What might have been, and what's next for Dolphins

It may have only been the third week of the season, but the Dolphins really blew a golden opportunity to make a statement within the division. Many fans will talk about how there were a number of positives to take from this game - and I will agree. But there are no moral victories in this league - not when you're a playoff-caliber team.

That's what the Dolphins are, folks. They are a team that is certainly good enough to reach the postseason. And we've seen time and time again that all a team needs to do is find its way into the playoffs. From there, anything can happen.

So forgive me for saying, but I'm not buying this "glass half full" nonsense that some fans are selling. Losses like the one we witnessed on Sunday night can make the difference between playing football in January and discussing the draft right around New Year's Day.

I don't know about you, but I got the taste of playoff football back in 2008 for the first time in a while - and now I'm starving for a meal. This team has as much talent as they have had in many years. And now the bar is raised and expectations are set. This team needs to seize opportunities like the one that was presented two nights ago.

New week, different questions

There were two huge stories over the past two weeks in Miami. One revolved around this suddenly stout Dolphin defense - a unit that was getting to the quarterback consistently, forcing turnovers, making key stops, and holding opponents to ten points per game.

The other revolved around an offense that looked stagnant and really seemed totally out of sync.

In what seems like an instant, the roles have reversed. Suddenly it's the defense that has everyone worried - as it should. If a Mark Sanchez led offense can gain over 400 yards and score over 30 points on this Miami defense, what could Tom Brady possibly do next week on Monday Night Football?

We have to suddenly wonder about why Cameron Wake couldn't beat Damien Woody off the edge. We have to worry about this defense's ability to defend opposing tight ends - an issue that has plagued this team for years and one which will be exasperated over the next several weeks as Aaron Hernandez, Jermichael Finley, Heath Miller, and Jermaine Gresham await their turn to attack this defense over the next five weeks. And we have to wonder if Jason Allen is reverting back to his "poor coverage" ways of years past.

On the flip side, of course, is this Miami offense.

Maybe now everyone can finally ease up a bit on Chad Henne. Just like I said after the Dolphins' week one win, Henne is going to be just fine. He has not forgotten how to play the position after all. He threw for a career high 363 yards against a secondary that held Tom Brady to just 69 yards passing in the second half of their week two matchup (yes, also without Darrelle Revis - who had left the game with his hamstring injury), forcing two interceptions as well.

So those "Henne Haters" out there will have to crawl back under the rock they live under until he makes his next big miscue.

Those worried about Brandon Marshall - or even Brian Hartline - can also go find some place to relax for at least this week. Both players had outstanding games against that Jet secondary.

Of course, it would be nice to actually get a great all-around performance from both sides of the ball for once. When was the last time the offense and defense both played well in the same game?

Where the Dolphins go from here

I mentioned last week that these final two games before Miami's ridiculously early week five bye would likely define the Dolphins' entire season. Well I still stand by that proclamation - perhaps now more than before.

The Dolphins walked into Sun Life Stadium on Sunday night with an obvious chip on their shoulder. But it was that Jets' offense that came out ready to play. I'm not sure if the Dolphins realized that the game had started yet. By the time they noticed, the Jets had a 7-0 lead.

If the Dolphins have a similar slow start on Monday night, things could get ugly. You can't continue to ask Chad Henne - he of just 16 career starts - to continually bring this team back from a deficit. He's just not ready for that kind of responsibility...yet.

Here's what at stake on Monday. Remember that warm, fuzzy feeling we all had about our Dolphins after their 2-0 start? Remember how great it felt to win those first two road games? Well back-to-back home losses to division rivals would be a great way to completely forget about those positive feelings. Instead, that would be how you instantly waste a great start and would make us all start contemplating what might have been.

Worse yet, those feelings would then be the ones we'd have to carry with us through the bye week that follows Monday night's game - before heading up to Lambeau Field in week six to take on the Packers.

Ugh.

The Dolphins really put themselves in as close to a "backs against the wall" situation as you can be in this early in the season. Two home losses to your two division rivals can be devastating - especially when you consider the Dolphins have to go to New Jersey and to New England in the cold of December and January for their second meetings.

Miami's next four games don't get any easier. After the bye, the Dolphins go to Green Bay, host Pittsburgh, travel to Cincinnati, and then head to Baltimore.

If ever there was a must-win situation in week four, this is it.

And the Dolphins only have themselves - well, their defense - to blame.

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