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Another December Swoon? Not Quite!
With last week’s loss to the Vikings, the talk of yet another “December Swoon” from the Dolphins has elevated. While I’m as angry and disappointed in the loss as anyone else, I don’t buy that excuse. With the Dolphins recent December history, it’s logical to point in that direction, but it’s too simple, an easy way out. No I don’t think losing to the Vikings was part of another “December Swoon,” though I reserve the right to change my mind if they lose to the Patriots on Sunday, but instead a disturbing pattern that has been a part of this Dolphin team all season long. Let’s recap shall we.
September 23rd: Jets vs. Dolphins
September 30th Dolphins vs. Chiefs
October 6th Patriots vs. Dolphins
You certainly remember that Jets game, the game where the Dolphins finally ended that dreadful losing streak to our most hated rivals. Coming into the season most agreed that if the Dolphins were going anywhere, they HAD to beat the Jets and that game in Miami in September was their best chance to finally beat them and get them out of the Dolphins heads. Well the Dolphins did just that and in dominating fashion. It was a huge win, perhaps the biggest in years for the Dolphins. With the defending champion and undefeated Patriots coming to town in two weeks the Dolphins looked to have an opportunity to be 5-0 with wins against their two biggest division opponents. Problem was the Dolphins had to travel to Kansas City first and play an inferior Chief team. Sure the Chiefs are a quality opponent capable of beating anyone in the league with that offense, but the Dolphins were suppose to have good matchups against that offense and the Fins offense should have run over the leagues worst defense. In the end it was a Dolphins loss. While they did rebound to beat the Patriots, they loss a classic sandwich game against a team they should have beaten.
October 13th Dolphins vs. Broncos
October 20th Bills vs. Dolphins
November 4th Dolphins vs. Packers
A similar setup, two big games against Super Bowl contending opponents with a game vs. an inferior team in between. Looking at this part of the schedule, most predicted losses against the Broncos and Packers and a win against the Bills. Instead, the Dolphins went into Denver and defeated the Broncos in what was probably the game of the year. That victory propelled the Dolphins to the top of the NFL and they instantly became the AFC favorites, many predicting a Denver rematch in the AFC Championship Game. All that despite injuries to Jay Fiedler and Oronde Gadsden. FINALLY, the Dolphins got a win on the road against a big time opponent. Again this was considered the biggest win by the Dolphins in a long time. The Dolphins were expected to get an easy win at home against the Bills before heading to Green Bay following a bye. Instead they fell flat on their faces against the Bills again losing to a lesser team after a big win and looking ahead to another quality opponent.
December 15th: Raiders vs. Dolphins
December 21st: Dolphins vs. Vikings
December 29th Dolphins vs. Patriots
Look familiar? Well it should. The Dolphins have two games against quality opponents with a game against a lesser team sandwiched in between. And again the Dolphins take the first game against the Raiders in convincing fashion and are again the talk of the AFC. The Raiders were on a roll and their offense was unstoppable. Many considered them the best team in the NFL and the Dolphins beat them, in December no less. The Dolphins hadn’t had a win of that caliber in December in a very long time. A bye week was within reach, they might actually do it because this is a different Dolphin team, no sign of that “December Swoon.” Then the Dolphins go off to Minnesota and lay another egg in losing 20-17. Another big win against a very good team followed by a big loss to a team the Dolphins should have beaten. “December Swoon?” I don’t think so; it is the same thing the 2002 Dolphins have done all season.
So as you can see, the loss to Minnesota has nothing to do with the Dolphins recent history of losing in December, instead it has to do with the Dolphins being unable to beat the teams they are suppose to be following big wins. That alone is odd considering the Dolphins have done well beating the teams they were suppose to under Dave Wannstedt. This year the Dolphins are 6-3 against teams with winning records and only 3-3 against teams with losing records, a complete turnaround. It just figures, we finally get a team that can beat the top contenders but now they can’t beat the bad teams.
Why is this? Do the players believe their own press too much following these big wins? Are they looking at the next big game too much and letting their guard down? Or is it they just can’t put together a long streak of solid play? I don’t have the answers to these questions and I’m not sure anyone truly does. The bright side to all this, if Miami can beat the Patriots this weekend there will be no more “inferior” teams. Instead it’ll be playoff time where everyone is a contender. Unfortunately to get to the Super Bowl they will have to win games on the road, unless the football gods bless us with a couple upsets. But first things first, the Dolphins must win in New England, which would mean very little if they would have taken care of business when they had the opportunities to do so.
Are the Dolphins in the middle of another “December Swoon?” My answer is no, instead they have followed another disturbing pattern that also reared its ugly head in September and October. It just came back in December.