Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 10/31/11
DAVIE, Fla. So how many minutes does it take for the Miami Dolphins to fold? That sounds like the makings of a joke. But to the Dolphins, it's no laughing matter. After their latest spleen-rupturing defeat, 20-17 Sunday at the New York Giants, defensive tackle Cameron Wake uttered, "If this was a 50-minute league, we'd probably be a winning team." Defensive tackle Paul Soliai is only willing to give the 0-7 Dolphins props for being a 45-minute outfit. "We can't just go in there and play three quarters," he said. As for cornerback Nolan Carroll, he figures the Dolphins at least can keep their focus until late in the fourth quarter. "We play 55 minutes, 54 minutes, 56," he said. "It's just the last four or five minutes we're not finishing." So who's right in being able to pinpoint when the Dolphins make like origami and fold? Carroll looks to be the closest. The Dolphins three times this season have led after 54 minutes and lost. The latest was the Giants scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 5:58 remaining. The other two hurt even more. The week before, the Dolphins led 15-0 until Denver scored 15 points in the final 2:52 of regulation and won 18-15 in overtime. And in week three, Cleveland scored a touchdown with 43 seconds left to pull out a 17-16 victory. Put it all together, and the Dolphins might be the best 0-7 team in NFL history. That sounds worthy of some sort of parting gift. The Dolphins have had leads in six of their games. Miami actually has punted four fewer times this season than its opponents have, and the team has just seven fewer first downs. Time of possession is close to being even. Foes have controlled the ball an average of 30:11 per game to 29:49 for the Dolphins. So what's the problem? "As a team right now, we're just learning how to finish," said defensive end Randy Starks. "If we knew how to finish, it'd be a different season." The Dolphins need a closer. Perhaps San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson can take time out from filming Taco Bell commercials to offer some help. Reasons are trying to be found for why the Dolphins routinely fall apart. Speaking for the defense, Carroll dubs it "coverage aspects and some things communication wise (with) not everybody on the same page." Dolphins coach Tony Sparano calls it a case of the team having "to make plays in the fourth quarter that you were making" earlier in games. The Dolphins don't have a quarterback threatening to make an "NFL Top 10" show for clutch play. The guy in charge for the last four fourth quarters has been Matt Moore, whose passing rating is an anemic 44.2 this season in fourth quarters while being 65.3 overall. Miami also doesn't have a back who can run the clock out. Reggie Bush rushed 15 times for 103 yards against the Giants, but that included just three totes for three yards in the fourth quarter. For the season, Bush has rushed 65 times for 316 yards (4.9 average) in the first three quarters and 10 times for 19 yards (1.9 average) in the fourth, with seven of those carries going for a loss. "The circumstances in the fourth quarter don't call for you to hand the ball off at that point," Sparano said of Bush's late-game futility. Well, the Dolphins did lead throughout most of the fourth quarter in the aforementioned three games. But Sparano, all but certain to not be back next season, is looking to make like Captain Edward Smith of the Titanic. He seems determined to go down with the ship having the best attitude he can muster. "I tell them to stop reading the newspapers," Sparano, whose team has lost 10 straight regular-season games over two seasons, says about what he tells his team regarding their struggles. "But other than that, you people (reporters) are the only ones writing their funerals, OK. So at the end of the day, those guys in that locker room believe they're going to win games. They do." Linebacker Kevin Burnett believes it. "At some point, we're going to win a game and take the bull by the horns, or we're going to be on the same road we're on," said Burnett, who at least had by far his best game of the season Sunday with 10 tackles, including two for loss. "I'm going to bet on black. I'm going to bet that we're going to take this thing by the horns and do whatever it takes to pull ourselves out of it." Realizing the NFL is a 60-minute league would be a good start.
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