The Miami Dolphins have lost two games in a row and put the talk of a playoff birth on the back burner. Questions about Ryan Tannehill’s continued development, the secondary becoming exposed, lack of pass rush, and lack of a running game have all been thrown around as causes for the two game slide. The fact is the Dolphins are no different of a team than they were prior to the losses.
Personnel hasn’t changed. Focus however has.
The Dolphins are a young team with a new head coach and rookie field general. Mistakes are going to be made. Perhaps the inflation of popularity was a combination of the Dolphins playing well and other teams overlooking the Dolphins as an easy game. The same can be said about the last two weeks when the Dolphins should have beaten the Colts and last weekend when they were so flat they could have ended the game at half-time.
Joe Philbin is not a rah rah style of coach but he is more enthusiastic than his predecessor. It’s highly unlikely that physically his team would be down on themselves but coaches can only do so much motivation to keep a team mentally prepped to win each Sunday. The Dolphins, these Dolphins are not a team who can consistently beat the opposition on talent alone. They need to fight every play and mentally challenge themselves to stay on course and not become complacent.
Philbin is the ultimate party responsible for that but these are adults. The team played horrible on defense against the Colts despite a solid effort offensively by the Tannehill and company. Last week, the team looked as though they were lost. On both sides of the ball. Walking off the field at half-time with their heads down and no fight in their gaze. Simply staring at the ground confused as to what had just happened.
Somewhere along the line, the Dolphins lost that focus. With a short week this week, Thursday night’s game has been pegged one of those marquee match-ups. Not because of who they are playing. Not because the game has major implications in the playoff chase. Instead, it’s about the definition of this team and their ability to come back in the face of adversity. This is a character game.
The Dolphins early in the season lost three in a row but there were no expectations to succeed. Fans were not calling for another QB and everyone was content with the fight and the “oh so close” to winning feel. Now the bar is raised and expectations are much higher. It’s no longer acceptable by the fan base to lose with a good fight. Playoffs were not something in the distance but instead a firm reality that fans could wrap their hopes around.
Two losses later and sky is beginning to fall a bit. A tough schedule on the horizon does not make it easier to swallow.
For the members of the team, it’s important to regain that “everyone against us” mentality. It’s what brings the focus back into the mindset of the players. It’s what drives players, especially young ones, back into the state of mind that they have to prove themselves on every play…not just the ones that matter the most. No more dropped TD passes, no more dropped interceptions, no more holding penalties on special teams. Three phases, sixty minutes, 100% focus.
If the team can find that, they have a shot at turning around this season.