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There is no use spending a lot of time re-evaluating what happened in Buffalo. It was a disaster in every way imaginable. But the Dolphins can’t let it define their season and they certainly can’t let it linger. Not with the Jets next in line and not with so much still at stake.
As bad as things were in Buffalo, it was only one game, one lousy performance. It can’t wipe away what happened during that three-game December run and it shouldn’t have an effect on what happens from here on out. This is a league of second chances, where every week is an entirely different script, and the Dolphins are now facing one final second chance. In truth, their last chance.
The challenge now is clear and simple: Beat the Jets. That’s what the Dolphins can control. Nothing else, at this late juncture, is important. You don’t beat the Jets and then it doesn’t matter what Baltimore or San Diego does. You don’t beat the Jets and you finish 8-8 and then all those feel good stories just don’t feel so good anymore.
Joe Philbin has shown an ability all season long to re-focus and re-energize his players. He did it through controversy and he did it through defeat. Now he must do it one more time. Forget about Buffalo. That’s yesterday’s news. This team still has a real chance to make the playoffs, a good chance, a likely chance. I expect to see a real sense of urgency, both in the next few practice days and in the way the Dolphins play this game.
Until all of that unfolds, some random thoughts:
• The Dolphins have to do a better job picking up the blitz. The Bills had far too much success coming from the corner and you know the Jets will follow a similar plan on Sunday.
• As much as the Dolphins failed to step up in just about every area, the biggest difference against the Bills was that Buffalo’s strength (defensive line) was the Dolphins weakness (offensive line). The Bills lead the NFL in sacks and have four defensive linemen with at least eight. I’m not trying to downplay the significance of what happened, but the Bills pose a unique and very imposing challenge to the Dolphins.
• No, don’t be overly concerned about Ryan Tannehill‘s performance against the Bills. Between the weather and the unyielding pressure, he never had a chance to develop any kind of rhythm. I fully expect Tannehill to play one of his better games against the Jets.
• Speaking of Tannehill: Are you aware that this season Tannehill has beaten Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Phillip Rivers, Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Phillip Rivers, Andy Dalton – and is 0-2 against Thad Lewis. Some things just never make sense.
• Rarely have the off season needs of this team been better defined than in the loss to the Bills.
• Even in the most frustrating of losses, veteran cornerback Brent Grimes continues to play well.
• It is alarming how the running game has disappeared in so many games this season, the latest being against Buffalo. This team isn’t good enough right now to survive without some balance on offense.
• Cornerback Nolan Carroll was one of the few real bright spots against the Bills with a sack and an interception. He is playing his best late in the season.
• The rushing defense remains a major concern. The linebackers need to play a whole lot better.
• If Brandon Fields isn’t recognized as the most consistently good punter in this league then somebody isn’t watching the tape. He had two punts of more than 60 yards against the Bills and nailed six punts inside the 20-yard line. The guy is a machine.
• I am not at all concerned about Brian Hartline because of those uncharacteristic drops against the Bills. Hartline is as close to a sure thing as this team has. He will bounce back and play well against the Jets.
• And finally, if you’re going to need a last-game victory to get into the playoffs, can you think of a more appetizing scenario than playing the Jets at home? Considering all the variables, I really like the Dolphins’ chances of playing a 17th game.
On Wednesday, AC in the AM answers fans questions.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.