The Miami Dolphins showed some life during Dan Campbell’s successfull coaching debut. Whether or not they can build on that needed victory remains to be seen.
Looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in almost a year, the Dolphins try again for their first victory over the visiting Houston Texans on Sunday.
Mired in a three-game skid and dealing with the ramifications left from the firing of coach Joe Philbin, Miami (2-3) hardly looked like the frustrated and often lackadaisical group that was present prior to Sunday’s 38-10 rout of Tennessee.
"The sleeping giants have awoken," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said.
While that may be the case for the moment, the Dolphins have no reason to get complacent. Since 2000, there have been 25 in-season coaching changes, but only four times has that new coach won his first two games.
"The challenge now is for these guys to not start patting themselves on the back," Campbell said. "We’ve been notorious for that around here. We get a big win, and then a lull the next week."
Looking to post two straight wins for the first time since a three-game run from Oct.19-Nov. 2 of last season, Miami has yet to win at home and is 0-7 against Houston (2-4). Things won’t get any easier with three straight road games at New England, Buffalo and Philadelphia to follow.
However, these revitalized Dolphins feel they are ready for the challenge.
"I don’t think there is going to be a lull this time," left tackle Branden Albert said. "Guys are going to prepare to keep winning."
Though Ryan Tannehill has thrown all seven of his interceptions in the last three games, he went 22 of 29 for 266 yards and also threw two touchdowns against the Titans after completing 56.7 percent of his passes in the first four games.
Houston allowed 83 rushing yards in last Sunday’s 31-20 win at Jacksonville, but Lamar Miller should feel confident after he had 113 and a TD on 19 carries against the Titans. He gained 131 yards and didn’t score in the first four games.
After allowing an average of 160.5 rushing yards in their first four, the Dolphins held Tennessee to 63. Defensive end Cameron Wake came into that contest without a sack but recorded four by game’s end.
Though that victory came against the one-win Titans, Campbell has always believed this Miami team has the talent to sustain that type of success.
"I’m that high on what we have here," said Campbell, who spent the previous five seasons as an intern and tight ends coach with Miami. "We have the right balance of impact players and lunch-pail workers.
"The energy and the speed at which we played (last) Sunday is what I was hoping we could get. I knew if we did that, we would be all right. We played faster. It came from a belief. Those guys were able to hope again. After that win, now you can start to believe."
Houston might feel the same way after getting past the Jaguars to avoid a third straight defeat.
"Consistency is the word, you have to try to do it again," Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. "Hey, understand what’s at stake and they know, like I’ve said, now it is 10 one-game seasons, so now it’s on to the next season, which is Miami. (The Dolphins are) a different team."
Brian Hoyer earned a second consecutive start over Ryan Mallett after he went 24 of 36 for 293 yards with three TDs and no INTs.
"He’s our quarterback," O’Brien said about Hoyer, who has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptors in four games. "We’re going to stick with him. He’s playing really well. He’s playing at a high level, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him."
Hoyer’s been helped by DeAndre Hopkins, who leads the NFL in receiving yards (726) and is second in receptions (52). He’s averaged 10 catches and 158 yards in the last three games, and scored twice Sunday.
"They are definitely clicking, man," tackle Duane Brown said. "Hoyer has done a great job not just with DeAndre, but with all of the receivers, the tight ends, the backs being able to click and get on the same page and get in sync. The connection they have is unbelievable."
Arian Foster rushed for two touchdowns and Houston picked off Tannehill three times in a 30-10 victory in 2012 in the most recent meeting.