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Dolphins show potential to play spoiler in AFC East

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Nov. 07, 2011 @ 6:16 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

It was a simple play, but it was the sign of a different Dolphins team than we had seen in an 0-7 start to the season.

On 1st-and-goal from the Chiefs' three-yard line at the end of the first quarter, QB Matt Moore faked a handoff to RB Daniel Thomas and found TE Anthony Fasano wide open in the endzone.

Finally, the Dolphins discovered they have a pretty good pass-catching tight end who can be utilized near the goal line. And that, with protection, Moore can make plays. And that they have the personnel on defense to wreak havoc.

In Miami's first win of the season, a 31-3 shellacking of a Chiefs squad that had won four in a row coming in, the team clicked on all cylinders and made you wonder, "where has this team been?" The convincing road victory was all that more impressive considering the drama off the field.

The PFW Spin

All the attention in the AFC East, and rightfully so, is on the three-way tie at the top between the 5-3 Jets, Patriots and Bills. But if Sunday was any indication, the Dolphins will be a spoiler candidate down the stretch.

Throughout this tumultuous season, the Dolphins have continued to play hard, holding fourth-quarter leads in games against the Giants, Browns and Broncos, but hadn't been able to close anyone out. The personnel is there, the effort is there, but Miami had yet to play to its potential.

When you consider what was going on off the field, with reports surfacing over the weekend of a suspension for starting CB Vontae Davis for his lack of professionalism, the all-around performance is even more impressive.

Mike Nolan's attacking defense did not attack anyone the first seven games of the season. On Sunday, the Dolphins sacked Matt Cassel five times and hit him nine times.

The offensive line had been a turnstile for seven games, allowing 27 sacks. Against Tamba Hali and the Chiefs' defense, the Dolphins allowed zero sacks and two QB hits. OLT Jake Long had his best game of the season, manhandling Hali on some plays.

The extra protection set up a good game for Moore, who was accurate in connecting on 17-of-23 passes. The Dolphins also found a second tight end and a seam threat in rookie Charles Clay, who had back-to-back long receptions to set up Fasano's second score. Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush both had big games as well.

Everything clicked for what had been a laughingstock of the league the first half of the season. Resolving the Davis situation will be important going forward, but this team proved it could put it all together, even with a major distraction.

The Dolphins get the Patriots and Jets one more time each and have two meetings against the Bills. It is a big 'if,' to say that the Dolphins can be a spoiler if they play like they did against Kansas City, as it took eight games for them to stop underachieving.

The Dolphins will finish last in the AFC East, but they showed signs of a team that has the tools to be a contender in 2012 with a franchise quarterback and improvements in the secondary as starting points. It will say a lot about the players and head coach Tony Sparano to see how they can build off a nice win it what has been a dismal season.

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