Dolphins make strides with all-around effort

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins turned in a dominant first half Saturday night, scoring on offense and special teams and generally causing havoc in the Kansas City Chiefs backfield.

The Dolphins had plenty to be satisfied about in their third preseason game, but then the Chiefs marched methodically down the field on the first possession of the second half. The Dolphins' heels were on the goal line.

"It's one of those defining moments in a game," said Dolphins linebacker Akin Ayodele, "that you can say 'This is the turning point. What can you do?'"

The Chiefs had a first down on the Dolphins' 5 and All-Pro running back Larry Johnson raring to plow it through.

Ayodele tackled him for no gain. On second down, Brodie Croyle tried a lob to Dwayne Bowe that sailed long. Then Johnson charged up the middle for two yards. On fourth down, Dolphins end Phillip Merling tackled Johnson for a loss.

"We responded," Ayodele said. "Our backs were to the wall and we responded to the challenge."

The Dolphins won 24-0. It was their first preseason shutout since 1980.

Sure, it was an exhibition and the Chiefs were the opponent, but for a team that 1-15 last season, the Dolphins were thrilled to put together one a complete effort.

Chad Pennington erased any doubt he would be the starting quarterback by completing 11 of 15 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown to tight end Anthony Fasano. Ted Ginn returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown.

The defense recorded five sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery to go along with their goal-line stand.

"It does kind of suck that it's preseason when the team displays the dominance that it did early on," Dolphins guard Justin Smiley said. "To get a win like this always feels good. You can take it for what it's worth, and what it's worth is we're headed in the right direction."

The Dolphins established a tone on the opening series. Pennington conducted a 15-play, 65-yard drive that twice got the ball to the Chiefs' 1-yard line. Although the Dolphins came away with only a field goal, they took 10:03 off the clock.

"As [head coach Tony Sparano] would say, we can't be drinking our own Kool-Aid," Smiley said. "There's no room for that.

"It is the preseason, but those guys are pros over there, too. They want to win just as bad. So that means a little something."