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Tony Sparano's Miami Dolphins Getting Some Breathing Room

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins yells during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Dolpnins won 14-10. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Sam DeerhillContributor IDecember 14, 2009

In hindsight, with 6:30 left in yesterday's Jaguars-Dolphins game, Dolphin coach Tony Sparano and fans could breathe a little easier than they did two weeks ago.

After Chad Henne was intercepted, the Jaguars offense stalled after four plays. They were out of field goal range, but deep enough into Miami territory to cause a potential disastrous situation. A lot of the outcome depended on Jacksonville's punter Adam Podlesh's right leg, but more depended on how the Dolphins would respond to the challenge.

The Dolphins did not need a touchdown then; they needed to keep their opponent from scoring a touchdown.

They were in a similar situation in Week 12 up in Buffalo, when Bills' punter Brian Moorman pinned Miami down at their 2-yard line with 7:02 to go in the game. At that point, the game was tied at 14, but the Dolphins went three-and-out and sent Brandon Fields to punt from his own end zone.

The result: good field position for the Bills, which yielded the go-ahead field goal and the Dolphins crumbled. A tight game turned into a blow out.

In yesterday's game, Davone Bess took Podlesh's punt and called for a fair catch at his 14-yard line. But instead of going three-and-out and punting back to Jacksonville, which would have probably resulted in the Jaguars getting the ball near, or even beyond, the 50-yard line, Miami's offensive attack pushed the line of scrimmage down field.

Albeit they only ran five plays before Fields punted again, they brought the ball out 19 yards compared to the one yard they tallied in the same situation two weeks ago. By doing so, they not only managed to stay together in a close game, but kept the momentum on their side, as Jacksonville started their next drive with 3:30 on the clock and a long 69 yards away from the victory marker.

On the ensuing drive, Randy Starks made a phenomenal play on a critical 4th-and-3 at Miami's 46-yard line that nearly sealed the game. Had that drive started closer to mid-field, there's no telling what may have happened. But that's the point.

The Dolphins, 2-0 this December, are playing nitty-gritty football and taking care of business, something that has been an issue earlier in the season. And while they were fumbling the ball away like a pee-wee football team, they came up with the big plays when needed.

They won yesterday's game because they had more breathing room, and when things looked bleak, they were able to wriggle and squirm to push things just out of reach for Jacksonville. The team is maturing, and at the right time.

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