The Dolphins as bullies was a cringe-worthy portrayal a few years ago because that involved scandal and an NFL investigation and careers being detoured or derailed. So everyone ran away from this team being a bunch of bullies then.
These Dolphins have started to act like bullies. And, boy, is it awesome to see!
A team that has been pushed around and too often pushed down for over a decade is suddenly steamrolling opponents in a physical, aggressive manner that cannot be denied.
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Or apparently stopped.
The Dolphins plowed the Buffalo Bills on Sunday en route to a 28-25 victory that marks the second consecutive win for Adam Gase’s bunch and stopped Buffalo’s win streak at four games.
And this is where I remind you the Bills are coached by Rex Ryan. You know Ryan, right? One of the first things he said when he was hired in Buffalo last year was he wanted to make the Bills the bullies of the AFC East.
This is what Ryan was saying after Sunday’s beating: “We got out-physicaled on both sides of the ball, which is rare for us, but it happened.”
“They were a more physical team today, there’s no doubt about that,” Ryan said. “They controlled the game and that’s why they won the game.”
Feels good, doesn’t it?
The Miami Dolphins, in their throwback 1966 uniforms the team wore through the 1970s heyday playing like, well, those Dolphins of yesteryear.
We were as if transported to the old, old days with a scoring drive on the first possession.
And running the football with a big back who makes some tacklers miss and makes others wish they missed.
It was also playing rip-snorting (remember, 1970s vernacular here) defense that leaves the opposition battered and bruised and not feeling so good.
These Dolphins the past two weeks have been like an apparition out of 1973.
And maybe that’s who and what they are going to be going forward. Maybe this is going to be Miami’s identity.
“I definitely think that we’re finding it right now, just establishing the run early in games and getting first downs, gaining first downs, getting the play-action going and wearing on the front that way,” an obviously satisfied quarterback Ryan Tannehill said afterward.
“Once you can do that, they can’t speed rush you on the edge quite as fast and you’re able to get things downfield. I’m excited about where we’re at right now.”
It’s exciting because this stuff isn’t the Dolphins simply stumbling upon a winning formula. This team, you will recall, has been playing physical even in defeat this season.
The loss at Seattle was disappointing. But the Seahawks are perhaps the NFL’s most physical team. And the Dolphins gave as much as they took. Maybe that’s why Russell Wilson came out of that game with an injured ankle.
And Jimmy Garoppolo came out of the New England game with an injured shoulder. And Ben Roethlisberger came out last week’s game with an injured knee.
The Dolphins, physical and playing with an attitude, are wearing folks out. Receiver Marquise Goodwin got temporarily knocked out Sunday when Isa Abdul-Quddus hit him in the second half. Safety Aaron Williams got sent to the hospital for observation of injuries to his head and neck when receiver Jarvis Landry launched a crack-back block into him in the first half.
Say whatever you wish about whether this kind of violence belongs in the game or not, but the fact is the Dolphins are playing throwback football.
The offense, revitalized by the emergence of the offensive line, is becoming a physical, downhill-running unit that doesn’t seem to care what opposing defenses do. As running back Jay Ajay authored his second-consecutive 200-yard rushing game — a historic accomplishment matched by only three other players in NFL history — the Bills desperately tried to stop the onslaught.
“We tried everything, believe me,” Ryan sobbed.
Fine, he didn’t sob. But, you know, he probably was doing a little crying on the inside.
“We were trying base defense,” he continued. “We were trying everything, putting our base defense against three-wides. We were trying a bunch of different things. We were up for suggestions, I can promise you. We were trying everything.”
Yeah, the Bills put seven men on the line of scrimmage when the Dolphins had three receivers in the game. That opened up the field for Tannehill’s 66-yard completion to Kenny Stills.
On defense the Dolphins took the Bills on as if personally challenged.
Buffalo, the NFL’s top running team, gained 313 yards on the ground against San Francisco last week. It was as if the entire 49ers defense was kneeling during the game, if you get my drift.
That same offense managed only 67 rushing yards and a paltry 3-yards-per-carry average against the Dolphins.
It happened this way because the Dolphins’ defense brought a certain mind-set to this game.
“I personally like getting in there, getting a little dirty,” Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. “I’ve always had that pit-bull mentality. You don’t bring a Chihuahua to a dog fight. That’s the mentality you’ve got to have.
“I was excited about somebody coming in here and saying that they’re going to run the ball down our throat. Yeah, not so.”
Just before Sunday’s kickoff, former Dolphins battering ram fullback Larry Csonka pulled defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh toward him on the team’s sideline. I have no idea what message Zonk delivered during those animated 30 seconds.
But Suh played this game like a defensive version of Csonka. So did Williams and Wake and Ajayi and the entire Miami offensive line.
It was bullies doing their thing.