Finding a way: Dolphins developing knack for winning close games
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Coming from Cleveland, Cody Parkey has a unique perspective on the Miami Dolphins’ finishing touch.
Last season Parkey had a chance to beat Miami with a 46-yard field goal for the woebegone Browns at the end of regulation, but he pulled the kick wide left, and the Dolphins won in overtime.
This season Parkey’s 8 for 8 on field-goal attempts with Miami, including late kicks in three narrow victories.
“It’s crazy. This team finds a way to win,” Parkey said. “Last year, when I was on the Browns, that was kind of where we lacked. We couldn’t find a way to win in the third and fourth quarter. This team just seems to.”
The Dolphins are off to their best start since 2003, and it’s because of the way they finish. At some point it’s no longer a fluke: In games decided by seven points or fewer, Miami has won 12 in a row going back to September 2016. That’s two shy of the NFL record set by the Indianapolis Colts when their quarterback was Peyton Manning.
The Dolphins’ streak includes three quarterbacks, none a future Hall of Famer. Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler and Matt Moore have helped win close games, which underscores the collective nature of the achievement.
A different star seems to emerge every time the Dolphins (4-2) pull out a victory, and they’ll try to do it again Thursday at Baltimore. Mindful that Miami is at its best with a game on the line, coach Adam Gase had T-shirts made for the team saying, “We r not normal.”
“A lot of it has to do with the personality of the players,” Gase said Tuesday. “Guys around here seem to embrace it more than worrying about failing. They enjoy being in that moment, and when they get opportunities, somebody seems to step up and make the play.”
The streak began three games into Gase’s tenure, and includes last week’s 31-28 victory over the New York Jets, when Miami erased a 14-point deficit in the final 12 minutes. Moore came off the bench to replace an injured Cutler and spark the rally, throwing two late touchdown passes in his first game of the season.
The week before, the Dolphins overcame a 17-point deficit in the second half to win at Atlanta, 20-17.
“I don’t know if I can explain it, but these guys just keep going,” Moore said. “They keep fighting.”
The Dolphins were overachievers last season when they won 10 games and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008 despite being outscored and outgained.
They’ve been outscored and outgained again this season, but only one NFL team has fewer losses.
“Stressful, but it’s cool,” guard Jermon Bushrod said. “We like to make it interesting for everyone out there. It doesn’t really help my heart much.”
Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen noted the comeback wins the past two weeks came despite a wave of injuries, including the one that sidelined Cutler.
“I’ve always tried to think of myself as the voice of reason and the even-keel guy,” Christensen said Tuesday.
“But I’ll have to start wearing my `We r not normal’ shirt too. I should have worn it today. I’ve bought in. I drank the Kool-Aid. We’re not normal. It’s something different every single week. The last two weeks, the second halves have been unbelievable.”
It’s not that the Dolphins are doing it with long gains. They’re the only team in the NFL that hasn’t had a 40-yard play all season.
They haven’t scored a rushing touchdown, either. They rank last in the league in yards per play and per game.
But they find a way to win. While they’ve been outscored 102-51 in the first three quarters, in the fourth quarter they’ve outscored opponents 41-10.
“When it’s hard, when it’s hot, when you’re tired, when you’re sore — at the end of the game, that’s when usually it requires the most of you,” five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake said.
“I’d like to think that the guys that we have in this locker room are built this way — that when it gets tough, we’re going to find another gear and do whatever we’ve got to do to win. Find a way, or make one.”