Those who come from poverty often look back at their upbringing with a simple clarity: They never knew what they didn't have.
The Miami Dolphins employed a similar philosophy entering the 2012 season after constantly hearing they were devoid of talent and playmakers, and that rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and rookie head coach Joe Philbin would be overmatched.
"We never came up with any theories of what couldn't be done," defensive end Cameron Wake said this week. "We looked in our toolbox, saw what tools we have and said, 'No excuses. Why not us?' "
They've become that team with which you don't want to wrangle. After getting washed in the season-opener by the still-unbeaten Houston Texans, Miami smashed the Oakland Raiders and lost a pair of nail-biters in overtime to the Jets and Arizona Cardinals before doing away with the Cincinnati Bengals on the road last Sunday.
The Dolphins have a chance to get to .500 this weekend in a home matchup against the other NFL team with which you don't want to wrangle, the St. Louis Rams. A loss could temper the optimism surrounding Miami, but whatever happens, the Dolphins have instilled a sense of hope in a franchise that seemed like a rudderless laughingstock just weeks ago.
"We had been in a couple games the past few weeks that didn't fall the way we wanted them to," Wake said. "We had people telling us, 'Yeah, you guys are doing well. You have a rookie QB. A new defense.' We didn't want that. Those are only excuses people threw out for us to accept.
"We're not built that way. We're not built for excuses. We know if we play hard and stay in games -- and learn to close them out -- we can win now."
Sound crazy? It shouldn't. In Tannehill, the Dolphins have the second-best quarterback in the AFC East behind New England Patriots star Tom Brady. In fact, Miami matches up rather well with the division's perennial top dog in some notable spots. Tailback Reggie Bush (86 carries for 417 yards and three touchdowns) is neck-and-neck with the Patriots' Stevan Ridley (102 carries for 490 yards and four scores). Wide receiver Brian Hartline trails New England's Wes Welker in receptions, but he's averaging five more yards per catch.
The Dolphins also boast a run defense that's nearly impenetrable, yielding an NFL-low 61.4 rushing yards per game. (Though the pass defense is lagging, averaging 281.8 yards per contest, ranking 27th.)
These are not the numbers of scrubs. This is a team playing with an edge.
"We believe it's going to happen, and the last couple of weeks, we've shown that we're close," said Wake, who's tied for sixth in the NFL with 5.5 sacks. "Against the Bengals, we challenged everyone individually to go out and understand that, 'This is going to be my time.' Guys went out and made plays to get off the field and get our offense on the field."
Tannehill didn't throw a touchdown pass at Cincinnati, but he played well. Now, his grace period is over. Everyone else has discarded the excuses, and Tannehill had better bring it.
"We've watched him grow, get more comfortable with players," Wake said. "He's making big plays and throws out of and in the pocket. We told him that you don't have time to be a rookie. We have to step up and be known now. He's taking that load up very well."
And the Dolphins are keenly aware of what they have.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.