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Monday, January 5, 2009
Loss cuts deeper after magical Dolphins season


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

MIAMI -- Last year, Akin Ayodele was a starting linebacker for a team with an NFL-record 13 Pro Bowlers. They lost only three regular-season games. They had a first-round playoff bye and were expected to play in the Super Bowl.

Those 2007 Dallas Cowboys, however, didn't win a playoff game. They were upset on their home field, an outcome that made Terrell Owens cry for his quarterback.

Ayodele said Sunday's loss hurt more with the Miami Dolphins.

"It's hard to swallow," Ayodele said moments after the favored Baltimore Ravens dominated at Dolphin Stadium. "This one hurts more than any of them.

"I really believe what we had here was special. The time and how hard guys worked, it was like a poker game; we were all in. When you look across the board, you can't tell me anybody had a doubt in their mind."

The Dolphins began the year a pitiable franchise but finished as AFC East champs. There was something more rewarding about that than winning when everybody expected it.

As someone who was in both locker rooms, emotions were much higher among the Dolphins on Sunday than they were among the Cowboys a year ago.

I don't recall seeing anybody other than Owens cry in Irving, Texas. There were tears Sunday at Dolphin Stadium.

"Last year, because it was the Cowboys, everybody expected us to make the playoffs," Ayodele said. "Then when we went 13-3 it was 'OK. This is a team that's going to win it all.' The expectations were there from the jump.

"But even more so this year, having so many doubters -- from the media, from people outside who really didn't know what this team consisted of -- gave us so much momentum, so much will to want to prove everybody else wrong.

"It made us an even tighter team. It made us appreciate each other even more. It really felt like a team of destiny that could prove the world wrong."