DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -When the Miami Dolphins punted 9 yards, kicked off out of bounds, missed a tackle on a touchdown, abandoned the running game but declined to throw downfield and burned three timeouts because of the play clock, they looked a lot like the team that went 1-15 last year.
Tony Sparano says they're not.
``We'll get better,'' Sparano pledged Monday, less than 24 hours after his inauspicious debut as an NFL head coach.
Sparano is part of the Bill Parcells regime that represented a clean slate for the Dolphins, but it was more of the same in their season opener Sunday, a 20-14 loss to the New York Jets.
The defeat was largely self-inflicted and decided by a handful of botched plays, as was often the case in 2007, when Miami lost six times by three points.
``It's a process,'' Sparano said. ``I don't think anybody ever thought this was something that was going to be done overnight. But certainly it's something that's going to be done. We're going to get it to where we want it to be.
ust one game in a season of 16 games. It wasn't the Super Bowl or any of those things, but it was a game we wanted to win.''
Sparano said the Dolphins lost because of ``minus plays'' - bad kicks and runbacks, penalties, stuffed runs and sacks. He tabulated the disparity with the Jets in those areas at more than 100 yards.
``That's my responsibility, and I'll fix it,'' Sparano said.
He also needs to fix the Dolphins' habit of slow starts. They were 0-6 in 2004, 3-7 in 2005, 1-6 in 2006 and 0-13 last year.
To avoid 0-2 in 2008, they must bounce back Sunday at Arizona from their opening defeat.
``It'll be interesting to see how we respond,'' running back Ricky Williams said. ``A young team and young in the season like this, it's where character is built. We'll have a good opportunity to show what we're made of.''
The Dolphins appeared to emerge from Game 1 mostly healthy. Rookie starting guard Donald Thomas wore a boot on his left foot but said it was only a precaution after he twisted his ankle, and he expects to practice Wednesday.
As often happened last year, the Dolphins sought solace in coming close. After falling behind 20-7, they outgained the Jets 143 yards to 13 in the final 12 minutes, but a frantic rally came up short when Chad Pennington's pass was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left.
Yeremiah Bell said. ``If we don't make half the mistakes we made, I think we win the game easy.''
Honoring recent tradition on a team that has missed the playoffs the past six years, a lot of the mistakes were by newcomers.
New defensive end Randy Starks draped himself around Brett Favre, who still managed to shake free to throw a fourth-down touchdown pass. The play clock ran down three times on Pennington, who was forced to use timeouts that would have come in handy in the final seconds. Tackle Jake Long, the top overall pick in the April draft, drew two penalties in his NFL debut and was part of a revamped line that gave up four sacks and struggled to open holes in the ground game.
``We need to be better there,'' Sparano said. ``We didn't run it as well as we'd like to run it. Everybody shared in the problem from a protection standpoint.''
The defeat invited second-guessing of the rookie head coach and his staff. The pass-run imbalance was a head-scratcher because with Williams and Ronnie Brown, running back was touted as Miami's deepest position.
They combined for only 16 carries, none in the fourth quarter, in contrast with 47 pass plays.
``We felt like we needed to throw the ball and open the offense up a little bit to get some things going,'' Sparano said.
``I felt Patrick was a guy who could maybe take some of the wear and tear off Ricky and Ronnie as far as being able to protect in third-down situations,'' Sparano said. ``And he's a pretty crafty guy out of the backfield.''
Sparano also drew questions about not activating receiver Ernest Wilford, a $6 million offseason acquisition. His spot was taken by special teams player Brandon London, and Miami's receivers totaled only six receptions, with a long gain of 17 yards.
Sparano tried to smile when asked about the roster decision.
``I'm with you there,'' Sparano said. ``We can play Monday morning quarterback right now. That's great.''
That's another Dolphins tradition in recent years.

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