Armando Salguero

Why Gase goes one game at a time and what Dolphins did when Jay Ajayi was held in check

Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams scores against the San Diego Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game in San Diego, Sun., Nov. 13, 2016.
Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams scores against the San Diego Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game in San Diego, Sun., Nov. 13, 2016. AP

SAN DIEGO -- Adam Gase is managing a team that is young and still very new to winning. And so when he was asked late Sunday afternoon what he thinks of his team being 5-4, following the exciting 31-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers, the coach pretty much waved that off.

“We’ll be 0-0 on Wednesday,” he said. “So we’ll worry about winning one more game.”

And I’m a jerk sometimes. It’s not genetic, or anything. It’s just that when I get too much bad press box food in me, it just doesn’t sit well with me.

So I asked Gase if he’s 0-0 on Wednesday, after winning the past four games in a row, does he not believe in momentum?

“I mean,” Gase said, ‘We’re going to worry about winning the next one when Wednesday comes.”

And that was Adam Gase tearing a page from Nick Saban’s coaching playbook. It was classic Saban. It was a coach wanting to make sure his team -- which is still learning how to win -- does not look past the next assignment. And the next assignment is always going to be winning the next game.

The next assignment ...

Is not analyzing how far they’ve come from 1-4 on Oct. 9. Is not feeling good about the rally against the Chargers. Is not about looking forward to big AFC East games the final three weeks of the season.

Gase is keeping the focus small, as they call it.

It’s the only way, he believes.

And I’m fine with that. If that’s what it takes, cool. If that’s the recipe, go with it ...

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We all knew there would be a game the Dolphins would have to win when Jay Ajayi did not lead the team offensively.

That game came Sunday.

Ajayi, who had two 200-yard games and a 100-yard game the past three outings, was held to only 79 yards on 19 carries. And no, that’s not as many carries as the Dolphins might want for Ajay. He’s been closer to 23-25 lately. And five extra carries might have gotten him to 100 yards.

But that’s not what’s important.

What’s important is that in the absence of a mega-contribution from Ajayi, the Dolphins found other ways to produce.

DeVante Parker came out of nowhere this game. He had five catches for 103 yards. This from a player who had five catches for 28 yards the previous two games combined.

“We had a good week of practice with DeVante,” Gase said.

“By far this was his best week of practice,” Ryan Tannehill said.

“We kind of came to this game and thought he could be a big impact for us,” Gase said. “Those three guys together, we’ve been talking about it [with them] since the beginning, ‘When you three are healthy, we’re going to be a tough group to stop.’ Today was a good first step for us.”

Good first step made easier by the fact Tannehill did very good work. The 39-yard touchdown to Kenny Stills? Beautiful pass. The 53-yarder to Parker on the 9-route? In stride and perfect.

“We ran a naked fake, came around the edge, Kenyan (Drake) ran a little double move and the safety turned to run with (Stills),” Tannehill said of the Stills TD pass. “I saw Kenny getting some speed on him and I put my foot in the ground, let it go and trusted that he was going to run into it.”

By the way, it helped the defensive back played the ball poorly but that’s what happens when the quarterback throws up a threat deep.

Tannehill said he recognized this might be a game where he might have to be more than a game-manager.

“Yeah, we knew they had a tough run defense coming in,” he said. “Coming in we compared them to the Bills and the Jets up front. They’re physical up front. They do a good job shedding blocks and just making it tough in the run game. We knew we were going to try to establish the run and try to stick with it like the past two games.

“There were times where we were trying to get going and eventually we hit the big one in there in the second half with Jay ... We just kind of stuck with it. And I think that opened up some thing in the pass game for us and we were able to execute them.”

Back to Parker a second. Because he seems to be feeling better from that nagging hamstring injury, he ran harder in practice last week. And that led to things ...

“He got open in practice,” Tannehill said. “That built my confidence in him. I think it built a confidence among the coaching staff in him that he’s ready to go. He has the talent. We’ve seen him flash it at times. He’s just scratching the surface still.”

Remember that Parker had a very good day. It would have been a monster day if the 41-yard catch from Tannehill in the fourth quarter had not been called back because of a holding call on Ja’Wuan James.

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I think it is fair to say Cameron Wake is back 100 percent from the torn Achilles’ injury that prematurely ended his 2015 season.

He had two sacks against the Chargers. You’ll recall he had two sacks against the Jets last week. And 1 1/2 sacks against Buffalo before that. The guy is on fire since he got his starting defensive end job back.

He has 5 1/2 sacks since going back to the starting lineup three games ago. He had 1 1/2 sacks in the other six games he wasn’t starting. By the way, Wake has nine of his 15 tackles this season in the past three games.

Yes, starting agrees with Wake.

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You’re going to say it is too early. But here we are in the middle of November and the Dolphins are relevant.

But relevant is a relative term. So let’s define relevant:

As you know six teams qualify for the playoffs in each conference. The Dolphins sit at No. 7 in the AFC.

They are ahead of Tennesee, who beat them. They are ahead of Pittsburgh, Indy, Buffalo and Cincinnati.

The six teams currently qualifying for a playoff berth are New England, Kansas City, Houston, Baltimore, Oakland and Denver.

Yes, there’s a lot of season left. But so far, the Dolphins matter.

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