twelve games there are two things we can say about the 2014 Miami
They have enough talent, on paper, to be a playoff contender.
They are maddeningly inconsistent.
seen great moments. An important season-opening win over the
Patriots, blowout victories over the Raiders and Chargers, and a
critical divisional win over the Bills are highlights. And we’ve
seen disappointments. The last second losses to the Packers, Lions,
and Broncos still aggravate the nerves. And now a much harder than
expected win over a 2-10 Jets team that was truly more luck than
skill in favor of the good guys.
game, good win”, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor noted dryly.
”We’ll take it”.
doesn’t matter this morning. Not when the sum of all things
Dolphins today is a 7-5 record as we head into December, that
quintessential time of year when real winning begins. The Dolphins
now find themselves in a place where other great Dolphin teams have
been: contending for the postseason. It’s the best time of the year
for NFL football fans, especially Dolfans.
the season ended today, the Dolphins would be the sixth seed in the
AFC bracket. Alas, the season does not end today. Up next are the
Baltimore Ravens, also posting a 7-5 record and harboring their own
postseason ambitions. They will come into SunLife Stadium with a
physical brand of ball that has, as of late, been giving the Dolphins
fits. The Ravens boast the 5th
best rushing attack in the league.
these Dolphins up for the challenge? They’ve been up and down so
often this season that performances like Monday night’s versus the
Jets makes one want to vomit. And memories of the recent past don’t
help matters much. Dolfans have dared believe, only to have dreams
squashed like a bug. Last year’s lose-lose end to the season still
hasn’t been forgotten.
will this December be any different?
answer lies, as it always does, with the coaches and players.
Persistent issues, like shedding blocks, tackling, and completing
deep third passes, all need to be addressed if this team wants to
participate in the postseason.
head coach Joe Philbin and his band of merry men putting enough focus
on the right things to clean this stuff up? Philbin is a creature of
habit, and his practices don’t deviate a lot. What did an old sage
once say? Keep doing the same thing and you will get the same result?
Sure, Philbin devoted “a little bit” of time last week to
tackling fundamentals. But was it enough?
we’ve seen the last two games suggest it’s not. I really believe
Philbin needs to consider some changes in the team’s preparation to
allow for mistakes to be properly corrected. It could help smooth out
these chronic bumps in play which continue to be problematic.
the players perspective, talent doesn’t seem to be a worry but
rather it’s mental and technique errors. And while there are
injuries to deal with at key positions like cornerback and tight end,
the team seems to be muddling through for now.
great example is TE Dion Sims, who is stepping up nicely and really
emerging as a weapon in his own right.
his second year, and he’s starting to really make a positive impact
and a positive contribution, not that he hasn’t before but it’s
probably been more noticeable”, gushed Philbin. “We’ve been
asking him to do in his second year more things than he did maybe in
his first year. He’s shown up in the passing game more. He’s got
very good hands, as last night was evidence. He made a couple of
catches that were critical in the ball game. I like the trend that he
is on. The staff has a lot of confidence in him. His teammates have a
lot of confidence in him. He’s getting better.”
not to say the Dolphins are fine without a talent like Charles Clay,
but they are managing through it. As for starting a street free agent
like R.J. Stanford at CB, this move won’t cut it for long against
the likes of Joe Flacco and Tom Brady. Dolfans better find a thick
rug to pray on for the return of starter Cortland Finnegan, and soon.
beat the Ravens this Sunday, in what appears to be a must-win game,
the Dolphin defense must first stop the Ravens from running the ball.
If Flacco is allowed to employ playaction, and possess the ball for
long stretches, things will become very difficult in a hurry. The
offense must also avoid turnovers and be almost perfectly balanced to
keep the Ravens defense guessing. If Tannehill can complete 25 passes
against the Ravens, and Lazor will commit to at least 25 rushing
attempts, I believe the Dolphins can earn a hard fought victory.
his Monday presser, Philbin acknowledged the challenge and the stakes
ahead. He called the Ravens “as good as team as we’ve seen. They
are in the top 10 in scoring defense and scoring offense. They are
aware. We’re going to have our hands full with this one. We’re
going to have to play extremely well. We’re going to have to play
better than we did on Monday night against this team coming in,
without a doubt.”
lot better. They’ll need better execution than they’ve shown us
for large stretches of the season, and they’ll need it
also learn a lot about the quality of the Dolphins coaching staff
when they face off against John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, and their
respective staffs. In December, coaching matters. And it’s top
shelf coaching that’s needed to take this Dolphins team to the next
level and avoid another late season collapse.
no losing in December”, said defensive back Jimmy Wilson. “We
don’t want to have that taste in our mouth again. The guys are
hungry to come out and win.”