Miami Dolphins

Dolphins can clinch playoff berth next weekend

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore comes off the field after defeating the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Dec. 17, 2016.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore comes off the field after defeating the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Dec. 17, 2016.

After a win Saturday and a few things breaking right for them on Sunday, the Dolphins stand just two steps from qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Dolphins can clinch a wild-card playoff berth next weekend if they win at Buffalo on Saturday and if Denver loses at Kansas City on Sunday.

The Dolphins (9-5) also can clinch a playoff berth by winning their final two games: against the Bills and home against New England.

The Dolphins ended up in that enviable predicament primarily because Denver (8-6) lost to New England, but also because Oakland beat San Diego.

That makes the Christmas Eve Bills game (1 p.m., CBS) the most important for Miami in years. And the Dolphins must hope their penchant for second-half success continues.

The Dolphins outscored the Jets 21-3 in the second half and own the NFL’s second-largest second-half point differential, behind only Denver.

Miami has outscored opponents 188-136, in the second half but has been outscored, 178-121 in the first half.

So why does this keep happening?

“It's something that we actually talked about,” Adam Gase said. “What if we actually got something going in the first quarter, how different maybe some of these games would be? A little bit has to do with our coaching staff doing a good a job of making some adjustments. Our players are coming out energized and taking advantage of anything that they saw in the first half. Our guys are in great shape and they don't let a couple of bad things early affect them.”

Does he give an inspirational Knute Rockne speech at halftime?

"Not really. That's not my style.”

Gase addressed other issues Sunday:

• On Matt Moore’s first start in five years, which included a career-high four touchdown passes: “It was pretty much what we thought it was going to be as far as we were going to get some unscheduled plays and he did a good job staying with what we talked about all week. They did do some things that surprised us a little bit. They were a little more aggressive on third down than I think we anticipated, but we took advantage of it."

• He said Kraig Urbik “did a good job” as the new starting center, replacing Anthony Steen, who replaced injured Mike Pouncey.

• On the evolution of tight end Dion Sims, who caught two touchdown passes: . He has done a really good job run blocking. He does a really good job (in) pass protection. He has really excelled in the passing game, because I think it's opportunity. He has gotten some opportunity. He hasn't been used as just a blocker.”

• On what pleases him the most about Saturday’s win: "The fact that our guys stay with our process. Once again, somebody goes down, everybody rallies around them, and they step up their game.

“You have a guy [Moore] that comes in that hasn't played in five years - hadn't started in five years – and a guy like Jarvis (Landry) taking a 5-yard pass and going 66 yards for a touchdown. Special teams stepping up, blocking a punt and scoring a touchdown; defense finding multiple ways to get turnovers… (There were) just guys stepping up all over the place. You don't hear our guys putting our head down and being upset if a guy goes down. It's that rallying cry of next-man-up, and guys have embraced it."

• On defensive end Cameron Wake, who now has 10.5 sacks: “I almost feel like he has got like 30 sacks, because I feel like I see him doing his sack dance like five times a game. The guy is unbelievable. He finds a way to make huge plays at the most critical situations of the game.”

Wake has nine forced fumbles since the start of last season, most in the NFL. That’s amazing considering he has missed nine games since the start of last season because of last October’s Achilles injury.


Cornerback Byron Maxwell, who played only eight snaps Saturday before leaving for good with an ankle injury, said he was awaiting MRI results Sunday and it’s “way too early to tell” if he can play Saturday at Buffalo.

“It’s a little tender, but I’m able to walk on it,” he said.

• Moore said Sunday that he was confident heading into Saturday’s game, but that if he hadn’t been, “I would probably fake it.”

• To try to boost the running game, the Dolphins used a sixth offensive lineman (Sam Young) on 14 of 48 offensive snaps on Saturday. They also played a lot of two tight-end sets, with Dion Sims logging 45 snaps and MarQueis Gray playing 27.

But the Dolphins had just 67 yards rushing on 27 attempts -- 2.5 per carry.