dolphins were 6-0 in their last six games.
Against the Steelers, the Dolphins came unglued in the fourth quarter. Nick Saban's teams aren't supposed to do that.
It was almost like the Dolphins had started over from scratch.
And, in many ways, I suppose they have. They've replaced two of the offensive line starters and both the backup and starting quarterbacks. They've changed both the offensive and defensive coordinators and replaced the entire starting secondary. And if you look at where most of the problems were, they were in the recently changed areas of the team.
Still, last year, the Dolphins came out very hot against the Broncos and squashed them on opening day. This year's opening day was much different.
Hopefully, the second game will be much different this year as well. Last year, the Dolphins started hot on the first day and cooled off substantially in the second game against the Jets. I'm hoping that the trend of different results continues and the Dolphins play much better in the second week than they did in the first. They certainly have enough time to get ready, with the extra 3 days they were given by opening on Thursday night.
Still, I'm worried.
Daunte Culpepper's final minutes under center were much too much like Jay-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to fill me with confidence for the rest of the season. It has been over a year since Daunte Culpepper played at a high level and I'm concerned that he won't get back on track until mid-way through the season. By then it might be too late.
Plus, the Bills are coming to town and that always worries me. They played the Patriots very tough yesterday and they'll play the Dolphins tough this week. If Daunte Culpepper doesn't play better and the offensive line doesn't block better, the Bills' defense will be all over him like the Steelers were on Thursday.
If the secondary doesn't play better and make a lot fewer mistakes, JP Losman, Lee Evans and Josh Reed will shred them.
On that subject - memo to Coach Saban: Lance Schulters is unemployed.
So I'm worried.
But it's no accident - I'm definitely worried...