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Top News: The Play Before the Play and Collaborative, Complementary Gameplans

A big Week 17 game certainly was not on the radar of Dolphins fans in late October, but as the calendar flips to January and a new year, Miami is playing meaningful football thanks to a seven-game winning streak. The run is second to the Kansas City Chiefs (eight games) for the longest active string of consecutive wins in the NFL, as the Dolphins look to keep it going this Sunday in Nashville.

First, some roster activity as the Dolphins get a handful of pieces back on Wednesday.

Roster Moves

The Miami Dolphins today announced they have activated tight end Cethan Carter, cornerback Justin Coleman, guard Robert Jones, offensive lineman *Greg Mancz *and linebacker *Duke Riley *off the reserve/COVID-19 list. The team also placed center *Spencer Pulley *on the practice squad/COVID-19 list.

Getting Home for the Holidays

Flights all over the country are being canceled during the holiday season, but the Miami pass rush isn't taking any days off. Over the seven-game winning streak, the Dolphins have tallied 32 sacks to capture the league-lead with 45 on the season.

The streak started against the Texans and continued on a Thursday night win against the Ravens. In that game, Miami set Next Gen Statistic records for blitzes from defensive backs. More recently, the Dolphins blitzed rookie quarterback Ian Book 70 percent of his first-half drop backs on Monday night, the most by any team in a single half this season.

The Dolphins have utilized a variety of rush packages that have perplexed opposing quarterbacks and paired well with lock-down coverage on the backend.

As a result, the Dolphins' 11 percent sack percentage when sending four-or-fewer rushers (non-blitzes) is tops in the NFL since Halloween (Week 9).

"I think Josh (Boyer) and our defensive staff have done a nice job of putting together gameplans and putting our guys in good position," Head Coach Brian Flores said. "You really can't rush unless you stop the run, so I think we're doing a good job on early downs trying to get that done. I think opportunities to pressure, there is a lot that's involved there. I think people just think you put your hand in the dirt and rush the passer, but oftentimes the score dictates it, the situation dictates it. If they are running the ball, then there is no pass rush. If you're down points then they are more apt to run it, so there is no pass rush."

Those early-down run stops have been a team effort, but two players have consistently proven to be immovable against the ground game. Pro Football Focus tracks a statistic called run stops, which measures tackles within two yards of the line-of-scrimmage on running plays. Christian Wilkins' 37 run stops are fifth-most among interior defensive linemen while Zach Sieler's 32 run stops rank sixth.

Complementary, Collaborative Gameplans

Those are buzz words in modern football -- everyone wants to be complementary, everyone wants to collaborate on the best way to win games.

Monday's win over the Saints had near-perfect balance (30 rushing plays, 29 drop backs), marking the first time the Dolphins called on the run more than the passing game in a contest this year. With the defense playing well, complementing that performance Monday was the clearest route to victory.

"The head coach does a good job of putting us all on the same page and understanding each side, including the special teams roles in the game," Co-Offensive Coordinator George Godsey said. "When we develop a gameplan, you don't really necessarily know how the game is going. The game may end up being one way or the other. Last week against the Jets, we're down 10-0, so our gameplan goes to when you're down 10-0 as far as calls go. We got up 10-0 in this game so that's kind of how the calls go from that standpoint. I think it's really hard to predict exactly how the game is going and how it will go. You want to have enough calls for however which way the game ends up unfolding. Fortunately for us, we maintained the lead for the whole game so we ended up playing a certain way."

What's to Come

The Titans are up next as the Dolphins go on the road for what promises to be a chilly, early January matchup. How will the Dolphins combat the cold?

"Get your thermals on, get a hoodie on and get out there," Flores said.

We'll track that and how the Dolphins are planning for Sunday's game in Friday's Top News story.

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