Dolphins still can't find a way to win
Well, maybe we'll get some good draft picks !
The cleats were still stuck to his feet. The pads were still pasted to his body.
Nearly 25 minutes had passed after the Dolphins' 17-7 loss to the Eagles on Sunday, and everyone except rookie quarterback John Beck had cut themselves away from their dirty, grimy uniforms.
''We're getting closer,'' said Beck, finishing a quick chat in the locker room with running back Jesse Chatman as they discussed the fourth-down failure late in the fourth quarter that sealed Miami's 10th loss of the season. ``I know it. We're getting there.''
Beck, still in full uniform long after he needed to be, seemed to resemble everything this Dolphins team stands for. They might look worn down and dirty. They might look generally young and inexperienced.
But even as hope had failed them again Sunday, they were still searching, still chasing and still craving a result that escaped them again at the game's end.
''It's hard to acknowledge it when you're not winning, but there are definitely guys growing,'' said coach Cam Cameron, who played as many as four rookies at one time on offense Sunday. ``But we all understand why we're here and what this is all about.''
Of course, during the latest loss -- this one at a cold, blustery Lincoln Field -- there were clearly still plenty of reasons to doubt the Dolphins' chances of winning a game this year. The offense still sputtered. The defense still buckled.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Yes, Beck's numbers were less than stellar in his debut as the team's starter, as he completed just 9 of 22 passes for 109 yards. Yes, the offense failed to produce a touchdown. And yes, the defense allowed former Dolphins quarterback A.J. Feeley to orchestrate a 77-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter as he replaced an injured Donovan McNabb.
Those are reasons Miami remains the only winless team in football. Instead, the signs of hope during the latest loss (however bleak they might still seem) were buried somewhere deeper:
They could be found on offense, when Beck and fellow rookie Ted Ginn Jr. connected on consecutive passes -- one for 22 yards and the other for 17. (''I help him when he needs help, and he's going to help me when I need help,'' Ginn said.)
They could be found on defense, when previously disappointing safety Jason Allen intercepted two passes thrown by McNabb. (''I'm growing,'' Allen said. ``But I still have a lot of growing to do.'')
Finally, they could be found on special teams, when Ginn brilliantly returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown, tying the team record for longest punt return. (''I caught the ball, got up field, poked through a good block, and I was off to the races,'' Ginn said.)
That being said, it's not as if this loss will feel any better than the others.
The frustrations will continue to mount as long as the team misses scoring opportunities that could put it in a spot to win.
Those chances started with a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter that fell short after the wind and rain pushed it short. And they ended when the Dolphins failed four times in a row to get into the end zone on a series that began on the 1-yard line.
''We need to score,'' left tackle Vernon Carey said. ``That's what we're going to do this week, learn how to score. We've been working on that the last three games so, I mean, we have to find a way to score.''
A DISMAL SEQUENCE
On fourth down, Cameron decided to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal because of wind direction. But when Eagles defensive end Juqua Thomas thwarted an attempted sweep to the right by Chatman -- resulting in a 13-yard loss -- the Dolphins were left with nothing.
As a result, it was another loss, one that stung just a little bit more as Feeley -- who was traded from the Dolphins two years ago after a dreadful stay in Miami -- completed 13 of 19 passes after McNabb sprained his ankle in the second quarter while being tackled by Michael Lehan.
But this wasn't about Feeley's revenge as much as it was about Beck's beginning and Ginn's continued emergence, and even Allen's improvement. Regardless, this will still go down as just another loss, another step closer toward a terrible type of history.
But as the losses continue to mount, these Dolphins will continue their search for something to build on.
''If those guys can continue to grow, we're going to be all right eventually,'' wide receiver Marty Booker said. ``We're still not getting the results we want, but we're seeing some progress from younger guys.
``At this point, you can't ask them for much more than that.''