Win over Denver two weeks ago gave Dolphins their swagger back

The Dolphins flexed on Denver, then did it to New England. (AP)

DAVIE—It seemed like nothing at the time, just a meaningless slap fight between two teams going nowhere. But for the Dolphins, it might have been the turning point of their season.

When they blasted Denver 35-9 two weeks ago, it was the first time all season Miami had seen its plans materialize on the field in a game. It broke the team out of its five-game losing streak, and gave the players a newfound belief that they were capable of implementing exactly what they worked on during the week.

That boost changed everything as they prepared for the Monday Night Football game against New England.

“When we went through practice last week, there was a different way about how we were at practice,” coach Adam Gase said. “There was no change in effort or execution or anything like that, but it seemed like guys were walking around different, like they felt good about what we had going on and how they were going to perform.”

The Dolphins carried that poise into the Patriots game and immediately showed they were up for the immense challenge.

Miami’s first quarter was brilliant, which was a talking point throughout the leadup to the game given that New England had double-digit leads early in each of the previous three meetings. The Dolphins came away with field goals on its first two possessions, and their defense completely shut down Tom Brady.

The Patriots ended the first quarter with two yards of total offense, and Brady was 0 for 4 with an interception.

Everything clicked for Miami, just as it had the previous week against the Broncos. Jay Cutler made headway in the medium- and long-range passing game, Kenyan Drake was excellent, the defensive line hurried Brady into his worst performance of the year and Xavien Howard got his hands on two picks.

The defense had two sacks, six quarterback hits and seven pass breakups. The offense averaged 5.2 yards per play and was turnover-free for the first time since the opener.

It felt a lot like the way the Dolphins played against Denver, only they were able to maintain it against a far better opponent.

“Anytime you get in a situation where you’ve lost five games in a row, no matter how you win that game, it’s nice to win a game,” Gase said of the breakthrough against the Broncos. “And then confidence can really build throughout a week the next week. I think that’s really what happened for us.”

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