As Dolphins players scattered into the night after Sunday’s once-in-a-generation flogging, their coaches were in a police convoy, headed back to work.
It was a late Sunday evening — or more likely, a very early Monday morning — at the Dolphins’ Davie training complex for Joe Philbin and his staff. They wasted no time sorting through the carnage from just hours earlier, a game in which, as offensive coordinator Mike Sherman put it, “we looked like we never practiced a day.”
No time to wallow in self-pity about the 37-3 thumping by the Titans, however. The Dolphins had more pressing matters: preparing for Thursday night’s game in Buffalo.
But here’s the rub: There’s barely any time to make things better, either.
The Dolphins next face the equally desperate Bills in perhaps their most important game of the season — safety Chris Clemons called it a “must-win” — with just one true day to prepare.
So even if coach Joe Philbin wanted to make wholesale changes after Sunday’s thrashing — say, replace Jimmy Wilson at nickel after allowing 10 of 12 passes thrown in his coverage area to be completed the past two weeks, including a touchdown — he might not have the time to do so.
Granted, the Dolphins still have an opening on their 53-man roster, created when they cut Brandon McDonald on Saturday. They can fill it with a player off their or another team’s practice squad, or a player currently unemployed. The Dolphins inquired about free agent corner Stanford Routt last week but passed on signing him.
But as of Monday evening, all was quiet on the transactions wire.
“I don’t know that anything’s out of the question,” Philbin said when asked if might make changes to players’ roles before Thursday. “We’re obviously putting together the plan for Buffalo as we speak. We’ll see as it unfolds during the course of the week.”
For the most part, the vibe Monday was that the Dolphins (4-5, and two games behind AFC East-leading New England) have the talent needed to make a playoff push. No team that allows 8 of 17 third downs to be converted, surrenders more than 170 yards on the ground and turns the ball over four times — the Dolphins did all three Sunday — can reasonably expect to win much of anything.
“The season’s not over,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “We’re not conceding anything over here.
“We’re not worried about any playoff scenarios or anything like that. All of that is irrelevant if you don’t go out there and take care of business on Thursday.”
And as Philbin proved Sunday, those who don’t take care of business will be dealt with — swiftly and harshly. When Reggie Bush fumbled on his fourth carry of the game, Philbin sat him down for the rest of the half.
When Richie Incognito slammed the head of Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy into the turf, earning a drive-killing unsportsmanlike penalty, Philbin immediately gave his starting left guard the hook.
In some locker rooms, such indignities could lead to friction. To their credit, neither Bush nor Incognito quibbled with the decision after the game, and Philbin did his best Monday to downplay any drama.
“He’s not in any doghouse that I know of,” Philbin said, when asked specifically about Bush.
Bush had not been playing particularly well to begin with, averaging less than 45 yards in the past seven games. Bush didn’t speak with reporters on Monday, but he struck an optimistic tone on Twitter, quoting the late Reggie White.
“God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight,” Bush wrote.
Philbin, meanwhile, told reporters he’s confident his team has the right makeup to bounce back.
Then there’s Sherman, who, as Hard Knocks revealed, has perhaps the most acerbic tongue in the building. But Monday, he took a different tact. Instead of berate, he aimed to inspire.
Speaking at the meeting of the entire offense, Sherman told the group that what makes football so great is that it tests not just their character as players, but as men.
“How do you handle adversity?” Sherman asked the group. “Do you point fingers? Do you accept responsibility? Do you move forward? Do you wallow in despair or feel sorry for yourself? Or do you push ahead?
“I told them I wanted all their sons to be proud of them, how they handled themselves,” Sherman added. “I’ve never felt more confident about a group of guys, being able to handle a situation, than I do with the guys in that room.”