Most Dolphins fans knew it the moment linebacker Philip Wheeler wrapped up Colts quarterback Andrew Luck with a fourth-down sack to preserve a 24-20 Miami victory on Sunday.
This Miami Dolphins squad isn't like the teams seen in previous years. This team can close games. And it can blow them wide open, too, thanks to second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the boatload of offensive weapons general manager Jeff Ireland acquired during the most recent offseason.
Well, it looks like the football media is beginning to notice that the 2013 Miami Dolphins mean business. NFL.com writer Judy Battista yesterday morning published an article in which she ponders the question that is on the mind of every aqua-and-orange-clad fan right now: can this team knock out the Patriots and reclaim the AFC East crown?
"Given the circumstances--the defense was able to hold off one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck in his home stadium, while the multi-dimensional offense posted 100 yards rushing as part of an effort that included Ryan Tannehill outdueling Luck--it also offered a tantalizing possibility: The Dolphins might finally be the team complete enough to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC East," Battista wrote.
Most Dolphins fans and even some pundits spent this offseason prognosticating the rise of Miami and fall of New England in the AFC East division. Battista believes the Dolphins chances of ascending upon the East throne could be attributed to something other than Tannehill, Ireland's offseason spending frenzy or the team's rock-solid defense.
"That there is an opening for the Dolphins to close the gap with the Patriots is mostly because of the Patriots themselves," Battista wrote. "Tom Brady made his weekly radio show appearance Monday morning, taking the opportunity to lament the lack of execution that has bedeviled his offense so far. Brady, who had one of the worst statistical performances of his career in last week's ugly win over the New York Jets, took care not to single out his receivers, who so frustrated him on "Thursday Night Football" that Brady talked later about having to better control his emotions.
"Nobody, least of all Brady, is used to seeing the Patriots struggle to beat teams with rookie quarterbacks, as the Patriots have done in each of their first two games. But with injuries to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski depleting the already-inexperienced receiving corps, the Patriots' shortcomings are as plain to see as Brady's rising blood pressure. For their undefeated record so far, they probably most have their schedule to thank. This Sunday, they get the drama-filled, 0-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still, there is the creeping suspicion that the Pats might've ever so slightly declined from their usual perch, and that the Dolphins are gaining on them."
My, oh my, Rome could indeed be burning for a Patriots team that just hasn't seen much competition in their division the past decade (save for New England's Brady-less 2008 season, which resulted in a divisional crown for the Dolphins and their then-gimmick-laden offense.
Of course, if you want to be the champs, you have to beat the champs, and it's likely the Pats will be at full strength when the Dolphins visit Gillette Stadium on Oct. 27. Still, if these Dolphins can build upon the success they've seen through the first two weeks of the season, a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola might not be enough to jar the AFC East crown from Miami's grasp.
"During their long, fallow period of ineptitude, the Dolphins were so identity-less that one year, they mounted a marketing campaign constructed not around star players--there were none--but the visages of front office executives, including Miami's former football chieftain, Bill Parcells," Battista wrote. "Parcells is gone now, and so is the Dolphins' facelessness. The object in the Patriots' rearview mirror might be closer than it appears."
You can check out the full NFL.com article here.
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