Preview: Stopping Dolphins RB Frank Gore becomes Lions’ focal point with Ryan Tannehill out
The ageless 35-year-old Gore had his most productive day of the season last week when he ran for 101 yards to help the Miami Dolphins beat the Chicago Bears in overtime. Now the Lions must tackle the challenge of facing the NFL’s leading active rusher.
Detroit has a leaky run defense, and Miami will again be without quarterback Ryan Tannehill , which could mean another busy day for Gore.
“He’s definitely a guy they can kind of rally behind,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Frank has done an unbelievable job of taking care of his body and executing at a high level for a long time. He has an edge about him that has been able to carry him all the way through his career. He’s always proving everybody wrong.”
While the Dolphins (4-2) will try to beat an NFC North team for the second week in a row, the Lions (2-3) are coming off a bye and three games into a stretch of 10 consecutive games against opponents now at .500 or better.
Here are things to know about teams meeting for only the 12th time:
THIRTEEN SEASONS LATER
Gore was a 22-year-old rookie when he first ran for 100 yards for San Francisco in the final game of the 2005 season, and last week he did it for the 46th time. That made him the fifth player since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have a 100-yard rushing game past age 34, joining Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, John Riggins and MacArthur Lane.
“I told him I wish I could have played with him 10 years ago,” teammate Ja’Wuan James said, “just to see how that would have been.”
By one measure Gore is actually better now. Sharing carries with Kenyan Drake, he has an average of 4.9 yards per carry this season, his best since 2009.
“You can’t think about age,” Gore said. “You’ve got to continue like you’re a young man out there.”
He might be able to do that against the Lions, who gave up 152 yards rushing to Ezekiel Elliott, 138 to Matt Breida, and 102 to Isaiah Crowell. Patricia’s defense ranks third worst in yards rushing allowed per carry and per game.
While Gore battered the Bears, Brock Osweiler threw for a career-high 380 yards subbing for Tannehill, sidelined with a throwing shoulder injury.
Handing off to Gore was a kick, Osweiler said.
“That’s something I’ll never forget,” he said. “Watching a future Hall of Famer from the field level is pretty special.”
While the Lions are 0-2 on the road, the Dolphins have won their first three home games for first time since 2002. Last week, Miami rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 16 minutes of regulation against the Bears, who tired in 89-degree sunshine.
“We like playing at home, I know that,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “We like it hot. The other team wears down eventually, and we just keep fighting.”
The forecast for Sunday is 87 in Miami, compared with 47 in Detroit. Of course, the Lions play indoors at home.
“We’re not going down there to play the weather,” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “We’re playing the Dolphins.”
The Dolphins have never led the NFL in interceptions, not even in the days of Jake Scott and Dick Anderson. But they rank first this week with 11, two more than they had all of last season.
“We’re just hungry for the ball,” safety Reshad Jones said.
The secondary will be tested by one of the NFL’s best trios of wideouts, and by Matt Stafford, who threw four interceptions in opener but has only one since.
The Lions recovered from an awful start with wins over Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers . If they play to the level of their competition, that would be good, because their next seven opponents are 22-11-1.
“We can play with and beat anybody,” Quin said. “But we can also be beaten by anybody.”
Michigan native Gase and his wife lived in Dearborn when he was a Lions assistant in 2003-07. They sold their house there just in the past couple of years, although Gase is fuzzy on details of the transaction.
“I just remember my wife rented it out, and then that was the last thing I heard about it, and then all of a sudden she was like, ‘Hey, I sold the house,'” Gase said. “I’m kind of not real good with the economic aspect of anything, so that’s on her.”