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Wednesday, September 29, 2010
A yard to go? Chalk it up for Polite

By Tim Graham

When the Miami Dolphins find themselves 1 yard away from moving the chains on third or fourth down, the Sun Life Stadium crowd can tell the visiting defense exactly what's about to go down.

Polite
Polite
Dolfans will start chanting Lousaka Polite's name before he takes the handoff.

But they're not tipping off the opponents to information they didn't already know.

"I don't think the fans are telling Rex Ryan or [Bill] Belichick anything different," Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano said.

Polite has a reputation for being a sure thing in short-yardage situations. In Sunday night's loss to the New York Jets, he extended his streak of third- or fourth-and-1 conversions to 20.

ESPN.com researcher Vincent Masi harvested the databases and found nobody has come close to that kind of production since the start of the 2009 season, when Polite's streak began.

David Garrard is second with a dozen in a row. Brady Quinn has converted eight straight, but he's on the Denver Broncos' bench. Running back Lynell Hamilton has converted seven straight, but he won't get another chance until 2011. He's on injured reserve.

Sparano, a fastidious stat tracker, was pleasantly caught off guard Wednesday when a reporter said Polite's streak was at 19. Little did Sparano know Polite's efficiency was more impressive than that.

"That's a stat you should be chasing," Sparano said. "He prepares really well for that role. The other night in the game, everything on that play dictated [a handoff to Polite]. I mean, they were clearly geared up to try to stop that one handoff in the game with the way they built their defense, and Lou was smart enough to understand the weakness in the defense, and he gains, like, 4 yards on the play."

Sparano called Polite "a football rat" who's always thoroughly prepared for whatever the defense shows. Sparano suggested Polite's vigilance rubs off on his teammates in point-blank scenarios because he's so proven.

"When they know Lou is getting to ball in some of these situations the backside of the blocking scheme is starting to work a lot harder," Sparano said. "That's something that I've noticed. They think they're all alive. In other words, even though the play might be a four-hole or a five-hole play, he could bring the ball back to the other side in this situation [because they] don't want to be the reason why" the run failed.

But Sparano also pointed out the Dolphins passed on third-and-1 from the Jets' 11-yard line in the third quarter. Chad Henne found Brandon Marshall for what turned into a touchdown.

"If the pass was incomplete, you guys would be asking me why we didn't give it to Lou," Sparano said.