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If ever a team needed to return to the football field, to put this past week behind them and to turn their thoughts away from the controversy that has gripped this franchise, it is the Miami Dolphins.
Tonight against Tampa Bay couldn’t have come soon enough. Instead of answering questions about locker room loyalty, about teammates that are no longer here, about the rumors and accusations, the Dolphins can – deep breath, please — resume doing what they do best.
I truthfully can’t remember the last time the Dolphins needed this badly to play a football game. While it is probably too much to ask them to put all of the events of the past week behind them, just to be able to focus on blocking and tackling, on forcing turnovers and creating big plays, has to be a tremendous source of relief for these players.
Imagine then what a victory would mean. Sure, they are playing a winless team in the Bucs (0-8) and I am told over and over that those are the most dangerous teams to play. But tonight’s game isn’t about the Bucs nearly as much as it is about the Dolphins. They play well and they win. It’s really as simple and as complicated as that.
Despite everything that has gone on, despite an offensive line severely depleted by the loss of two of its starters, the Dolphins have a chance to return home early Tuesday morning with a winning record and the appetizing prospect of back-to-back home games next on the schedule.
Indeed, if things break right, if what we saw against Cincinnati – seems like an eternity ago – was truly a sign of a team regaining its mojo, then it is not inconceivable to suggest that a 7-4 record by the end of November is a realistic possibility.
We’ll know a lot more after tonight. We’ll know if the fabric of this team remains solid and strong. We’ll know if these players can move on together, can rally around a head coach that has had better weeks and show the nation that a stumble doesn’t necessarily mean a fall. These are the big issues tonight.
On a smaller scale, there are X’s and O’s to consider. You know the Bucs are desperate. You know they are hungry. You know they feel better about themselves after coming so close to upsetting Seattle on the road a Sunday ago.
What the Dolphins have to do is really simple. They have to continue what they started against the Bengals. Run the ball effectively. Get a solid, mistake-free performance out of Ryan Tannehill. Create pressure from the four-man rush. Get some big plays from the secondary. Come up with game-deciding plays in the fourth quarter.
“We have a job to do,” said veteran Cameron Wake. “We’re all excited to get back on the football field.”
Certainly, the offensive line will be carefully scrutinized, specifically on the left side where Bryant McKinnie and Nate Garner reside where Jonathan Martin and Ritchie Incognito once did. I expect to see the Dolphins run the ball quite a bit to take some of the pressure off that line. I expect to see quick drops and rollouts by Tannehill. The Dolphins are well aware they need to put this offensive line in the best possible position to succeed.
“We’ll be fine,” said McKinnie. “We did some good things against Cincinnati. We’re ready to do some good things against Tampa Bay.”
Don’t for a minute think this will be an easy game. The Bucs are playing at home. They are desperate for a win. Watch the tape against the Seahawks, especially in the first half, and you can see what they are capable of under the right circumstances. There is nothing this in-state rival would like more than to get their first win against the Dolphins.
So that’s the script for tonight: Both teams need a win in the worst way, but for different reasons. For the Dolphins, it’s all about moving on, about breathing in some fresh air.
“I’m confident,” said coach Joe Philbin, “that we will play well.”
Added wide receiver Mike Wallace, “We’re all tired of talking. We’re ready to play some football.”
Those words have never been so true.
On Tuesday, AC in the AM analyzes what happened against Tampa Bay
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.