Dolphins: A Fairytale in Jeopardy

Their winning record (10-6) notwithstanding, the Miami Dolphins don’t resemble a playoff team. In fact, the Dolphins are in bad shape heading into the playoffs: their run defense is abysmal, ranking 30th in the league; their offense isn’t much better, which ranks 26th in total yards; and, more importantly, they’re limping into the postseason with a plethora of injuries, most notably at quarterback, linebacker, and in the secondary.

During their remarkable turnaround, the Dolphins—winners of 9 of their last 11 games—relied on opportunism. Instead of outsmarting or outperforming their opponents, the Dolphins repeatedly exploited their enemies’ mistakes. Whether it was a blocked punt or field goal, an interception, fumble, or sack, or a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown, the Dolphins—somehow, some way—found a way to win.

In week nine, rookie Kenyan Drake took a kickoff return 96 yards for a touchdown with just 5:15 left in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the game-winning touchdown. A week later in San Diego, linebacker Kiko Alonso intercepted Philip Rivers, outrunning everyone 60 yards into the endzone for the game-winning score with less than a minute remaining. A little over a week ago in an overtime victory in Buffalo, the Dolphins crossed their fingers as former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter missed two field goals. You get the point.

In their last 11 games, the Dolphins have been outgained seven times (Chargers, 49ers, Ravens, Bills, Patriots, and twice by the New York Jets). All but one, the New England Patriots, failed to make the playoffs. More alarming, out of the 12 NFL teams that qualified for the playoffs this year, only the Houston Texans (-49) have a worse point differential than the Miami Dolphins (-17).

After an embarrassing 35-14 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was irate. “For us to get smacked around in our own stadium is terrible,” Gase told reporters Monday in a press conference. One could argue that the Dolphins, whose defense was gashed for 396 yards, used this game against the king of the AFC as a measuring stick to where they were. The Dolphins were outplayed and outcoached Sunday in the worst of ways.

Throughout the game Sunday, it seemed that the “big break” that has inevitably become the deciding factor in many of the Dolphins’ victories this year was bound to make an appearance. But instead, it never did.

The Dolphins, for the first time since 2008, head into unchartered waters next Sunday: the playoffs. In the playoffs, a team can’t rely on the unthinkable or the hope of catching a break here or there. Coaches and players must put in the work necessary in order to succeed on the NFL’s biggest stage. Although they’ve been exciting to watch, the Dolphins must start relying on beating teams with x’s and o’s if they want their fairytale season to continue.

If not, the Dolphins will soon wake up from this dream.

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