Dolphins know how to win without playing well

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24: Head coach Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins works the sidelines against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at New Era Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24: Head coach Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins works the sidelines against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at New Era Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) /

A good way to distinguish a good team from a bad one is to see how they respond when not playing particularly well. Dating back to the middle of last season, the Dolphins have become a good team.

The Miami Dolphins made the playoffs in 2016, but to many outside of the organization it was more of a matter of luck rather than talent. I’m not sure how winning 9 of 10 at the professional level qualifies as luck, but they’re entitled to their opinion. Those same people would probably argue that the Dolphins win last week at Los Angeles was also luck. I call it a team that had everything stacked against them finding a way to crawl out with a victory.

As Dolphins fans, we know that every game is excruciating. No matter the opponent, the Dolphins always tend to play at the level of competition. Sure, it can be frustrating at times as it does include some teams that Miami should be able to handle convincingly, but instead the Dolphins allow them to make a game of it.

Although the Chargers are a much better team than people give them credit for, last week was no exception for the Dolphins faithful. Let’s keep in mind that heading into the game, Miami had almost no business winning. On top of the plethora of injuries Miami has endured this offseason, they were forced to deal with the effects of Hurricane Irma that caused them to postpone their Week 1 matchup against the Bucs.

To make matters worse, we found out just a couple hours before kickoff that free agent acquisition Lawrence Timmons would not be available because of a personal situation that occurred the night before. That announcement came as a huge blow to the Dolphins defense, particularly against the run. Mike Hull stepped in his place, however, and did his best with the opportunity by leading the team in tackles with 10.

There were definitely some areas of concern, notably on defense, but Hull’s ability to step in like that details the kind of culture that Adam Gase is building here in Miami. For years now, we’ve talked about New England’s ability to insert some random player into the lineup and make them a stud. Now, it’s time we start talking about Miami doing the same thing.

Yes, it can be argued that Miami did not play well last Sunday. I myself distinctively remember wondering how we were only down by a touchdown at halftime because we looked so out of place. Philip Rivers and the Chargers didn’t have much trouble getting the ball down the field through the air. A nice surprise, however, was how well Miami was able to shut down Melvin Gordon and the rushing attack. The Dolphins held the Chargers to just 44 yards rushing.

Being able to shut down the run is ultimately what allowed Miami to stay in the game. While San Diego’s kicker Yunghoe Koo did miss two key field goals, including the potential game-winner in the final seconds, let’s keep in mind that the Dolphins were holding the Chargers to field goal attempts instead of scoring touchdowns. The Chargers were moving the ball, but the Dolphins held them when it mattered most.

Their record from last year may not show it, but the Chargers are a good football team that could very well be 2-0 right now. Even if it is just the first game, that is a quality conference win for Miami that could be a tiebreaker scenario for the playoffs should it come to that. So while a lot of things did not go smoothly, and maybe the Dolphins got lucky with Koo just pushing the final attempt to the right, I’m taking the W and so should all of you.

How many times have the Dolphins been on the other side of these situations? In nearly every instance, we ridiculed the team for not finding a way to win. But now that they are finding ways to win the close ones, they are being ridiculed for not playing better and should consider themselves fortunate. This is where I have an issue.

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There is no debate that Miami needs to get better if they want to get back to the playoffs and compete. However, this is a week-to-week game, and although it’s not always pretty, Miami has learned how to win in crunch situations. Since Gase’s purge of the team last year when the Dolphins started 1-4, Miami since then has gone 10-3 (including playoffs). Gase cleaning house clicked with a lot of players on what he wants to build here, and made them appreciate him and the organization even more.

In many instances during those ten wins, Miami didn’t look very good. Still, they got the job done. Imagine what they could do if they could stay healthy, and improve in the areas where they tend to be lacking. They could become legit contenders. There’s no such thing as a perfect game so we shouldn’t be expecting the Dolphins to play one.

Surely, the odds have not played into the Dolphins hands since the start of training camp, but Adam Gase is not interested in any excuses. That’s because winners don’t believe in excuses, they believe in results. And a winning culture is what is being built right before our eyes.