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There is a version of the "Why did the chicken cross the road" joke that finishes with the punch line: "To prove to the raccoons and armadillos that it can be done." This is a very appropriate riddle to illustrate the present moment for the 2002 Edition of Jets versus Dolphins. Why?
On Sunday, the Patriots went into the Meadowlands and kicked the crap out of the New York Jets on their own "home" turf. This is more than an example... it was a revelation. The question is: Were the Dolphins watching? We'll find out next Sunday.
Anyone who counts himself a Dolphin fan knows precisely what is meant when you speak of "The Curse" and each knows how extremely painful this scourge has become. Twice each season for the last four years, the Dolphins awaken just as the clock flips to six AM and *POOF,* they're back in Punxsutawney, ready to ride the dark green Deja Vu Shuttle. In these parts, dead Fish litter the shoulders of the highway and no Dolphin team has crossed that road safely in recent memory. Will this year bring more aquatic road kill, or will the Dolphins finally break the spell?
For the first two years or so, this annual sweep was viewed as just a streak - an incredibly long, and greasy skid mark - but one which would surely wash out with a little bleach and some hot water. Yet, when the Jets swept the Dolphins in '99 with a punter and a scrub at quarterback, suspicions were raised that perhaps this was more than just your ordinary kind of boxer short bacon-strips. After eight straight, it has long past become worse than some amusing anomaly - there is more going on here than just a run of rotten luck. The "Streak" officially became "The Curse" when the Dolphins lost their 5th straight game to these pukes in the legendary "Midnight Miracle" OT game on Monday night, two years back. Evidently, no lead would ever be enough, and Jets fans gleefully squealed that Pro-Player stadium was now their home field.
The Jets come to town next Sunday, looking for #9. They will arrive licking their collective wounds, having been badly embarrassed by the Patriots. It was an ugly home loss to a team their always-arrogant fans openly regarded as a fluke. Too bad their Jets were soundly beaten in every aspect of the game by the New England Asterisks. This humiliation came after the Jets barely survived a visit to Buffalo the week before, winning a game they had no right to win, courtesy of two complete whiffs by the Bills' special teams. Yet that may have been to Miami's advantage. The Jets could easily have arrived in South Florida as a winless team, despite their heralded perfect pre-season. Quite a rude awakening for their heartsick fans, most of whom had them pegged as a Super Bowl team in early August. It's probably for the best that they are not oh-and-two desperate as they generally don't need any special motivation to beat the Dolphins.
For their part, the Dolphins are probably feeling pretty good about their chances. Two opening wins against teams with non-existent defenses can do that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the Dolphin's weaknesses come in the form of a suspect run defense and a secondary which might be without the services of Patrick Surtain. Even with Surtain playing, the defense has given up real estate to both the Lions and the Colts like fleeing Iraqi soldiers. If Jamar Fletcher goes in for Surtain, there's no telling what sort of damage Coles and Chrebet may do down the field. To their credit, the defense has generally stiffened when they've been pushed up against their goal line - this 2002 edition of the Dolphin's defense looks eerily like the old "bend but don't break" squads of Dolphin yesteryear. While the offense has been productive thus far, they will not find the Jets nearly so compliant as Detroit or Indianapolis. Turner's offense will need to be running on all cylinders for any hope of lofty numbers. The Dolphins will absolutely need every degree of their legendary, early-season home field heat-and-humidity advantage to win this game. When the clocks in South Florida click to six this next Sunday morning, a lot of Dolphin fans will lay quietly in bed, wondering whether it's already almost nine.