MIAMI – – Two months ago, not even the most optimistic would have thought that the Dolphins would still be alive in search of a ticket to qualify for the postseason.
Miami had just lost its seventh straight game, they called for the heads of general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores, and rumors of the potential trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson were ringing louder.
Today, only crickets are heard.
In the face of chaos, fans want immediate answers, but as usual triumphs are the best remedy to appease criticism.
The Dolphins’ positive streak has been so unusual that on Monday they will be looking to become the first team in history to win seven games in a row after losing seven in a row previously.
What has caused this revival of the Dolphins?
There have been several factors, and without a doubt the benevolent calendar has to be one of the most important.
During their positive streak, they have beaten the Jets twice, the Panthers, the Giants and the Texans, with the Ravens being the only rival with a positive record they have beaten in the last six meetings.
But a team can only beat the rivals it has on the schedule.
And Miami has done exactly that, thanks to some phenomenal work from its defense in recent games.
After a great season last year, the Dolphins defense was an utter disappointment in the first eight games.
However, after employing a very aggressive game plan against the Ravens, when they practically showed Cover 0 throughout the game to Baltimore, and sent heavy loads to Lamar Jackson, there was a turning point.
From the ninth to the fifteenth games, the Dolphins defense is ranked first in sacks, second in the red zone, total yards and opponent’s passer rating, third in points allowed, fourth in third attempts and sixth in forced losses. .
In other words, despite the favorable schedule, they have been an elite defense in the last few games, and the results are in sight.
At the same time, the return of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after his rib injury has made all the difference in the world.
Despite all the rumors that have swirled around it, Tagovailao has shown good progress.
We always knew the Dolphins quarterback’s calling card was his accuracy, but among all starting quarterbacks, Tagovailoa has the highest percentage of passes completed in the entire NFL.
I’d definitely like him to be more vertical, but his 7.1 passing passing average isn’t as low as one would have thought.
The offensive line has taken a quality leap since Liam Eichenberg moved to tackle and Austin Jackson moved to guard, but they are also helped by the fact that Tagovailoa ditches the ball very quickly.
At the same time, the running game can be said to be heading in the right direction, and they look more explosive with the additions of Duke Johnson and Phillip Lindsay.
The chemistry between Tagovailoa and rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who would return Monday after being on the COVID-19 list, looks increasingly oily.
The rookie class has been really strong, with Jaylen Phillips flourishing before our eyes, Waddle and his franchise-record pace and safety Jevon Holland, who I genuinely think can be a star in this league.
Now, they have the hardest part of the schedule, and given the sheer number of teams in the fight in the AFC, common sense tells us that the Dolphins have no margin for error.
They must win their last three games against the Saints, Titans and Patriots to think about making the postseason.
And the first stop might be the most difficult, considering that the Saints defense came from shutting out the Buccaneers and fighting for their playoff spot, that Alvin Kamara is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and that the Dolphins have had problems with primetime games in recent years.
But just having this opportunity shows that the Dolphins still trust their coach Brian Flores.
The defense has been the spearhead, with Xavien Howard as the main banner, although while Tagovailoa has yet to clean up some silly mistakes, the progress is undeniable and the offense has played well in important moments.
The unlikely recovery of the Dolphins is still alive, and while the odds are not in their favor, this team has already shown that it turns a deaf ear to traditional numbers.
“The less respect they give us, the more we motivate ourselves,” offensive lineman Robert Hunt concluded.