The Miami Dolphins enter Sunday's game against one of their bitter rivals with the season on the line. A third straight loss will certainly push the Dolphins out of playoff contention and have them spiraling into another losing season. A lot has been said from Monday through Friday this week and here's the best of it.
The Dolphins had a chance to steal a rare road win at Indianapolis last week but came up short and lost 27-24. Both running backs Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake expressed their frustration towards the missed opportunity.
“It was very frustrating because we were dominating the game all of the way through until there were seven or eight minutes left in the game," Gore said. "We let it go. When you dominate the game, you have to finish the ballgame. It’s already hard to win games in this league. I thought we had that one.”
“We understand that a lot of the situations that we put ourselves in are self-inflicted," Drake said. "We have to correct that. Whether it’s physical or mental, we have to put ourselves in the best situation to be able to win the game at the end of the game, which we are doing; but we have to finish it off. That’s our main goal.”
The Bills will be trotting out rookie quarterback Josh Allen against the Dolphins defense. It is certainly a change of pace from facing Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck in previous weeks.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword," Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. "You don’t fear what you don’t know. Rookies get in there and they have no idea what they’re doing and they might throw into double coverage, and ‘who cares what the look is?’ They’re just gunslingers. They can go out there and have a tremendous day. Vice versa, obviously veterans maybe have a little bit more sense of what’s going on in the game and specifically try to attack things. Usually if you let it fly, it can be great or it could be terrible.”
As for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, he's been in the league for so long that he's largely forgotten what his rookie year was like.
“Honestly that was so long ago," Tannehill said. "I feel like I’m 90 compared to my rookie year. That was so long ago. I’ve learned so much since then."
It's Alumni Weekend in Miami and the Dolphins are honoring some of their legendary alumni during the game. Offensive tackle Jon Giesler, safety Dick Anderson, defensive end Jason Taylor, linebacker John Offerdahl and wide receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper will be honored on the Walk of Fame outside Hard Rock Stadium.
With 3.5 sacks left to go before reaching the career century mark, Wake might soon see his name on the Walk of Fame when his career is done. While he said the 100 sack milestone would be something that he would enjoy reminiscing during the offseason rather than in the moment, there was a period of reflection towards his early career beginnings as a scout team player.
“That actually meant more than anything in my football world," Wake said. "I tell a lot of young guys now, I probably wouldn’t have ever made it to the active roster had I not done the things I did on scout team. I think a lot goes obviously to the guys who play on Sunday and the guys in the bright lights but I was inactive for the first five games of my career, so I was on scout team every play, every rep. I never played on Sundays. It used to be Thursday was my Sunday. That was my game day. I’m playing against, in my mind … It was Vernon Carey at the time. That was my opponent. I have to show – not only my teammates but the coaching staff – that against a quality top-tier offensive lineman, I can make plays. At the same time, hopefully I’m making him better as well. That was what … I loved every minute of it. That, and I hope you can ask them, gave me confidence to say ‘All right, we can put this guy in the game on Sundays.’ It was the only thing that mattered to me. That was my Sunday. They hated it, of course. ‘Slow down! C’mon man! This, that … Scout team player!’ All of the adages but at the same time, I’m trying to make the team. You’ve already made it. You’ve got millions of dollars in the bank. I’m just a guy coming off the street. I took tremendous pride in getting that done.”
The Dolphins have been hit with numerous injuries in the receiving corp. Danny Amendola, the Dolphins' leading receiver, is listed as doubtful due to a knee injury. DeVante Parker is listed as questionable due to a shoulder injury. Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant are on the Injured Reserve.
Because of this, several new faces emerged recently. Leonte Carroo caught a 74 yard touchdown last week against the Colts. The Dolphins picked up six-year veteran Brice Butler after the Dallas Cowboys released him to make room for the newly acquired Amari Cooper. He started the season on the practice squad. Isaiah Ford just got signed off the practice squad and could play his first career game on Sunday. It's been a weird season for that group.
“Extremely weird," Ford said. "We know that football is a sport where anything can happen; injuries do happen and they hit every team at some point. We’re just getting hit a little harder in that position. But in our room, we preach that it’s next man up. We have a tight bond together and we have great leaders to where we don’t want any drop off whoever is in the game.”
As far as the tight ends go, AJ Derby returned from a foot injury that took him out for a month and made a catch for 13 yards against the Green Bay Packers in his first game back. However, he missed the Colts game while Nick O'Leary and rookie tight ends Durham Smythe and Mike Gesicki played.
“It was a little bit of those other three guys are probably the healthiest guys we’ve got on the team right now," Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. "(Derby is) still not 100 percent. I mean, he’s working as hard as he can to get there. We’ll see what we do this week. I like all four of those guys. Every week is a tough decision. If they’re all four healthy, that’s a tough decision. You almost want to figure out, how do I get them all up? Because they all can do something offensively. They all can do special teams stuff. There’s a lot of value in that room.”
Only the Oakland Raiders (-140) have a lower point differential than the Bills (-111) this season. Most of that was from having quite possibly one of the worst quarterbacks of all time under center while Allen was sidelined from injury. Since the 47-3 season opening debacle against the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo is 3-3 with Allen under center.
Both defenses are capable of making this game the defensive slobber knocker we saw in Miami's last home game, which was against another division rival (Jets) and rookie quarterback (Sam Darnold). The Dolphins are 4-1 at home and with 3 of their final five games at Hard Rock Stadium, they'll need to win them all in order to have a chance to make the playoffs.