At 5-6, Miami has some control of its own destiny thanks to the December schedule, which features two games against the division rival New York Jets, one each against the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills in the AFC East and one against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The Steelers and the Jets also are 5-6, so in essence what lies ahead already is playoff football beginning this Sunday at the Jets.
“There’s a lot of football left to be played,” said Head Coach Joe Philbin in his day-after press conference today. “We have a division game against our rival on the road that’s a very, very important game. There are a lot of teams kind of in a cluster and December usually is the time of year where teams separate themselves from one another and our real focus is on correcting some of the things we need to do better and playing as well as we can against the Jets.”
With the exception of the Monday night loss to the New Orleans Saints on the road at the end of September, just about every game the Dolphins have played in has come down to the fourth quarter. Some of those games they have pulled out, like the 20-16 victory over San Diego on November 17th and the 22-20 overtime win against Cincinnati on Halloween night.
On the flip side, the 22-19 loss at Tampa Bay on November 11th, the 23-21 loss to the Bills on October 20th and the 26-23 loss to Baltimore on October 6th followed the same script as yesterday’s loss to Carolina. It’s difficult to pinpoint what is happening right in the wins compared to what is going wrong in the losses, but the fact remains these last five games are going to require a strong effort in all three phases.
“There really is no difference, we’re just fighting and that’s what every team in the NFL does,” wide receiver
Miami is 4-5 in games that were still in the balance in the fourth quarter and Philbin knows how important it is to find a way to close out teams in the end when his team has a lead. It’s in those instances when a play here or a play there can make a difference.
To that end, as frustrating as yesterday’s defeat was to the players and the coaches considering how close the Dolphins came to putting an end to Carolina’s six-game winning streak, they are confident in their capabilities. This is a team that started out the season 3-0 with two big wins on the road and is looking to recapture some of that mojo.
“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for New Orleans when we handed them the ball four times, or they took it away. I’m not taking anything away from them,” Philbin said. “Other than that we’ve had our opportunities and I think the timing was right for us to win that game. But again, I’m going to give them credit. They deserved to win the game. They made more plays at the end and certainly deserved it. … It’s tough to win every four-point game, every three-point game or every two-point game you’re in. It’s hard but it’s not an excuse, we have to do better.”