Miami looks to turn season around in Chicago
Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
DAVIE - As an early birthday gift to coach Nick Saban, the Miami Dolphins dumped a bucket of ice water on him at the end of practice Monday.
The soaking could serve as a dry run for a sideline celebration Sunday if the Dolphins win at Chicago.
The game matches teams headed in opposite directions, which is why the Bears are two-touchdown favorites. They're 7-0 and coming off a 41-10 win over San Francisco, while the Dolphins are 1-6 and lost four games in a row before last week's bye.
"Nobody gives us a chance to win this game," Saban said. "This is a test. We should look at it as a challenge, and it's everybody's choice as to how we respond to that."
During the bye week, Saban stressed the need for a positive attitude. And despite his team's disappointing start, the mood remains upbeat at camp, as Monday's ice-water episode would suggest.
Saban turned 55 Tuesday, when his players were off.
"I said, 'My birthday's not until tomorrow.' They said, 'We ain't going to see you tomorrow,' " Saban said with a smile. "They had been stirring that water out there to get it cold the whole practice, I think. It was freezing."
It'll be chilly in Chicago, at least by Dolphins standards, but that's hardly their biggest worry. Only once since the 1960s - in 2004 - have they reached November with a single victory.
The Bears, meanwhile, lead the NFC North. They also lead the NFL in 11 categories, including points and fewest points allowed. They've outscored opponents by an average score of 32-10.
"They're doing a good job," Miami center Rex Hadnot said. "But we're looking at it as an opportunity to get back on track and get our season going."
Any turnaround will likely be too late to make the playoffs, leaving the Dolphins out of the postseason for the fifth year in a row.
After losing several games in which they were favored, they relish the idea of pulling off an upset.
"This will be the perfect time for us to have one - on the road, hostile environment, it's going to be cold, there's going to be wind, the Bears are riding high," defensive end David Bowens said. "To go in there and beat them ... we change a lot of doubters and a lot of minds."
Saban ranks as his biggest upset another November game in the Midwest eight years ago. His Michigan State Spartans were four-touchdown underdogs but surprised top-ranked, unbeaten Ohio State, 28-24.
"We played good," Saban said. "They played tight."
Saban's Dolphins pulled off a big upset last December, when they were 13-point underdogs and won at San Diego, 23-21.
But that Miami team had won the previous two weeks. The current squad is tied for the fewest victories in the league despite playing only one opponent with a winning record.
Contributing to the Dolphins' downfall have been penalties, dropped balls, wrong routes, blown blocks, bad passes, poor coverage, lack of takeaways, miscommunication, imbalance on offense and soft third-down defense.
No wonder they're the NFL's biggest underdogs this week.
"We're not worried about who's picking us to win," Hadnot said. "We've just got to come out on Sunday and do what we do."
"We just have to play our game," Bowens agreed.
If that happens, the Dolphins may be in for a long afternoon.
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