How much fun are the 2018 Miami Dolphins having?
They have fun nicknames like “NASCAR on Grass,” according to Jakeem Grant.
They high-five each other on the way to a game-sealing touchdown.
And most importantly, they seemingly always have a chance, no matter the score.
But if Sunday’s adrenaline-pinching 28-20 victory over the Raiders does not convince you that this year is different, perhaps nothing will.
So forget everything you have been trained to think about this franchise.
And allow yourself belief in the impossible:
The Dolphins head to New England next weekend with a chance to take a commanding lead in the AFC East.
Yes, the same Dolphins that team every major sports book and power ranking thought would be lucky to win five games.
By having a healthy, dependable quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.
And having the probably the fastest collection of wide receivers in franchise history.
They’re so fast, in fact, that Albert Wilson and Grant had time to slap hands and celebrate as Wilson pulled away from the Raiders, literally and figuratively, in the game’s late moments. The score — which came off a shovel pass from Tannehill — went for 74 yards, and salted away the Dolphins’ third victory in as many games.
“Me and Albert running side-by-side, it just shows we care about each other,” Grant said. “Celebrating each other’s touchdown, showing you that it’s a brotherhood outside of this facility. It was just a joy.”
Grant insisted he could see the life drain from the faces of Oakland’s defenders as Wilson sprinted to the end zone.
Wilson, meanwhile, was unable to say the same.
“They got behind me so quick, I didn’t really see their faces.”
Yes, the cocky Dolphins are back. Deservedly so. They rallied from a double-digit deficit to win for the 16th time in one-score games (against just five losses) in Gase’s three seasons as head coach.
But this might have been the guttiest (and gutsiest) one yet. It wasn’t a win so much as survival.
The Dolphins finished the game without five key defensive players — including Andre Branch (injured), William Hayes (injured) and Akeem Spence (ejected) on the defensive line — were out-gained by some 60 yards and controlled the ball for less than 22 minutes.
But they also had big plays.
They had the late Wilson touchdown catch.
They had the perfect 34-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Kenny Stills.
They had not one, but two interceptions by Xavien Howard.
And they perfectly executed a trick play at the perfect time.
With the Dolphins down a field goal midway through the fourth quarter, Adam Gase knew the Dolphins would not win the game by running the ball (Miami’s running backs averaged just 1.4 yards per carry Sunday).
And yet, he called in a handoff to Frank Gore. But everything that followed was a surprise.
Gore ran left, then pitched the ball to Wilson, who was reversing the field and running right. Then Wilson gathered himself and threw to a wide-open Grant, who ran the rest of the way for the go-ahead touchdown. The play traveled 52 yards, and so surprised the Raiders, Grant had just one man to beat en route to the end zone.
How about Miami Nice?
“Every practice we had, me and Albert were practicing and you know it was just like that chemistry,” Grant said. “I knew that it was going to be a touchdown and all he told me was, “Make sure you score and if you get tackled by one man in the open field, you owe me $100.” And now he owes me $100 for scoring because that’s what we do.”
Wilson, of course, finished the game with a perfect passer rating.
Tannehill’s stat line was nearly as clean. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating? 155.3.
So public service announcement: If the Patriots get up two scores next week, and you’re tempted to change the channel — Don’t. The Dolphins have the talent to get back even in heartbeat.
“You don’t want to be in that position,” Tannehill said. “But with the talent that we have and the explosiveness that we have, we just have to keep doing our job and not press, not try to do too much, everyone just execute and do your job and we’ll find a way to get in the end zone.”