The Dolphins’ nine-hour trip back from London might as well been 90.
The team was lost. The season looked that way, too.
They had just lost their third straight game, and basically the only ones on the team charter talking were those quietly discussing Joe Philbin’s very short future with the organization.
Fast forward three weeks, and many of the same fans who a month earlier cursed Philbin were chanting his replacement’s name.
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Dan Campbell might not have yet saved the season. But he’s certainly on his way.
Campbell’s Dolphins hammered their second opponent in as many weeks Sunday, crushing the overmatched Texans 44-26 to — remarkably — pull within a half-game of the Steelers for the AFC’s sixth seed.
In doing so, Campbell became the first midseason replacement coach in five decades to see his team score 82 points in his first two games.
The Dolphins will likely need every one of them in Week 8. Up next: the undefeated Patriots on Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Philbin never won at Gillette. If Campbell does, the Dolphins’ interim coach just might get his old boss’ job on a full-time basis.
“All I know is they’re playing for one another and they’re playing at a high level right now,” Campbell said, when asked to explain the turnaround. “You can just tell that they are playing for one another and that makes the biggest difference.”
This helps, too: The most efficient stretch of quarterback play in NFL history.
Ryan Tannehill broke Donovan McNabb’s record for consecutive completions Sunday. The new record is 25, a streak that began late in the Titans game and carried through his first 18 attempts against the Texans.
Here’s what also fell: the franchise’s single-game completion mark, held since 1978 by Bob Griese (92.3 percent).
Tannehill went 18 of 19 (94.7 percent) for 282 yards and four touchdowns to eclipse Griese’s record. And in the process, he added more than 11 points to his 2015 passer rating.
Tannehill, whose resurgence under Campbell matches that of his team, had no clue about his record-breaking day until the CBS television crew asked him about it afterwards.
“In my mind, it didn’t even register,” Tannehill said, adding that “it was pretty cool” to end his day in the record books.
Here’s what's even cooler for Dolphins fans: A team that is finally starting to realize its great promise.
The Dolphins (3-3) beat Houston (2-5) in most every way possible Sunday. They out-gained the Texans 503-322. They averaged 8.5 yards per play, including an absurd 7.1 on the ground.
They broke the franchise’s record for first-half points (scoring 41) and sacked Brian Hoyer four times. Lamar Miller had 236 yards from scrimmage — and didn’t even touch the ball in second half. And they beat the Texans for the first time in eight meetings.
Their drive chart from the first half was absurd:
Drive 1: Touchdown (a 53-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Rishard Matthews).
Drive 2: Punt.
Drive 3: Touchdown (a 50-yard pass from Tannehill to Jarvis Landry, who made six defenders miss en route to the end zone).
Drive 4: Touchdown (Tannehill to Landry again, this time for 10 yards).
Drive 5: Touchdown (Lamar Miller’s 54-yard catch and run).
Drive 6: Punt.
Drive 7: Touchdown (Miller raced 85 yards to the end zone, the second-longest run of his career).
Drive 8: End of half; the Texans’ hope of getting back in the game ended far earlier.
In short, this is a team that’s an ocean away from the one that flew home from the U.K.
“We have always been confident in who we are, our abilities, what we can do,” said Cameron Wake, who had two more sacks Sunday. “I think it was just a matter of time before we started putting the pieces together in the right way.”