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Dolphins coaches smart, others not so much

NFL coaches are usually really bright people that spend a lot of time trying to keep their jobs by making other coaches look bad.

Dolphins defensive coaches have done a great job of doing that, particularly the last couple of weeks, because Miami's defense has made a significant and impressive turnaround in that 14-day span.

The Miami defense, you'll remember, yielded a season-high 48 points, along with a season-high 408 passing yards, along with a season-high 530 total yards against the New England Patriots three weeks ago.

The Patriots exposed that defense, particularly the secondary, by utilizing four- and five-receiver sets and letting QB Matt Cassel simply swing away, as Mel Gibson urged in Signs. That game was troubling to me because it seemed as if the Patriots had written a script for attacking Miami's defense successfully.

I feared the St. Louis Rams or Buffalo Bills -- two offenses badly in search of a spark -- might copy New England's approach to see if the Dolphins could stop it. But, interestingly, neither the Rams nor Bills tried the strategy.

Not surprisingly, the Dolphins went from allowing 408 passing yards to 149 passing yards against St. Louis and 79 passing yards against Buffalo. As a result, the Dolphins are on an eight-quarter streak of not allowing a touchdown.

Great for the Dolphins. And somewhat lucky.

The Dolphins, by the way, expected teams to copy New England's approach. That tells you their defensive coaches saw a problem and tried to address it, despite the fact the solution didn't turn out to be necessary in the contests following New England.

"I think we made some changes, no question about it," coach Tony Sparano said today. "But I would say the way opponents have attacked us of late has not been similar to the way the Patriots have done. But we have made some changes and teams have tried to throw the ball on us and we've done a little bit better job.

"We've done different things from a coverage standpoint, we've done some different things from a rush standpoint and I think that's helped us a little bit."

Following the New England game, the Dolphins started using linebacker Charlie Anderson in passing situations as a way of getting more pressure from the defensive front. The team also changed the roles of the nickel back (protecting him with more zone coverage) as well as changing personnel.

Jason Allen, who struggled so much against the Patriots as the third corner, yielded that spot to Joey Thomas against St. Louis and Nathan Jones against Buffalo. This despite the fact Sparano said Allen could play the position despite a fractured hand.

The Dolphins also shifted Will Allen from the slot position in nickel situations to the corner.

So the Dolphins think they've addressed the issues that came to light against the Pats. But they also are quite happy, thanks very much, that to date no one has tried to duplicate the same strategy against them.

Whether San Francisco, Kansas City or the New York Jets try in the coming weeks what New England used three weeks ago remains to be seen. I guess that will determine, in part, how bright they are.