Gase: Sea­son isn’t over yet

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - SPORTS - By Omar Kelly Staff writer

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-

“We’ve got a lot of time left, a lot of ball left.” Adam Gase, Dol­phins head coach

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.


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