The Miami Dolphins will enter tonights game with a chance to move into the 7th and final seed in the playoffs. 2 months ago, fans wanted everyone fired.
Brian Flores couldn’t coach and needed to be replaced. Chris Grier solidified his place on the hot seat with poor offensive line draft picks and his love affair with Deshaun Watson. From 1-7 to 7-7 and now in control over their season, the Dolphins are winning for all the right reasons.
The offensive line is still not great but they are much better than they were six weeks ago. Tua Tagovailoa may not be impressing some in the national media but he is getting the job done and for a stretch was the most efficient quarterback in the NFL.
So what changed from then to now?
Some believe that the distraction of the Watson rumors took a toll on the focus that the team had. Since the trade deadline passed, the Dolphins, knock on wood, have not lost. Some will say that it was the move of Austin Jackson inside to guard where has played much better. The return of Michael Dieter hasn’t hurt either.
On defense, the incredible play from Jevon Holland, the leagues highest rated rookie safety, and the emerging pass rusher, rookie Jaelan Phillips has also changed the way the defense has played. It didn’t hurt that that Brian Flores met with his defense and told them they were going to change how they approached each game. That they would be more physical. Xavien Howard said the team was going to play more like they did last year.
Since then, the Dolphins defense has emerged as one of the best in the league.
Coaching changed. The players mentally changed. The distractions were gone. Players began to develop. The team began playing like, well, a team. Tua Tagovailoa was healthy after missing games due to broken ribs and a broken finger.
Everything changed that Thursday night against the Ravens. In more ways than one. The Dolphins put a blueprint out on how to beat Lamar Jackson and other NFL teams took note. The Dolphins found their confidence and haven’t looked back. Where the Dolphins were losing tight games early, they found the way to win them over the last 7 games.
Tonight, despite the 21 players on the COVID list for the Saints, will be no cakewalk. It will be a knock down Monday night and the team that loses may see their playoff chances evaporate.
For all the good that the Dolphins did to get to this point, the stress and pressure is far higher now. The games mean more because now, there is the return of expectations. Tonight, the Dolphins have to play like their playoff life is on the line because it is.
Officially, with the season now in Miami’s control, the season begins again.