Dolphins' Cameron Wake has torn Achilles, out for season
Now that the Miami Dolphins have undergone a reality check also known as playing at New England, they can resume their chase for a wild-card berth.
The AFC East title is clearly out of reach.
A 36-7 drubbing Thursday night in Foxborough dropped Miami to 3-4 in the division, four games behind the unbeaten Patriots. But only five teams in the AFC are above .500, which means the Dolphins remain in contention for a wild-card spot.
They'll chase it without Cameron Wake. The four-time Pro Bowl defensive end will miss the rest of the season after tearing his left Achilles tendon.
"He's going to be missed," coach Dan Campbell said Friday. "Guys look up to him."
Miami faces other health issues as well. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James was in a boot after the loss because of a toe injury and is expected to miss several games. Campbell didn't rule out the possibility of surgery.
First-round draft pick DeVante Parker came out of the game after he hurt his left foot, which required surgery in June, but his latest ailment wasn't serious, Campbell said.
In the wake of the injury wave, Campbell was asked his opinion of Thursday night games, requiring players to go on three days' rest.
"I probably shouldn't get into that," Campbell said.
There was other evidence showing the toll of playing for the second time in five days. Safety Reshad Jones walked through the locker room Friday with a big bag of ice on his shoulder. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill wore four bandages on his arms.
And then there were the bruised egos. The Dolphins entered the game riding high thanks to blowout wins in Campbell's first two games as interim coach, but Thursday's loss showed they're not ready to challenge the Patriots.
"It wasn't a step back," left tackle Branden Albert said 12 hours after the defeat. "It was a learning experience. They're a good team — the defending Super Bowl champs. Everybody is going to start panicking and saying this and that about us, but they beat six teams before this, so we just move on."
The schedule doesn't ease up, however. Road games loom the next two weeks, starting with a Nov. 8 date at AFC East rival Buffalo, which routed Miami 41-14 in Week 3.
Beating the Bills is critical because the Dolphins are 0-3 in the division, which puts them at a disadvantage in playoff tiebreakers.
"Guys are hurting. Nobody is in a good mood right now," right tackle Jason Fox said. "But we can't mope around. We've got another big game next week."
Fox moved into the lineup to replace James. Derrick Shelby and Terrence Fede combined to replace Wake, who leaves a void tough to fill.
"That is a blow," said Albert, who suffered a season-ending injury himself last year. "I feel for Cam, because I've been there. We definitely need him. Somebody is going to have to step up."
It's possible Wake, 33, has played his final game for Miami. He's under contract through 2016 but has a cap number of $9.8 million next year, and the Dolphins could save $8.4 million in cap space by cutting him.
That's an issue for the offseason. In the wake of their first loss under Campbell, Miami's more immediate concern is to regain the confidence he had created.
"It's all about going back to work," Campbell said. "Looking at these players, you could tell the attitude was right. It burned at them, and they didn't feel good about it, and they knew they didn't play well. They're far better than what was put out there. You could tell they're going to be ready to come back Monday and work."