The past week? Not great for the Miami Dolphins.
It began with a tough loss — which left the defense disappointed because it didn’t finish, left the offense disappointed because it scored only once, and left the coach disappointed because he didn’t like his own play-calling.
This doesn’t even get into the fact the Dolphins were privately upset the officials blew three calls, including a holding (more like tackling) of Cameron Wake on Seattle’s winning drive.
The Dolphins took that L to start the week … then things got really tough:
Starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.
Starting center Mike Pouncey, nursing a hip fracture, failed to get back on the field and might not be back for two more games after this one.
And as the culmination to that seven days of troubled tidings the Dolphins play the Patriots on Sunday. In New England.
This, by the way, is a tough assignment. It’s a tough assignment like reaching the moon riding a bicycle is a tough assignment.
The Patriots are 13-1 in home openers at Gillette Stadium since its debut in 2002. The Dolphins haven’t won at Gillette since 2008. And, really, the only reason the Dolphins won that ’08 game is because quarterback Tom Brady was not playing and that long-ago Miami coaching staff unveiled a direct-snap-to-a-running-back offense called “Wildcat.”
Even evil genius Bill Belichick was not ready for that one.
All this suggests the only way the Dolphins, who are reeling in some respects, can beat the Patriots is by having some surprising antidote to Belichick’s coaching while overcoming significant injuries and New England’s gargantuan home-field advantage.
So why do I feel like the Dolphins are going to win?
Call it a hunch.
Call it a belief in the law of averages (because Miami has to win again and New England has to lose at Gillette at some point).
Or call it a strong desire to cover a winning locker room.
But I see this as a winnable game for the Dolphins.
When I look at this game I see the Dolphins facing a team that doesn’t have Brady, and forgive me if I’m not ready to anoint Jimmy Garoppolo the NFL’s next great quarterback. I see a New England team with a suspect offensive line. I see a game played in favorable weather.
And I see New England tight end Rob Gronkowski on that team’s injury report.
All those factors give the Dolphins their best chance of beating the Patriots until next season. Why?
The Patriots will be better the next time they play Miami in January. Brady will be their quarterback again. And Belichick’s coaching — which annually gets New England better as the season wears on and the playoffs get closer — will have kicked in by the next time the teams play.
So this is it, folks.
But it’s not going to happen unless the Dolphins, who surprised some people last week by merely competing against Seattle, can actually do better than simply stay close. This week they have to play winning football.
That means Gase himself has to make a leap in his own proverbial game on Sunday.
Because Gase is the Dolphins’ offensive play-caller. He takes pride in having the right plays at his fingertips and being able to dial those up at precisely the right time by anticipating what the defense is about to show his offense.
When Gase is on his game, he can anticipate what the defense is about to do with such precision it’s as if he’s in the opposing defensive coordinator’s head. But last week, Gase was not on his game.
“I think a lot of it has to do with it being one of those games where it seemed like I was one play off on some of those calls,” Gase admitted. “[Seattle defensive coordinator] Kris [Richard] did a great job as far as mixing up some of his calls and coming up with some new blitz schemes that caught us a couple of times.
“As a guy calling the plays, I’ve got to do a better job of putting our guys in position to where [the quarterback] at least has an opportunity to get the ball to an open receiver.”
Gase had about a dozen calls where he anticipated big plays based on what he thought the Seahawks would do. He hit on only one of those guesses.
That correct call turned into a 50-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to running back Arian Foster. But it was only one play. The Dolphins need more than one lucky strike against the Patriots.
They also need a complete game from the defense.
Sure, Miami fans feel good about their defense based on last week’s performance. But that performance included giving up scoring drives in the final two minutes before the half and the end of the game. Those scoring drives ultimately sealed Seattle’s victory.
“Not finishing is disappointing,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “… If you make one play, in both two minutes — before the half and at the end of the game — you win the ballgame. We’re happy with the effort, but disappointed in how we finished both halves.”
It should be noted the Dolphins didn’t have Mario Williams at the end of the game against Seattle because he sustained a concussion. But he has apparently recovered and is expected to play, which is important for a Miami team needing to generate a pass rush to win.
Hey, that’s a shred of good news for the Dolphins.
They’re definitely beating the Patriots on Sunday.