At 6-6, Dolphins look to build consistency down the stretch
DAVIE, Fla. — Minutes after the team’s most complete showing all season, a 23-3 victory over the rival Jets, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin addressed his players in the locker room.
With four games remaining, the Ravens (6-6) hold a tiebreaker against Miami (6-6) for the sixth and final AFC postseason spot. Baltimore beat the host Dolphins 26-23 on Oct. 6.
“It’s important that we build off this type of performance,” Philbin said on Monday. “We’ve been making a big emphasis about (how) the performance level on the field in December has to be better.”
After opening the season 3-0, Miami dropped four in a row. Since then the Dolphins have gone back-and-forth with wins and losses. For the first time since the opener, they beat an opponent by double figures.
The next step Philbin hopes the team takes is one towards consistency, especially during the final month with playoff implications on the line.
“We told the team in our meeting last Tuesday that we’re not going to reinvent ourselves from a schematic standpoint in December,” Philbin said. “We’ve been at this thing since May, training camp, preseason, 11 regular-season games entering Sunday. This is what we do.”
Though the offense scored 23 points or fewer for the ninth straight game, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was pleased with the unit’s effort.
It left points on the field in the first half — a missed field goal, two failed red-zone opportunities — but accumulated a season-high 453 yards.
Lamar Miller ran the ball a career-high 22 times for 72 yards against the NFL’s top rush defense. New York entered the contest allowing just 72.6 yards on the ground, while Miami ranked 26th with 85.4 yards per game.
With Daniel Thomas out with an injury, Miller became the featured back. The Dolphins collected 122 total rushing yards. On three separate occasions, however, the attack failed to convert on short yardage.
“I did not anticipate that,” Sherman said of the overall success. “I was hopeful we would get some good yardage, but they’re a good defensive football team with a great history against the run. A lot of Sunday — it’s about attitude and matchups, and things kind of fit in place for you.”
Through the air, Ryan Tannehill went 28 for 43 with a season-high 331 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was the second-highest total of his career (431 yards vs. Arizona, 9/30/12).
Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Charles Clay combined for 23 catches, 289 yards and two scores with a heavy dose of quick routes.
“We were able to take advantage of those matchups,” Sherman said. “Our offense is a progression-read offense, so we don’t go into a specific game saying, ‘This guy is going to get the ball.’ At any time any guy can get the ball.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they all got involved. It bodes well for the chemistry on offense when everybody has a role and a chance to make plays.”
Defensively, the Dolphins allowed just three points for the first time since a 24-3 victory against the Jaguars on Dec. 16, 2012. The last time Miami gave up only three points in a road game was in a 31-3 victory at Kansas City on Nov. 6, 2011.
On average the defense surrenders 20.7 points per game, which ranks ninth. The 177 yards by the Jets was the lowest total by an opponent this season.
With a pair of interceptions on Sunday, Miami has registered at least one takeaway in each of its 12 games. The Dolphins have 16 picks and have allowed just 12 passing scores this year.
Brent Grimes, who intercepted his fourth pass on Sunday, hasn’t given up a touchdown this season, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
“He’s playing exceptional,” Coyle said. “He’s something else. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He has incredible eye-hand coordination, athleticism and I think he sleeps with the football.”
Miami travels to Pittsburgh this Sunday to face the Steelers (5-7), who lost a close game to the Ravens. The Steelers sit a game behind both Baltimore and Miami.
“This is all about building off last week’s performance and playing well on the road against a very good team,” Philbin said. “All of the other stuff will take care of itself.”
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