Cool un­der fire

Burke’s goal: Give Gase ‘D’ that can win

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Sports - By Safid Deen South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Burke, right, speaks with head coach Adam Gase dur­ing last week’s game against the Bills.

DAVIE — Mi­ami Dol­phins de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Burke may be as scru­ti­nized as any mem­ber of the or­ga­ni­za­tion this sea­son.

In­stead of be­ing con­cerned with out­side crit­i­cism, Burke re­mains stead­fast on de­liv­er­ing for his Dol­phins su­pe­ri­ors — like team owner Stephen Ross, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions Mike Tan­nen­baum, gen­eral man­ager Chris Grier and coach Adam Gase.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job,” Burke said Thurs­day in giv­ing him­self a per­sonal as­sess­ment.

“I try ev­ery week to put our play­ers in the best po­si­tion to make plays. We’ve done that some­times. We haven’t the other times. There are calls I re­gret. There are calls I’m ex­cited about. Again, we’re weekto-week. It’s re­ally hard for me to big-pic­ture eval­u­ate my­self in the course of a sea­son. I’m try­ing to win ball game this week.

“The feed­back I worry about is Adam’s and what he cares about and what he wants. I try to give him what he’s look­ing for as a coach. That’s re­ally all I con­cern my­self with.”

The Dol­phins (6-6) have lost six of their last nine games, but re­main in the thick of the AFC play­off hunt head­ing into Sun­day’s game against the AFC Eastlead­ing New Eng­land Patriots (9-3) at Hard Rock Sta­dium.

Like many mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, Burke was in a world of emo­tions last week as Bills quar­ter­back Josh Allen scram­bled his way in and around the pocket to find open space to throw his fi­nal pass of the game.

On the pre­vi­ous drive, Burke called for a blitz by Dol­phins de­fen­sive back Bobby McCain, which re­sulted in a sack. The next play, de­fen­sive end Robert Quinn was able to strip sack Allen for an eight-yard loss. The Bills were forced to set­tle for a 55-yard field goal, which Stephen Hauschka missed with 3:34 left.

But the Dol­phins of­fense

acould not stay on the field to end the game, fail­ing to con­vert a 3rd and 1, punt­ing the ball back to Allen and the Bills of­fense for a dra­matic end­ing.

Allen’s fi­nal pass, launched from the 40-yard line, ended up be­ing short of the goal line, and just out of the grasp of for­mer Dol­phins tight end Charles Clay, al­low­ing Mi­ami to es­cape with a 21-17 win.

“When the ball was in the air – I promised you guys I wasn’t go­ing to curse so I can’t give you my thoughts – it felt like it was in the air for about three min­utes, one of those slow mo­tion, heart-sinks-in­toy­our-stom­ach type of thing,” Burke said.

“We’re for­tu­nate the ball fell a lit­tle short and bounced out of there and got away with a win. We’ll try to not have that hap­pen again.”

Like the Dol­phins of­fense, the de­fense ranks 29th, sur­ren­der­ing nearly 400 yards per game.

The Dol­phins give up an av­er­age of 25 points per game, which ranks 20th. This statis­tic is aided by the fact Mi­ami is sec­ond in the NFL with 19 in­ter­cep­tions and third with 25 to­tal turnovers forced.

The Dol­phins have lost two games af­ter sur­ren­der­ing dou­ble-digit leads, — at Cincin­nati in Week 5 and at In­di­anapo­lis in Week 12.

Mi­ami’s de­fen­sive line has lacked sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure at times with­out the likes of de­fen­sive end Wil­liam Hayes and de­fen­sive tackle Vin­cent Taylor, who both suf­fered sea­so­nend­ing in­juries.

The Dol­phins have lacked ex­pe­ri­ence at line­backer be­hind first-year starters Jerome Baker and Raek­won McMil­lian.

And now, they will at­tempt to make a push for a play­off spot in the fi­nal four games with­out their best player, cor­ner­back Xavien Howard, out in­def­i­nitely with a left knee in­jury. Howard leads the NFL with seven in­ter­cep­tions.

“Who­ever is out on the field has to get some stops,” Burke said when asked about de­fend­ing Tom Brady and the Patriots with­out Howard. “I try not to spend too much time ex­am­in­ing my feel­ings. I could prob­a­bly do a lot of ‘woe is me’ from the whole sea­son. It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. We’ll play with the guys that are ready to play.” A knee in­jury will keep Dol­phins cor­ner­back Xavien Howard out this week for the first time since the 2016 sea­son.

JOEL AUERBACH/AP

MARK BROWN/GETTY

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