It was a mixed bag for the two state teams that played this past Sunday. The Dolphins snapped a frustrating two-game losing streak to seal a tense, last-minute win at Cincinnati, beating the Bengals 17-13. And the Jaguars probably wish they hadn’t played, after getting hammered at home 41-3 by the Chicago Bears.
Fortunately, Jacksonville has a bye this week to get its act together and set out to improve on its 1-4 record, tied for last in the AFC South.
The Dolphins and Bucs each host important non-division games that could serve as much-needed stepping stones after a string of difficult losses along the way.
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Let’s get the Week Six show rolling.
Weekend in review
Bucs (bye): Tampa Bay players spent the past week recharging their batteries during their bye, while coaches worked long and hard on the game plan for the next opponent: the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bucs headed into the break on a wave of frustration, following a comeback against the Washington Redskins Sept. 30 that fizzled in the final seconds. Billy Cundiff hit the first of four field goal attempts, a 31-yarder, with three ticks left on the scoreboard to beat Tampa Bay 24-22 after the Bucs had scored 19 unanswered points.
Dolphins 17, Bengals 13: The Fins were on the verge of what looked like another painful loss in the making. After dropping two consecutive heartbreakers in OT, Miami held a tenuous 17-13 lead at Cincinnati with the Bengals driving in the final 90 seconds. But free safety Reshad Jones intercepted quarterback Andy Dalton at midfield with 1:22 to preserve the victory. That ended an excellent day for the Dolphin D, which sacked Dalton three times and picked him off twice. Perhaps it helped that Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle served 11 seasons as a Bengals assistant. Whatever the case, the win improved Miami to 2-3 after two consecutive overtime losses. Game gallery »
Bears 41, Jaguars 3: Jacksonville was simply no match a Bears team coming off a 34-18 rout of the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Chicago’s defense overwhelmed the overmatched Jags after a 3-3 first quater, scoring 38 unanswered points (35 in the second half). The romp was fueled by a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns, one by cornerback Charles Tillman and the other by linebacker Lance Briggs — a nice encore to the interceptions each of them returned for TDs against Dallas. The Jags allowed a whopping 501 yards of offense to the Bears, powered by quarterback Jay Cutler (292 passing yards, two scores). Game gallery »
Star of the Week
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Another fine showing helped make the difference in Miami’s victory over Cincinnati. He was 17 of 26 for 223 yards and though he didn’t throw a TD pass, he failed to turn the ball over, too.
Goat of the Week
Jacksonville’s defense, for its complete second-half breakdown.
• Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey on Gabbert: “Blaine is still a young player. I think each game is going to make him a better player, and it has. We’ve got to help him. There’s still things I’m not going to say he’s where we want him. I don’t think he will say that. He still has things he’s got to do better.”
• Mularkey on having started 1-4 in Buffalo as head coach in 2004 and finishing 9-7: “How much we stuck together and didn’t let anything influence our beliefs in what we’re doing. We didn’t change, we just stuck to the plan. That was not easy either. It’s not an easy task. We stayed the course, like I said here. We did some good things and what was amazing about it is when we started to do some good things a lot of good things just kept coming. We won six games in a row. We won by a lot of points. We played better and we got more confident about what we were doing.”
• Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew on what needs to change: “I don’t know. Obviously we are not working hard enough. I don’t know. You would think the way they’ve worked and the way I’ve worked in the offseason, we would play better than this. We are just not playing well right now. We have to figure something out. No one here is going to save us. It’s just the guys in this locker room. There is no one that we can bring in to help. We just have to man-to-man look at each other and figure out what we are going to do.”
• Dolphins coach Joe Philbin on how much winning a close game helps improve the team’s confidence: “We’ll find out next week. I think it’s a good step. It’s a step in the right direction. We made plays at a critical when we had to, to close the game out, and that’s a positive. Hopefully, we can build on that.”
• Philbin on Ryan Tannehill’s progress: “I think the film shows that he’s getting better. I think his command was good yesterday. I thought his decision making was good, threw the ball accurately, thought he had poise and, if you watch the tape, he looked like a pretty good quarterback. I was pleased with how he played yesterday. I think there’s some signs of development there.”
• Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on Tannehill: “I would have to say our quarterback position is the most dramatic improvement on the offensive side of the ball. He just keeps getting better and better. Very seldom does he make the same mistake twice. You tell him that you need to do this, and he does it. So I think that his maturation throughout the course of the NFL season, going into Week Six, he has taken steps every single week. He will continue to do that throughout the course of the season and the course of his career.”
• Bucs nose tackle Roy Miller on his former University of Texas roommate and Kansas City tailback Jamaal Charles: “I had the opportunity to watch him in college, and I’ve been able to see him over the years do the same thing he’s done — whether it’s practice or a game. He’s a special player. … It doesn’t surprise me that he’s bounced back (from his knee injury). And he looks just as good as he did before.”
• Bucs All-Pro guard Carl Nicks on the value of the bye: “The rest definitely helped. I wish it was longer, but it’s good to be back to football. I don’t think we’ve played near our potential. Although we’re 1-3, and that’s not a good record to have, it’s encouraging to know we can battle with any team in the NFL.”
• Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib on how the Bucs have been in every game, losing three close ones at the end: “Our job is to not make ’em close at the end.”
Did You Know
• The Bucs and Chiefs have each won five games in head-to-head meetings, but Tampa Bay has won the past three (the last of which came in 2008, when Jon Gruden’s team fell behind 24-3 at the half before winning 30-27 in overtime).
• Former Dolphins linebacker/defensive end Jason Taylor and linebacker Zach Thomas will be inducted to the Honor Roll on Sunday during halftime.
• All five of Jacksonville’s opponents have a record of at least .500, with four sporting a winning record heading into Week Six. The combined record of the Jags’ opponents is 18-6 (.750 pct.).
Kansas City at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (Bucs favored by 3): The Bucs need to win this game as much for their confidence as the boost in the standings it would provide. Three straight losses, regardless of how close they’ve been, have put the team in a precarious position.
They could easily find themselves at 1-5 and in one of those hard-to-reverse spirals without a victory against a 1-4 KC team. That’s because the next two teams on the schedule: New Orleans, which won its first game of the season Sunday (31-24 over San Diego), and a road trip to AFC North co-leader Minnesota.
Offensively, the focus will be on quarterback Josh Freeman, who hasn’t yet found a consistent groove in 2012. Whether that’s due to a reluctance by the coaching staff to trust him and let him loose remains to be seen. But what Freeman did in the second half against Washington — throwing deep and moving the offense well — worked. What he did in a plodding first half did not. It will be interesting to see how he fares early against a tough Chiefs defense, which held the Ravens to three field goals on Sunday. Defensively, the order of business is clear: Find a way to contain tailback Jamaal Charles.
St. Louis at Miami, 1 p.m. (Dolphins favored by 3): This is a different Rams team than the one we all saw in 2011. Under new head coach Jeff Fisher, St. Louis (3-2) has won all three of its home games and is coming off a stifling 17-3 victory over previously unbeaten Arizona (4-1).
The Ram D sacked quarterback Kevin Kolb nine times, ending the Cardinals’ seven-game win streak in St. Louis. All that could point to a tougher matchup for Miami than previously anticipated. The Dolphins are coming off an uplifting win are are highly motivated to head into next week’s bye with a .500 record, before hitting the road for games against AFC East division rival New York and an improving Colts team, which stunned Green Bay last week 30-27 behind Andrew Luck’s 362 yards and two TDs.
The Dolphins have traditionally had success against St. Louis, holding a 9-2 edge overall and has won the last two meetings (16-12 in 2008 and 31-14 in 2004). It’s another big opportunity for Tannehill in a game the Dolphins can’t afford to let get away.