With the New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Monday Night Football game just two days away, Head Coach Tony Sparano conducted a Q&A session with the media on Saturday. He has some fun with the reporters, like when he was asked if there was a set protocol for Clyde Gates to bring the ball out of the endzone on a kickoff.
Laughing, Sparano replied, "I'm not going to tell you that. That's about as good as 'Give me the first five plays of the game,' question."
But, the media wasn't done with the unanswerable questions. The next one posed to the Coach was if he plans on putting safety Yeremiah Bell closer to the line of scrimmage. "That's like [the last] question," Sparano answered, again laughing. "You guys really are out of questions."
The questions did get better, and the Coach spoke about the team's readiness heading into Monday's game.
When he was asked about the last week of practices, Sparano explained:
"It was very good. You know, the level of intensity, it's good. They're probably...tired of seeing each other right now, and need to start to see somebody else. You know, that routine will start to happen here. We kind of knew, going into this Monday night game coming off of training camp and a Thursday game, it would just get a little bit long, and we urged them on not letting the week get too long. We tried to create a few diversions that way one way or the other, with our schedule changes and those type of things, but the facts are the facts; we still haven't gotten to Sunday yet never mind Monday."
Sparano continued, looking back over the entire preseason:
"I thought the preseason was very good compared to what I thought it might have been. In other words, I wasn't sure in the amount of work. You know, the one practice, walk thru formula, all that. How much you could get done with the walk thru. But we were able to get a lot of work done. Maybe some - maybe a little bit more work that normally wouldn't be able to cover because it was a walk through, and got a lot more plays run that way because it was a walk through. You're not un-piling them [after a tackle] and any of that stuff, and they're not really down the field, so you can get more plays run. That part of it, from a mental standpoint, was good but from a physical standpoint, probably not as good."
Turning his attention to Monday night's game, Sparano was asked, with the additional day of preparation before Monday's game, did he utilize it to add more to the installed playbook:
"No. We just kind of worked harder on what we have. I mean we were able to identify this is what we feel like is going to be good in this game. Now what we have been able to do is say this isn’t good. We’ve gotten some good looks at things that weren’t good and if it’s not good we’re not going to bring it to the party."
Coach Sparano was also asked about turnovers during the Patriots game:
"Well they were plus 28 in turnovers last year, and they won a ton of games, so the importance is that when you turn it over against this team, at least in the past - and every year is a new year - but when you turn it over against them in the past, they would turn it back over into about 63 percent scoring, which is one of the best in the league. They had 31 possessions and turned them into 19 scores. I believe 16 of them were touchdowns, or 13 of them were touchdowns. So that's not good news. From our end we got to control the football, be smart with the football, but not be scared with the football."
That last comment is huge. Miami had an issue with being scared with the ball last year. The team seemed so concerned about giving away the ball, that they ended up giving away the ball. The team tried to be perfect, and it resulted in them making mistakes. Now, at least from that comment, it appears Sparano, and hopefully the team, understand that they can't press if they want to be good.
Against the Patriots on Monday night, the Dolphins can't afford any mistakes, whether they be turnovers, penalties, or poor execution. If the Dolphins are going to take the next step forward, being scared is the last thing they need - they need to stand up, go toe-to-toe with the perennial AFC East Champions, and show everyone that Miami is not the laughing stock the media seems to think they are.