Sunday, December 1, 2013
The Dolphins survive and advance
By James Walker
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The playoffs are now for the Miami Dolphins. There are no excuses and there's no margin for error.
Fortunately for the Dolphins, they put together their most complete game of the season in a 23-3 victory over the AFC East rival New York Jets.
"It's Dec. 1 and you have to play your best football here in December," coach Joe Philbin said.
Miami (6-6) got back to .500 and advanced in its pseudo first-round matchup with a crucial road win at MetLife Stadium. This kind of performance came at the right time for Miami, which remains in the thick of the wild-card hunt in the AFC with four games remaining.
"We told the guys [Saturday] in the meeting that it's Dec. 1 and you have to play your best football here in December," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. "We talked earlier in the week about making this a one-game season, focusing on the game at hand, and all the other stuff will take care of itself."
Miami certainly took care of business -- at least for one week. But the inconsistent Dolphins had the look Sunday of a team capable of stringing together some wins down the stretch.
Miami didn't allow a touchdown on defense for the first time this season and played aggressively on offense. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for a season-high 331 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He had a 94.2 passer rating and got help from the defense, which forced the Jets to bench struggling starting quarterback Geno Smith at halftime.
The Dolphins clearly played this game with a sense of urgency, while the Jets (5-7) have their slim playoff hopes on life support. It was a win-win for the Dolphins. The teams will meet again in the regular-season finale in Miami.
"Everybody felt like their backs were against the wall," Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "We know what type of team we are. We just have to keep fighting."
The pressure remains on the Dolphins to keep winning. They do not hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Baltimore Ravens (6-6), who are ahead of Miami for the sixth seed. There are several other teams in the AFC mix, as well.
Next week is another must-win game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7). The Dolphins cannot afford to lose another head-to-head tiebreaker against a playoff hopeful if they want to stay alive in the wild-card chase.
"We have to win if we want to be relevant as a team," offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. "We will continue to work. But when we have balance, we're pretty good."