Dolphins coach Adam Gase after win over Patriots
Wake up, South Florida.
Your Dolphins are very much in the hunt.
You’re not dreaming.
But pinch yourself anyway, just to be sure.
Maybe dunk your head in a bucket of ice, too.
Because it is hard to believe.
This team, who couldn’t beat anyone three weeks ago, just beat the league’s best.
Beat actually is too kind of a word to what Miami did to New England on Monday night.
Embarrassed is more apt.
Final score (and we checked twice, just to be sure): Dolphins 27, Patriots 20. (It wasn’t really that close.) It was the Dolphins’ first win in four prime-time appearances this season.
And suddenly, Miami is not only just a game under .500 but just a game out of the playoffs in a jumbled AFC wild-card race.
The Bills, Chiefs, Chargers and Ravens are all 7-6.
The Raiders and now the Dolphins are 6-7.
Two, if not three, of those teams will be playing in January.
And as laughable as that would have seemed during the Dolphins’ five-game losing streak, Miami cannot be counted out.
Not after what America saw Monday night.
Not after Jay Cutler outplayed Tom Brady, completing 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Not after cornerback Xavien Howard’s coming-out party, picking off Brady twice (for his third and fourth interceptions in nine days).
Not after Jarvis Landry appeared to troll Brady and the entire Patriots organization, pumping up the football after the second of his two touchdowns. (Deflategate, anyone?)
Not after Kenyan Drake went over 100 yards for the second week in a row, accounting for 193 of Miami’s 362 yards from scrimmage.
Not after the Dolphins defense got in Brady’s head, keeping him off balance all night. (The Patriots were a ghastly 0 of 11 on third downs.)
Priority No. 1 for the Dolphins: Don’t get blown out early.
That mission was accomplished.
Adam Gase got his first lead as a head coach against Bill Belichick when Cody Parker was true on a 30-yard field goal early in the first quarter.
The Dolphins were up 6-0 midway through the second quarter when Brady finally got something going. He moved New England inside the Dolphins’ 5, and Rex Burkhead did the rest, barreling into the end zone from 3 yards out.
But Miami answered right back, with Landry giving max effort on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cutler, and the Dolphins went to the break up a field goal.
In truth, the lead should have been greater. Miami outgained New England 217-120 and controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half.
The Patriots got the ball first in the second half. The usual script for New England: Drive the length of the field, score a touchdown, take the lead and never look back.
But this was no ordinary night. Not when these teams are involved.
The Dolphins played complementary football. They forced a three-and-out, got the ball back and went and scored a touchdown. Cutler connected with Jakeem Grant on a 25-yard scoring strike.
The Patriots played catchup the rest of the way. They never could catch up.
It was a total reversal of recent history.
How so? The Patriots outscored the Dolphins by a combined 46 points in Gase’s first three cracks at New England (all Miami losses).
And even after the Dolphins drummed the Broncos in Week 13 to snap a five-game losing streak, there were no believers in the Dolphins. Oddsmakers listed Miami as 12-point underdogs, and that didn’t seem outrageous.
Maybe there will be some believers. now.
The Dolphins travel to Buffalo this weekend.
It will be cold. It will probably be snowy.
And it will be an opportunity.
If the Dolphins win then, and the two games that follow it, odds are they will make the playoffs for the second time in as many years.