Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero: Dolphins' dominance in win shows a team Fins fans could love

Miami Dolphins’ Cameron Wake gets hugged by Kelvin Sheppard after a sack in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014.
Miami Dolphins’ Cameron Wake gets hugged by Kelvin Sheppard after a sack in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

These are the Miami Dolphins you would truly love.

You would buy tickets to see these guys You would not only root for them but defend them if someone dared remind you how embarrassing the past decade has been. You would move heaven and earth to stay close to this team even if the network broke away to a more competitive game, as CBS-TV did Sunday, because you’d want to not miss news of the next great pass or sack or punt return.

You’d love this coach because he’s a fighter with a pulse and a plan.

You’d talk up your quarterback because he’s not just good enough to win a game, but can outplay an established elite quarterback in the process.

This is the team you wish the Dolphins were more often.

You wish they were consistently the team that dismantled the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

That’s how good the Dolphins looked in beating the Chargers, 37-0. That’s how perfectly things came together this day.

The Dolphins looked complete.

Convincing.

Exciting.

Consistently.

“Yeah, it seems like this year it’s been the best game we’ve played, for sure,” coach Joe Philbin said afterward. “It seemed like we had control of the game throughout. I thought the lines on both sides … those guys dictated the tempo and we went from there.”

The victory was authored along the line of scrimmage. That could not be argued.

On defense, the Dolphins sacked San Diego quarterbacks four times and pressured or forced bad throws multiple other times. The defensive front also deleted the San Diego ground game, allowing only 2.6 yards per rush.

And on offense, Miami quarterbacks were not sacked nor really pressured. The running game was also productive.

But the domination that began at the line spread throughout the field.

As his offensive line was beaten, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers played one of the worst games of his career. He entered the game as one of the NFL’s highest-rated quarterbacks and posted a 31 rating. Miami’s Brent Grimes intercepted Rivers twice and Reshad Jones intercepted him once more.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, delivered his best game of the season and afterward had to pause and think because he was asked if it was his best ever. (He said he didn’t know about that.)

Tannehill spread 26 completions around to 10 different receivers. The Chargers didn’t know if the Dolphins were coming or going.

“Words can’t explain how I’m feeling right now,” San Diego safety Eric Weddle said. “Turnovers, we couldn’t stop them, seven possessions straight without making them punt. Special teams weren’t very good. They outplayed us in every facet of the game.”

Great stuff, but that still wasn’t all of it. The Dolphins have outplayed teams in most every facet this year. They did that to the Bears. They did it to the Patriots in the regular-season opener.

But this game, the Dolphins delivered punches early and kept hitting until they knocked Rivers out of the game and the Chargers out of contention. It was a relentless onslaught.

“For 60 minutes they wore us out,” Rivers said.

And … still … that wasn’t all of it.

The Dolphins showed something off the field on Sunday that translated well on it

Before this game there was whispers some players were unhappy with the play calling or the offensive approach. There was frustration on this team — particularly on offense.

Did you see any of it this game?

I saw Mike Wallace thrilled he was allowed to run some deep routes. I saw Brian Hartline again a significant and effective part of the passing game. I saw Charles Clay fill his rightful role as a red-zone threat.

Brandon Gibson and Jarvis Landry had opportunities to make plays.

And on defense, the playmakers — Cameron Wake most notably — were allowed to do what they do best, which is chase the quarterback or the football.

There was no drama amid a victory as there was last week and has been in the past.

Everyone played hard. Everyone played with purpose.

And that leads me to this: Philbin has been the target of much criticism the past two years. I’ve been among the critics because I’ve seen the team sometimes take on his personality and that doesn’t always come across as dynamic.

Fans also have been disappointed the coach rarely shows passion. A bland coach’s team, they’ve complained, too often starts slow or cannot finish strong.

Fair or not those criticisms didn’t apply on Sunday. Philbin coached a fine game, won a key replay challenge, as he often does, and had his team well prepared. And he did all this in the wake of his father Paul’s passing on Friday.

Afterward, players gave their coach a Gatorade shower. They gave him the game ball. They showed they care for him. And he showed his humanity, speaking of his family and how his father affected young men during his life.

It was moving. It connected on a human level. It made Joe Philbin someone you want to root for.

These are the Miami Dolphins you would truly love.

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