Cameron Wake has about as much use for sabermetrics as he does a saber-toothed tiger.
Take, for example, a recent conversation inside the Dolphins’ locker room:
Are you a guy who looks at the stats?
“Zero chance,” the Dolphins defensive end said.
So you don’t know that you guys are No.1 in yards-per-play allowed (4.7)?
Third in total defense (304.6)?
Third in scoring (18.9)?
“Couldn’t care less.”
Wake, who leads the team with 61/2 sacks, explained:
“It’s not like [the Detroit Lions, Sunday’s Dolphins opponent] will be like, ‘Hey, you guys are going to have three points added to your score because you’re a better defense,’ or ‘We’re not going to run the ball,’” Wake said. “It doesn’t matter. They don’t care because I don’t care.”
Wake is an egg-before-the-chicken kind of guy. Playing well begets good stats, not the other way around.
“I need to know what this tight end is going to do, and whup his behind,” Wake said. “And after the season, if I continue to whup behind, whup behind, whup behind, whup behind, then I’ll look back and go, ‘Huh, that’s a nice trail of [butt] whuppings.’”
Make no mistake: The Dolphins are whupping some behind this year.
They’re second in passing yards allowed (201.1 per game). Second in takeaways (18). Fourth in passing touchdowns surrendered (12). And fifth in sacks (25).
And even their run defense, which has struggled in recent years, is playing well. The Dolphins rank in the top half of the league in every major rush defense category.
Of course, when you shut out the San Diego Chargers, as the Dolphins did last Sunday, it certainly helps the stats. They crushed San Diego up front. They crushed the Chargers on the back end. They crushed them everywhere.
“We have been itching to get a complementary game,” Wake said. “We’ve had games where the offense has kind of not showed up well. Or where we maybe didn’t show up and the offense went out there and did what they were supposed to do.
“I think Sunday was hand-wash-hand, as grandma would tell me.”
All of this is a very, very long way of saying the Dolphins (5-3) are playing at a high level. And they need that to continue for the rest of the season. The task gets no easier Sunday in Detroit, whose defense might be even better than the Dolphins.
The Lions lead the league in yards allowed (290.4) and scoring defense (15.8). And they’re second in yards-per-play surrendered (4.8).
Detroit leads the NFC North at 6-2 but still has an army of doubters. It’s hard to blame the skeptics. For one, the Lions have beaten exactly one team with a winning record: the Packers, in Week 3. They needed to overcome a 21-point second-half deficit to beat the hapless Falcons last time out.
Plus, they have a history of late-season collapses. The Lions are 11-29 in the second half of the season since quarterback Matthew Stafford entered the league in 2009.
And yet, there’s plenty of reasons to doubt the Dolphins, too — even with their 5-3 start. Miami is looking for its first four-game winning streak since 2008.
“I don’t really compare it to last year,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “I don’t think back that far really. I just think about this team and the fire that this team has to go out and win, to play well. You see our defense going out, playing really well. They have been for a string of weeks now and the offense finally came around, was clicking all Sunday.
“We want to go out and play complete games, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
▪ Guard Daryn Colledge will miss his second game in a row with a back injury. He was downgraded from doubtful to out Saturday. Dallas Thomas will presumably start in his place.