AFC East: Dolphins-Rams
Miami Dolphins left guard Justin Smiley told reporters after Sunday's 16-12 victory over the St. Louis Rams he suffered a broken leg and a mangled ankle when he was injured in the first quarter. He's done for the year.
Smiley was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season even though he was overshadowed in the fan voting by the likes of perennial All Pro Alan Faneca, Chris Kemoeatu and Logan Mankins.
Smiley has allowed only one sack all year.
He was the Dolphins' top free-agent acquisition. They signed him as soon as the free-agency period opened to a five-year contract worth $25 million, including $9 million in guarantees.
The Dolphins essentially had been injury-free for two months before losing top receiver Greg Camarillo to a season-ending knee injury last week.
Pretty it wasn't.
The Dolphins will enter December two games above .500 and remain in the wild-card hunt. They will play the gagging Buffalo Bills next Sunday in Toronto.
The Dolphins intercepted Marc Bulger three times and gained 327 net yards, spreading the ball around to running backs Ronnie Brown (48 yards) and Ricky Williams (54 yards). Brown scored the game's lone touchdown in the second quarter, capping a 91-yard drive.
Chad Pennington completed only 13 of 26 passes for 133 yards.
It was enough. The Dolphins are 7-5 and very much alive in the playoff race.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Nobody can deny the Miami Dolphins' awesome improvement from last year, when they were the laughingstock of the NFL.
Here we are, heading into Week 13, and the Dolphins have a winning record. Their turnaround has been so dramatic, they played in a game last Sunday that could have put them in a tie for first place in the AFC East.
But by the sound of the message Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has imparted to his players, success or failure will be judged internally by what transpires over the final few games of the season.
"We talked about it last week before [losing 48-28 at home to the New England Patriots], that, in fact, we had six games left and that we really needed to approach that at this particular time like it was a new season," Sparano said.
"Usually, when you get to Thanksgiving, there are going to be some teams that have a chance, and there are going to be some teams that have no chance right now. That's kind of the magic date, somewhere in this Thanksgiving time, where you're looking and it's pretty clear to see who has a chance and who doesn't have a chance."
The Dolphins have a chance to make the playoffs, but it won't be simple. They're almost certainly playing for a wild-card berth at 6-5, two victories behind the first-place New York Jets and one victory behind the Patriots. The Buffalo Bills are also 6-5.
Here is the Dolphins' remaining schedule:
- Sunday, at St. Louis Rams (2-9)
- Dec. 7, vs. Buffalo Bills (6-5) in Toronto
- Dec. 14, vs. San Francisco 49ers (3-8)
- Dec. 21, at Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)
- Dec. 28, at New York Jets (8-3)
"Now you've got to turn this thing into really a new season," Sparano reiterated. "The reason I say 'new season' is some people will come out right now, and they'll be playing their best football.
"You look at what Tennessee did yesterday [defeating the Detroit Lions 47-10]. They come out, they're playing good football, they make no bones about it and they just kind of take it to them. Look at what Dallas did yesterday [defeating the Seattle Seahawks 34-9]. Those teams, the Giants, they're playing good football right now. They come out right now at this time of year and continue to play good football.
"We need to be one of those teams. We can't be one of those teams that kind of plays good football, or sometimes plays good football. If this is a new season, we have to be consistent and go over the next five weeks."