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AC In The AM: Admiring The Toughness Of This Dolphins Team

With that last-second one point loss to the Jets still occupying our thoughts, with another trip to MetLife Stadium this Sunday to play the Giants and with only three games left to sort through it all, we offer our usual Tuesday morning dose of perspective:

• The 3-10 record just doesn't reflect the way this team has been playing. Leading in seven of the 13 games. Going 3-3 over the last six games. Showing up every Sunday with a real passion and purpose. Holding its own against more talented and more experienced teams. Indeed, regardless of how they were assembled – and it is clearly an ongoing process — this is a team of fighters, a team that is fun to watch and easy to like, yes even when the outcome doesn't reach the desired results.

• Sunday's game against the Jets was an excellent example. The Dolphins stayed close throughout and you can certainly argue they deserved a better fate. We can talk all you want about that controversial pass interference call on cornerback Nik Needham, and how the outcome might have been different, but when you have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns it is usually an ominous sign. Get seven points instead of three on any one of those seven scoring drives and the outcome is different and that pass interference penalty probably becomes a non-factor.

• In his next day press conference on Monday, Coach Brian Flores didn't want to focus on the penalty on Needham, instead pointing to the fact that his team had plenty of opportunities to win the game and could have done a better job stopping the Jets on that final drive.

• Flores did, however, discuss the anger he showed responding to the call. How his emotional response wasn't about him, but his players. How much they put into each game and each week of preparation. How badly they want to win. How important this is to them. It all fueled the fire deep inside of Flores. "Again," he said, "this isn't about me at all." Class act, don't you think?

• Meanwhile, you can point to all sorts of reasons why the Dolphins didn't finish those drives, but in-game injuries to both DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson certainly played a large role. With his jumping ability and excellent hands, Parker may be the team's most consistent red zone option. Wilson, meanwhile, is a red-zone threat, both from the backfield and lined up wide. It's hard to lose those kinds of options without feeling the effects.

• Then again, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick playing the way he has, this team always seems to have a chance. His week-to-week performance has evolved into one of the league's most inspiring storylines, a 37-year-old player leading a team of youngsters and instilling a belief and a confidence in them with both actions and words. In my humble opinion, Fitzpatrick is the MVP of this team. Has been for quite a while now.

• I watched replay after replay of Fitzpatrick running the ball against the Jets and I marveled over his instincts, his anticipation, his quickness and, yes, even his open field moves. That his 65 yards rushing against the Jets was a single game team record for a quarterback is a tribute to everything Fitzpatrick is about. Heck, I get pumped up just watching him play. Hit him hard. Hit him often. Knock him down. Doesn't matter. He just gets up and moves on to the next play. The guy is as resilient as any athlete I have covered, and that speaks plenty.

• Four days after he was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver Mac Hollins was active and playing Sunday against the Jets. Shouldn't be a surprise considering we have seen similar stories play out on this team all season long. Hollins played out of necessity with both Parker and Wilson injured and the depth chart thin to begin with. While he didn't catch a pass, he did draw a 38-yard pass interference penalty in the third quarter that led to a Sanders field goal. With both Parker and Wilson in concussion protocol and uncertain for this week, I would imagine that Hollins will play a larger role against the Giants.

• The biggest beneficiary of those injuries to Parker and Wilson was Isaiah Ford, who had the best game of his career by far with six catches for 92 yards. This is an interesting player that has certainly waited his turn over the past few seasons. It was nice to see him respond in that manner.

• Buckeye Brothers: Two former Ohio State players, linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker, combined for one of the big defensive plays of the game, stopping Jets' running back Bilal Powell on a fourth-and-one late in the third quarter deep in Dolphins' territory. First it was McMillan creating havoc at the snap, hitting Powell even before he got to the line of scrimmage. Then it was Baker, along with a few other teammates, finishing him off. Loved the scene on the sideline afterward when Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham put his arms around McMillan, clearly a well-deserved moment.

It should be noted, meanwhile, that the only kick Jason Sanders missed against the Jets – he went seven for eight – was due in part to a less-than-perfect snap from Taybor Pepper to holder Matt Haack. Sanders is on a terrific run of consistency and I haven't even mentioned yet his touchdown catch against the Eagles. He could very well win his third Special Teams Player of the Week award for Sunday's performance.

• So now with three games left, two of them on the road, the Dolphins begin preparing for the Giants, hoping foremost to relocate some of that red zone efficiency conspicuous by its absence against the Jets.

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