Dolphins shrug off loser's image
MIAMI -- The last time Miami Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo found himself in that Dolphin Stadium end zone, he ran to the front row and hugged the first fan he could touch. Within seconds, Camarillo was mobbed by jubilant fans and teammates. He had scored a touchdown, and the Dolphins won.
|Joel Auerbach/US Presswire|
|Dolphins defensive end Vonnie Holliday (91) and linebacker Joey Porter (55) celebrate during Miami's win over San Diego.|
That was their only victory in 2007. Camarillo's 64-yard dash beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. The Dolphins finished 1-15.
Camarillo scored his first touchdown of this season Sunday. This catch was much tougher. He jumped to snare the ball, maintained his position on the defensive back and landed in the end zone.
But he didn't flip out. He calmly looked to crowd and motioned with his hands for a little love.
The Dolphins beat the San Diego Chargers 17-10. The difference between Camarillo's touchdowns is symbolic of how far the Dolphins have come. These days, they expect success.
"We've arrived," Camarillo said. "Other teams would doubt us before. Now they have to prepare to play a great team. We're ready to play anybody."
The Dolphins are acting like they've done this before because, well, they have.
In consecutive games they've beaten the clubs that played for last year's AFC championship. They crushed the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Week 3. That outcome seemed like it might have been a fluke. After beating the Chargers on Sunday, it's harder to come up with excuses for how the Dolphins pulled it off.
"That's how [critics] look at that game," Dolphins defensive end Vonnie Holliday said, "that there was no Tom Brady, no Laurence Maroney. 'These guys are still a joke,' and they're going to look at this game right here and still say the same thing.
"There's still going to be non-believers out there. We're still going to have to fight for respect. We're in an uphill climb."
Even so, here are five things we learned about the Dolphins after they won two in a row for the first time since November 2006:
1. The Dolphins are resilient.
One year ago, a sequence such as this would've sunk the Dolphins.
Dan Carpenter missed a 42-yard field goal that would've given the Dolphins a 20-3 lead with 6:05 left in the third quarter. The Chargers scored a touchdown in seven plays, completing a 42-yard pass on third-and-10 along the way. On the ensuing kickoff, Dolphins return man Davone Bess fumbled it away. Two plays later, it was first-and-goal for the Chargers.
The series ended not with a crippling touchdown, but with the Dolphins stuffing all-world running back LaDainian Tomlinson on fourth-and-1.
How big was that? The Chargers lead the NFL in converting turnovers into points. And in their seven previous goal-to-go situations, they scored six touchdowns and a field goal. This time they got nothing.
"In training camp we often talked, and it happened in practice several times where sometimes things would go bad," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "It just would go bad. At some point you have to say 'No, not today. It's not going to happen today. We've got to turn it around.'
"It was really a defining moment in the game."
2. The Dolphins have developed a swagger and expect to win.
How sweet it is to kneel out a victory, something the Dolphins hadn't done since December 2006.
At Saturday's walkthrough, Sparano had the gumption to practice it.
"I ended [Saturday's practice] with that formation, and I didn't hear anything from the players," Sparano said. "I usually get an 'ooh' or an 'aah' when I do that."
Another example of Miami's confidence was going for it on fourth-and-1 from the San Diego 22. It worked, and Camarillo scored two plays later.
"Winning breeds confidence, and you have to build those winning habits," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "You have to taste victory. You have to understand what that feeling is like in your stomach when you put in a hard week of work and it call comes to fruition at 4 o'clock on Sunday. There's no greater feeling. There really isn't."
3. The Dolphins are a lot of fun to watch.
The Wildcat offense has brought excitement back for Dolfans. They shotgunned directly to Ronnie Brown 11 times Sunday, and he made things happen again. He ran for 125 yards and a touchdown.
But the passing game has been effective, too.
Pennington completed 22 of 29 passes for 228 yards and a 109.6 passer rating. His passer rating was 113.8 against the Patriots. A Miami quarterback hasn't broken 100 in consecutive games since Jay Fiedler did it in 2002.
Pennington completed 79.6 percent of his passes in those games.
In their victories, the Dolphins have amassed 851 yards, their highest two-game total in 13 years.
"We're finally clicking as an offense," Camarillo said. "The passing game is there. The running game is there. We have a lot of weapons, and we're finally starting to utilize them right."
Defensively, the Dolphins are all over quarterbacks. Joey Porter is playing like he did in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins limited the potent Chargers to 10 first downs and Tomlinson to 35 yards rushing.
"They disrupted us with their pass rush, their ability to rush the passer on the edge and their zone-blitz scheme," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "They got matchups."
4. The Dolphins didn't beat themselves nearly as much as they once did.
Whether it's Pennington's precision passing, protecting the ball or the elimination of silly penalties, the Dolphins haven't been giving opponents extra opportunities.
Bess' fumble was only the second Miami turnover this year.
"Today we had one penalty. We won the time-of-possession game. We converted on third downs," Sparano said. "We played smart, tough football. So I hope that they are starting to understand that message, that when we don't h
urt ourselves and give ourselves a chance to win, in this league, you've got a chance."
5. They're pretty good.
The Dolphins simply aren't the same team as they were a year ago, even though they sure seemed like they were in trouble after an ugly loss to the Arizona Cardinals left them at 0-2.
Victories over two preseason Super Bowl favorites in consecutive games have the Dolphins soaring.
"Hopefully, we're going to raise some brows," Holliday said. "Hopefully, somebody's going to say, 'We need to at least take a look at these guys to see what they're doing over there because they're starting to make some noise.' That feels good."