Dol­phins aim to sal­vage sea­son

The Citizens' Voice - - National Football League - BY STEVEN WINE

DAVIE, Fla. — Fol­low­ing lop­sided losses ear­lier this sea­son, Mi­ami Dol­phins coach Adam Gase fumed about missed as­sign­ments and poor work habits, threat­ened to de­mote starters and even traded his Pro Bowl run­ning back.

This time he’s draw­ing con­so­la­tion from other col­leagues around the AFC mired in medi­ocrity or worse.

“It’s not like any­one’s run­ning away with any­thing,” Gase said Tues­day. “It’s a to­tal dis­as­ter ev­ery­where. There are about two teams where everybody is all happy. Ev­ery­where else it’s mis­ery.”

The Dol­phins (4-5) re­main in the play­off pic­ture even though they’ve hardly looked like a play­off team lately, with three con­sec­u­tive losses, all in prime time and two by blowout mar­gins. That in­cludes Mon­day night’s 45-21 hu­mil­i­a­tion at Carolina, where the Pan­thers rolled up a fran­chise-record 548 yards.

Gase re­acted an­grily to ear­lier drub­bings by the New York Jets and Bal­ti­more Ravens. Now, with the sea­son seem­ingly on the brink, he’s tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

Ef­fort isn’t an is­sue, Gase said, and he and the front of­fice didn’t over­es­ti­mate the level of tal­ent on the ros­ter. He dis­missed the idea of a lineup shakeup, such as the sur­pris­ing trade of run­ning back Jay Ajayi two weeks ago.

“I don’t re­ally see us reach­ing to just do some­thing to just drop a bomb on everybody,” Gase said.

But three con­sec­u­tive duds must be ad­dressed, with the Dol­phins be­ing outscored 112-45. For the sea­son they’ve been outscored by 87 points, third-worst in the NFL, leav­ing many to won­der how they’ve won four games.

The play­ers’ spir­its re­main high, Gase said, and the sea­son can still be saved.

“This group is pretty good at mov­ing on,” he said. “I think the coach­ing staff, too. That’s our job, and we’ve got a lot of time left, a lot of ball left.”

The Dol­phins will try to re­bound Sun­day at home against Tampa Bay (3-6), which ended a five-game los­ing streak Sun­day by beat­ing the New York Jets 15-10. Mi­ami is fa­vored, even in the wake of the Carolina fi­asco.

“We just put our­selves in a deeper hole,” cen­ter Mike Pouncey said, “but we’re go­ing to keep con­tin­u­ing to work hard, and we’re go­ing to get us a win next week.”

To do so, Mi­ami must solve prob­lems on both sides of the ball. Of­fense was the prob­lem early in the sea­son, and the Dol­phins still rank last in the league in points, but lately the de­fense has de­volved, al­low­ing 184 yards rush­ing per game dur­ing the los­ing streak.

Against the Pan­thers, Mi­ami gave up touch­downs on five con­sec­u­tive pos­ses­sions. Gase said the prob­lem is play­ers over­com­pen­sat­ing for mis­takes by team­mates.

Gase de­clined to put Sun­day’s game in the must-win cat­e­gory. But loom­ing in the five weeks that fol­low are trips to Buf­falo and Kansas City, and two games against AFC East leader New Eng­land.

BOB LEVERONE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dol­phins’ T.J. McDon­ald, left, tack­les, Pan­thers’ Jonathan Ste­wart in Mon­day night’s game in Char­lotte, N.C.

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