The Miami Dolphins opened the 2014 season with a rousing home victory against the New England Patriots. It was a 33-20 beatdown of the evil empire that suggested the Dolphins could have legitimate playoff hopes the rest of the season.
Fast-forward to Monday night. And that was the Dolphins again laying wood to the Patriots. The final score was 27-20, but the game tilted in the Dolphins’ favor throughout the night, from the opening scoring drive until the end when a Michael Thomas recovery of an onside kick ended New England’s hopes.
The victory suggests the Dolphins could have legitimate playoff hopes the rest of the season.
So we’ve kind of been here before. No, really.
The Dolphins, buoyed by high hopes and confidence, this week will travel to Buffalo to play another division rival and then play Kansas City in a conference game. In 2014, the Dolphins, buoyed by high hopes and confidence, traveled to Buffalo and followed that with a game against Kansas City.
Told you we’ve been here before.
The problem is after Miami dismantled the Patriots four seasons ago, they then lost to the Bills. And followed that with a loss to the Chiefs.
So the question now is: Are these Dolphins any different?
Is Adam Gase’s team able to steer clear of obstacles that past Dolphins teams couldn’t avoid — namely soiling themselves when they should have been solidifying themselves?
Those are the stakes now. Can the Dolphins, obviously capable of playing well against a defending Super Bowl champion, continue to do that the rest of this season?
Can they be consistent? Can they stop breaking your heart like they have in the past?
Gase on Tuesday afternoon put the stakes another way.
“Really, you lose next week no one is going to really give a [bleep],” he said of his team’s win against New England.
Just like no one cared about that New England win in 2014 when what followed were consecutive losses to Buffalo and Kansas City.
So now I pose questions for you:
Do you believe these Dolphins can build on what they just accomplished? Or do you believe they are the same old Dolphins — up one week, down the next, looking like world beaters for two weeks, then laying eggs the next two or three games?
Where are you on this?
I’ll share where I am. I’m skeptical because years of covering this team has conditioned me to expect the worst. (Forgive me that my treatment for this condition is not yet complete.)
Simply, I woke up this afternoon and had some coffee. I passed on the Kool-Aid.
I celebrate and appreciate what the Dolphins did to the Patriots on Monday night. It was a great win. A job well done. But I’m not ready to lead a charge of my many, many, many, many, many, mucho, beaucoup, lots, tons, of readers over an embankment toward playoff preparations.
Because I fear there’s a machine gun nest of reality and history that mows us all down before we get there.
The truth is the Dolphins team that turned Tom Brady into a C-grade quarterback Monday night also made Ryan Fitzpatrick seem like a Pro Bowler weeks ago. (My guess is the Dolphins are going to regret that loss to a 4-9 Tampa Bay when this regular season ends).
The truth is the Dolphins followed a victory over another Super Bowl team (Atlanta) this year with five consecutive losses.
The truth is these Dolphins have seemed uninspired and undisciplined too many times this season to simply forget all that and believe the next stop for them (and us) is the postseason.
I want to see it. I would love to see it.
But they have to show me.
Then I’ll believe.
Let Jay Cutler show me, show us, that a three-touchdown performance against New England isn’t followed by a flop in Buffalo or Kansas City. Let Xavien Howard, who intercepted two Tom Brady passes Monday night, pluck a couple more while covering Kelvin Benjamin and Tyreek Hill.
Let this defensive line that dominated the Patriots up front in both meetings carry it over to Richie Incognito and Co. and the very good K.C. line.
Gase must also show us ...
Prove you are not Joe Philbin.
Or Tony Sparano.
Or Nick Saban.
All of those fine men had some success against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. But none could build on that success against other less-accomplished coaches and teams.
Gase and his coaching staff obviously did some really impressive work last week in the preparation for the Patriots. They mixed things up. They rolled out new stuff, which I outlined in my previous column. Not included in there is the mixing of coverages and the challenging of Patriots receivers with man coverage.
It was this coaching staff’s finest hour this season. It was fun to witness.
But, with respect, where has that been?
How is it an offense that Gase rolled back multiple times because it was replete with mental mistakes was transported light-years ahead with receivers and tight ends in the backfield and Jakeem Grant catching TD passes outside?
“I think it’s just [me] less angry when they make a mistake,” Gase said Tuesday. “Just let them figure it out and they’ve done a good job. You’ll see every once in a while we’ll have a little confusion, but they figure it out by the time the clock hits zero on the shot clock.
“Sometimes it messes with them, because guys have to change what position they are. We try to keep everything as consistent as possible, but now, all of the sudden, you’ve got five wideouts in there or four wideouts. Somebody’s got to change. It’s tough sometimes, but guys have done a good job being right, for the most part.”
Cool. Wish that had been happening earlier, coach.
More importantly, we want it to continue. Now that we’ve seen it, build on it, work a tweak off of it. In other words, do what the Patriots have done to teams for years and years.
And in doing that, separate from that thing the Dolphins have been doing to fans for years and years: namely, following signature wins with a big letdown.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero