It has been seven games since the Dolphins opened their season with a comeback victory over New England.
Seven weeks later and Bill Lazor’s offense is still starting off games slowly.
Seven weeks later and coach Joe Philbin is still preaching consistency as the key to success.
“In the locker room in Chicago, I said, ‘It’s time for us to get on a roll. We have to start stringing some things together and start playing the way we are capable of as a team for 60 minutes week-in and week-out,’” Philbin said.
“That’s really the measure of excellent football teams in this league, the ones that can do it on a consistent basis. It’s important, and it’s important that we continue that trend this Sunday against a good San Diego team.”
To its credit, Miami and its erratic offense have now strung together two wins in a row for the first time since last December. But the problem is that the Dolphins’ next four opponents look nothing like the imploding Chicago team they faced last weekend or the charitable Jacksonville team from Sunday.
No, Miami's next four opponents are San Diego, Detroit, Buffalo and Denver.
Together, the four teams have a combined record of 22-9; they all sit either first or second in their respective divisions; and their leaders include guys named Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning.
So as the Dolphins approach the critical halfway point in the season — and facing an important home game against San Diego — the goal remains the same.
It’s the quest that gets harder — finding consistency.
“We just have to improve, we have to keep the focus on ourselves,” Philbin said. “There’s things we did well in the game [Sunday], believe it or not, we’ll look at those, there are things we will have to correct from [Sunday]. But the real theme is improving.”
As for this coming Sunday, the upside to facing Rivers and the Chargers is that Miami’s defense appears up to the challenge, even if the offense is still inconsistent.
Rivers owns the third-best passer rating in the league behind Manning and Aaron Rodgers, and has 20 touchdown passes so far this season.
But the Dolphins defense proved against Green Bay that it has the talent to go toe-to-toe with elite quarterbacks, especially when it’s not overtaxed at the end of games. The win at Jacksonville boosted Miami to sixth in the league in total defense.
“I think we’ve got a corps of players that can step up and make plays and it starts with the guys up front, followed by the linebackers and the guys in the back end and proving that they can make plays and impact games,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “I feel real good about that.
“The challenges, they get bigger each and every week and the games become more important as we get here in the middle of the season and beyond. But I’m confident that there is nobody that we face that we don’t feel we can go out and if we execute, we’ll have an opportunity to win.”
After Brent Grimes and Louis Delmas each had a pick-6 against Jacksonville, Coyle said Miami had incorporated a new interception return drill this season.
“We’ve made a conscious effort of doing probably more this year than we have in terms of specifically interception returns,” Coyle said Monday. “I’d like to say that it was great blocking that set up these returns, but it really wasn’t, these two particular ones were guys catching the ball in space … they weren’t as difficult as some might be.”
▪ Guard Daryn Colledge was sidelined with a migraine during the Jacksonville game after just 10 disastrous snaps in which the starting lineman gave up two sacks.
Philbin gave up little information about Colledge's status, but implied Monday that he didn't know of Colledge's migraine issue before the game.
“We started the guys we thought gave us the best chance to win the game,” Philbin said. “We’ll see how [Colledge] is when we get back to work.”
Colledge has started at left guard in all of Miami's games this season. Nate Garner and Dallas Thomas replaced him Sunday.
▪ After starting against Chicago in Week 7, linebacker Koa Misi (ankle) missed his fourth game this season after sitting out practice Friday before the Jacksonville game. When asked whether Misi’s ankle issue might be a season-long hindrance, Philbin said, “We’ll have to see.”