After starting the season 1-4, the Miami Dolphins’ playoff hopes were on life support. Well, the Dolphins have since won five straight games, including four in a row by a touchdown or less.
How is this happening?
“Man, to be honest, I got to give a lot of credit to Coach Gase and his whole entire coaching staff, just coming in with a new vibe, new energy,” Dolphins special teams star Michael Thomas said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(He just wants) to hold guys accountable and make sure everybody’s going to go out there and do their jobs. That new culture that he’s brought in, especially our defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph – it’s changed how everybody even approaches practice. We’re just going out there trying to compete. It’s a testament to these last two games that we won in close fashion, especially in the fourth quarter. The defense, we compete against our offense every week – last play of the game, last four plays of the game. So when we get in those situations in the game, it’s nothing new to us. I’m glad we’ve been able to compete. We’re on a roll with five games in a row. We’re just trying to keep this going.”
Ryan Tannehill isn’t having an eye-popping season statistically, but he does have six touchdowns to just one interception during Miami’s five-game winning streak.
“We’re at the point every everybody believes in him,” Thomas said. “We believe he’s going to make that play. He’s developed a poise with Adam Gase. Just knowing as long as everybody else is doing their job – they’re running the right routes, they’re getting the protection – we believe Tannehill is going to make that throw. We believe he’s going to make that play and have guys in the right position to make those game-changing plays. He’s poised, he’s showing how clutch he is, and he’s doing it every day in practice. It’s a testament to how he works and how he prepares. We’re believing in him, and we’re just trying to keep this thing going.”
The Dolphins (6-4) trail the Patriots (8-2) by two games in the AFC East and are currently one game back of the Broncos (7-3) for the 6-seed in the Wild Card standings. But make no mistake: Miami is thinking playoffs.
“It’s definitely real,” Thomas said. “Guys can feel it. We’re not looking ahead, but it’s something you can just feel. No words need to be said about it. You can just feel how different this team is compared to the teams we’ve been on in the past with the Dolphins. Guys are young, they’re hungry, we got leaders on offense and defense, me on special teams – we’re just trying to make sure all the young guys that we have just come along and do what they can, do their part to make plays. None of these games are going to be easy for us. We know it’s a tough stretch. But we’re just trying to go 1-0 every single week.”
Miami ranks 15th in scoring defense (21.6 points per game allowed), but is eight against the pass. Having Ndamukong Suh in the trenches certainly helps.
“Man, Suh, he took a different approach compared to what he did last year,” Thomas said. “He’s a pillar of our defense. Every week, you put up goals: stop the run, make the team one-dimensional. It all starts upfront with Suh. He’s been quiet. He hasn’t been in the media, he hasn’t made any outbursts or outspoken comments or nothing like that. He hasn’t been (hurting) himself on the field, any penalties or nothing like that. He’s just been doing his job. That’s him being a grown man, a force on that D-line and that’s what we respect him for. He makes everybody else step their game up. If he’s dominating like this, we got to go out there and do our job. That’s how it’s been. He’s been setting the tone for our defense. He has a big personality, but he’s really quiet. It’s crazy.”
The Dolphins host San Francisco (1-9) this Sunday at a 1.m. ET. It’s a very winnable game. In fact, the Dolphins have a couple of winnable games before closing the regular season at home against New England.
There’s still a long way to go, but that game could decide the AFC East.
“They do a lot of things well up there,” Thomas said. “You got to respect them. You feel like they’re just a machine up there. The defense is constantly making plays, special teams – I got to give a lot of respect to Matt Slater. He’s been to the Pro Bowl representing our division for a bunch of years in a row. The way people talk about him on special teams, I want people to mention me in that light. But they do a lot of things well. It comes from just going out there and doing their job, and they got a guy named Tom Brady. He leads the play and everybody else follows. For us, (we have) to take care of the rest of these games first and when we play them, (we have to) do our job and find a way to win that game. I don’t feel like they invincible, but they do a lot of things well and they’ve been winning the division for a reason the last couple of years.”