Dolphins riding wave of success with West Coast swing ahead
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins are 0-3 on the road as they begin a two-game West Coast swing in San Diego, where they lost last year, and they’re also 0-3 in the Pacific Time Zone since 2011.
But the Dolphins headed to the airport Thursday flying high thanks to a three-game winning streak , all achieved at home.
"We’re excited about this opportunity," running back Jay Ajayi said. "We know the challenge of what’s in front of us, that it’s not going to be easy traveling coast to coast, but we’re excited about our opponent this weekend, and it should be fun."
After playing the Chargers, the Dolphins (4-4) will spend next week in Carlsbad, California, and then play the Rams in Los Angeles on Nov. 20. It’s the first time the Dolphins have played back-to-back West Coast games since 2004, and a first for most of the players, including seven-year veteran Ndamukong Suh.
"I find it fun to get away," Suh said. "A lot of team bonding, which I think will be good for us."
The trip means big change in a sport where there’s a rhythm to the weekly routine, both at work and at home.
"Being away from home, obviously, is a challenge, especially for guys that have families," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who recently became a first-time father. "To prepare and get your body and mind ready to go when you’re out of your normal routine, that’s going to be the challenge."
Miami has overcome every challenge lately, with victories over the Steelers, Bills and Jets during an NFL-record 44-day homestand. The streak represented a turnaround after a 1-4 start that included road losses at Seattle, New England and Tennessee.
The Dolphins believe they’re much-improved lately under first-year coach Adam Gase.
"When you face adversity and you find a way to persevere, I think it gives you a lot of confidence," Tannehill. "The past couple weeks we’ve been down in games and there has been no panic. There have been no tremors on the sideline of, `OK, here we go,’ or, `What are we going to do now?’ It’s, `We’re going to be able to find a way to win the game.’ When you have that attitude, that mindset — whether it’s offense or defense — you’re going to win a lot of games."
That’s what the Dolphins have done lately, and they have a chance at their first four-game winning streak since 2008, their most recent playoff season.
There are benefits to taking a team on the road, Gase said, which he witnessed when the Dolphins opened the season at Seattle.
"We saw a lot of guys going out to eat together, and it wasn’t guys that you would expect to see gravitate toward each other," he said. "We did think that was a good thing for us at that time. We’ve had four home games in a row, we’ve been here for quite a while, and getting away will probably be a good thing for us."
The game will be the first in San Diego since voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have raised $1.15 billion from increased hotel occupancy taxes to help pay for a new stadium, raising anew speculation the Chargers might move.
They’re last in the AFC West at 4-5, but they’re 3-1 at home, and beat Miami 30-14 in San Diego last December.
"We’re a whole different team this year than we were last year," said Ajayi, who has led the Dolphins’ turnaround by rushing for 529 yards in the past three games.
Gase isn’t too worried about the temptations of Southern California during his players’ free time next week — although he has considered a curfew.
"Hopefully we’ve got enough guys that are leaders that will step up and remind guys, `Don’t ruin this for everybody,’" Gase said. "We’re there to do a job. We’re not on a bowl trip. We are there to do one thing."
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