Dolphins have shot at 3-game win streak

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

During a recent practice, Miami Dolphins receiver Clyde Gates failed to come up with a pass in the end zone but tested his TD celebration anyway, punctuating the play with an acrobatic back flip.

''The only way you get points for that is if you're in Ringling Brothers,'' coach Tony Sparano shouted through a smile.

At the same workout, receiver Brandon Marshall swaggered about in his AFC Pro Bowl jersey, drawing playful taunts from teammates. One of them finally pulled the jersey up over Marshall's head.

Despite all their losing, the Dolphins have stayed loose. There's laughter in the locker room, and sniping and finger-pointing have been kept to a minimum, a significant achievement for a team that started the season 0-7.

''Everybody is fighting together, everybody is believing in each other and we're not going to give up,'' running back Reggie Bush said. ''It's almost like a band of brothers.''

By beating Washington 20-9 Sunday, the Dolphins (2-7) won their second game in a row and ended a streak of seven consecutive home losses. This week they're favored against fading Buffalo, with a shot at their first three-game winning streak since 2008.

There were times of tension during the losing skid, including a recent spat between Marshall and cornerback Vontae Davis regarding the latter's work ethic. But players remained united in their support of Sparano, and he said the team's positive attitude and cohesion made this month's turnaround possible.

''It could have gone the other way easily if you had a poor locker room,'' Sparano said Monday. ''We don't. We have good leadership and a good bunch of guys.''

The Dolphins are still the only AFC East team with a losing record. Only one NFL team has more defeats, and it remains likely Sparano will be fired after the season, if not sooner.

Still, they've averted an unmitigated disaster to rival the 2007 season, when Miami went 1-15.

''It starts from the top,'' Marshall said. ''It starts with coach Sparano motivating us and just getting us going. And with the guys in this locker room, it's not hard. We know what we've got to do. We do this for fun, but it's also a business. We have to do our job.''

Improvement's evident in a multitude of areas. Against Washington, the Dolphins made two interceptions to double their season total, and Bush scored two touchdowns to double his season total. A team ranked last in the NFL in third-down conversions went a season-best 8 for 14.

The Dolphins used the wildcat for the first time this year and also ran out of the T formation, lining up with three halfbacks. The two plays netted only 1 yard, but similar unpredictability paid off in the fourth quarter, when Matt Moore threw five times on a game-clinching TD drive.

Karlos Dansby, who made little impact early in the season, was a one-man highlight reel with 11 tackles, two for a loss, two passes defended, a quarterback hurry and a critical late interception. He then proclaimed himself the league's best linebacker.

''I like the confidence,'' Sparano said. ''I want all my players to be confident. Karlos is playing pretty good football right now.''

So are his teammates. The latest win left such a glow Bush even mentioned the word ''playoffs.''

''We've been worrying about one game at a time and not worrying about where we're going to be at the end of the season, the division, if we can make the playoffs or not,'' Bush said.

They won't make the playoffs. They probably won't win the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes either, which might miff some Dolphins fans.

But they can have fun, which is easier to do when you're winning. Defensive end Jared Odrick provided one example Sunday when he celebrated a sack by doing his Pee-wee Herman impersonation, which was widely panned.

Said Sparano: ''I told Odrick on the sideline I thought it was an ugly dance.''

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