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Back in Week 7 the Baltimore Ravens physically dominated the Dolphins for a 27-13 victory.

The Ravens nullified the Dolphins' celebrated Wildcat formation, allowing just 71 yards rushing, and returned a Chad Pennington interception for a touchdown. Baltimore also pounded the Dolphins for 139 rushing yards, led by Willis McGahee's 105, and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco blossomed.

It was the start of the Ravens' turnaround after a 2-3 start, while the Dolphins dropped to 2-4 and wondered if this season would be much better than their 1-15 debacle in 2007.

"You are still searching: Who are we?" Dolphins cornerback Andr? Goodman said Monday. "We didn't know who we were. But now I think we have a pretty good idea."

Officially, the Dolphins outfit that won the AFC East with a 24-17 victory at the Jets is largely the same one that started 2-4. It's essentially the same Dolphins squad that will host Baltimore (11-5) in a wild-card playoff game Sunday.

Symbolically, though, the Dolphins say they are a different team than the one the Ravens pushed around. That's reflected by their 9-1 mark since then, including five consecutive victories, but also by their confidence about the rematch with Baltimore.

Baltimore punished the Dolphins in October, but now the Dolphins believe they can fight back.

"They play with a lot of passion, but we do, too," offensive tackle Vernon Carey said. "They play fast, we play fast. They are physical, but we are, too."

The Dolphins can realistically say that now, a testament to how far they've come.

The loss to Baltimore sapped momentum from a 2-2 start that included victories over New England and San Diego. The season threatened to mirror the misery of 2007, but instead the Dolphins recovered to win four straight and nine of 10.

Pennington, whom teammates say provided a mental lift the first day he arrived in training camp, rallied the Dolphins with efficient play. The defense shored up problems in the secondary and feasted on turnovers. Coach Tony Sparano kept the team focused once the playoffs were in sight.

Compare that to last season, when Goodman said players started counting down to the end of the season after Week 8. He said the main concern was avoiding 0-16, which the Dolphins did by beating a Baltimore in the next-to-last game.

"It was a relief," Goodman said. "The season was almost over."

The Dolphins' outlook has improved so much now that Sparano tempered his praise for the team's remarkable turnaround with warnings about being satisfied already.

"I have to be careful here," Sparano said Monday. "We've got another game to play. I don't want to give out too many pats on the back."

Martin dazed

After the game Sunday, tight end David Martin said he believes he suffered a concussion. Sparano said Martin is day-to-day: "He's got a headache right now."

Michael Cunningham can be reached at mcunningham@ SunSentinel.com INFORMATIONAL BOX:


Ravens at Dolphins, 1 p.m., Chs. 4 and 12 More

Game quickly declared a sellout. >> 1A

Mangini heads trio of NFL firings. >> 6C

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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