Gase: Season isn’t over yet
DAVIE — Embarrassing losses have led to scorched-earth press conferences where coach Adam Gase has called out himself, his team, the Miami Dolphins’ leaders and coaching staff.
But a day after Miami’s 45-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers (7-3), which produced a franchise-record 548 net yards on the Dolphins’ once stingy defense it seemed as if Gase placed his focus on building up the team’s confidence.
Tuesday’s press conference felt like one big hug, a proverbial pep talk designed to get everyone in Davie reinvested.
“We’ve got a lot of time left, a lot of ball left,” Gase said. “I don’t know if you guys kind of pay attention to the rest of the league, but it’s not like anyone’s running away with anything. It’s a total disaster everywhere.”
Gase is referring to the AFC playoff landscape, which is extremely murky with the exception of New England (7-2), Pittsburgh (7-2) and Kansas City (6-3), which could all cruise to winning their divisions.
“There’s about two teams where everybody is all happy,” Gase said. “Everywhere else it’s misery.”
Misery certainly describes the mood in South Florida based on how the Dolphins have played this season. Gase’s team has either pulled off a come-from-behind vic-
tory, or lost in a blowout with one exception (Oakland) this season.
“Effort is really hard to question with this group. They’re going to play hard. Sometimes the issue becomes other guys trying to cover for other guys,” Gase said. “Everybody starts trying to make a play and guys start getting out of their lanes, if you’re talking about defense, and then that’s where you see some of those big plays start occurring.”
The focus remains on getting the entire team — offense, defense and special teams — to play well together, which was how Miami managed to rebound from a 1-4 start in 2016 and win nine of the season’s final 11 games.
This year’s team has not found a way to play complimentary football.
The offense’s slow starts deserved plenty of blame considering it has added to the pressure placed on the defense’s shoulders, which could be leading to that unit’s burnout.
The Dolphins are averaging 4.3 points per game in the first half of the season’s first nine games.
Miami has scored an NFL low 20 points in the first quarter, and 43 in the first half. Even the winless Cleveland Browns (57 first half points) have outperformed Miami.
“Same message every week, every time we lose. Keep fighting, put your head down and find a way to individually get better. And then we can become better collectively,” said right guard Jermon Bushrod. “We didn’t score enough points. We didn’t put up any points in the first quarter. We have to fight to match, help our defense out by scoring more points in the first half.”
Miami’s offense ranks last in the NFL points scored, 31st in yards per game, 30th in rushing yards per game, 30th in net yards per passing play, and 29th in third-down efficiency.
“We can’t have silly penalties that put us behind the eight ball,” said tailback Kenyan Drake, who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry on his 26 attempts. “We just got to make sure we take advantage of the opportunities we have.”
Still, the AFC wild-card spots are wide open, and so is the AFC South division, which features a heated battle between Jacksonville and Tennesse. Both are both 6-3.
The loser of the AFC South will likely be a wildcard contender, and that means they’ll battle it out with Buffalo (5-4), Miami (4-5), Oakland (4-5) and Baltimore (4-5). The fact that Miami lost the head-tohead games against the Raiders and Ravens isn’t ideal. But it’ll likely come down to how many wildcard teams have identical records.
At this point its too early to predict how the formula will play out, but it’s safe to conclude that Miami needs to win five of their final seven games to be in the mix, and the push needs to start on Sunday against Tampa Bay (3-6), which will be starting backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Lose to Tampa Bay and Miami’s bleak odds of qualifying for the franchise’s first back-to-back playoff berth since the 2002 and 2003 season could become unrealistic.
“We’ve got a lot of time left, a lot of ball left.” Adam Gase, Dolphins head coach