Barry Jackson

A celebratory Dolphins locker room Monday? Hardly

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) take down Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) in the first quarter as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Saturday, December 24, 2016.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) take down Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) in the first quarter as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Saturday, December 24, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Some snapshots from the Dolphins’ locker-room on Monday, 14 hours after Miami clinched its first playoff berth since 2008 by virtue of Kansas City’s win over Denver:

• You know how long Adam Gase spent talking about the Dolphins’ playoff berth with his team on Monday?

About as long as it took Jay Ajayi to burst 57 yards to set up Miami’s winning field goal in overtime against Buffalo.

In other words, a matter of seconds.

“He said congratulations; he got it in but didn’t stick on the topic at all,” guard Jermon Bushrod said.

Or, as safety Michael Thomas recalled, Gase said: “Congratulations, but we’re trying to win this game this week.”

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about having a healthy team and the 34-31 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Dec. 24, 2106.

After the obligatory acknowledgment for making the postseason, Gase said to his team what he traditionally has said this season: Focus on being 1-0 this week.

And Gase’s players sound very much like him.

That message of “one game at a time,” Bushrod said, “is all we’ve heard since the Tennessee game [that dropped Miami to 1-4]. That’s all we know.”

Right tackle Ja’Wuan James said there was no celebration, that “we've got to keep doing what we're doing, keep staying 1-0, keep taking week by week. The world wants us to think like that, to take us off track. Coach Gase says all the time we've got to keep ignoring success and keep focusing. I feel like that's really gotten us to this point. We can't let that affect us and let that take us off track.”

Receiver Kenny Stills put it this way: “The one game at a time mentality that we've had - that's real. We're not just saying it to you guys. That's what we believe. That's what comes from our head coach and all the way down to us. We believe one week at a time; you take care of that, everything else will fall in line. That's literally what we've been doing, one week at a time.”

• Players briefly basked in the joy of making the playoffs as Kansas City was defeating Denver on Sunday night. Thomas spoke of a group text among several defensive backs.

But during the 45 minutes of locker-room media access on Monday, there were no open displays of celebration, no music playing, nothing beyond several players quietly expressing pride in being of the final 12 teams that will be playing this season.

“I’m happy,” Bushrod said. “I haven’t been to the playoffs in four, five years. This gives us an opportunity, a chance. In life, all you want is a chance.”

Said Thomas: “Playoffs first time in God knows how long. We’re happy but not satisfied.”

Said James: “I was excited for everyone our team, especially guys like Cam Wake.”

But any sense of accomplishment? “I don’t think any,” James said.

• So how did the Dolphins turn their season around, winning nine of their last 10?

“We found an identity on both sides of the ball,” Branden Albert said. “Coach put pressure on guys, made some moves and guys woke up.... We’re being well-coached. Guys are in tuned with what we need to do.”

And this is a confident bunch.

Asked if he could envision this when the Dolphins were 1-4, Stills said: “Yes, because we knew the talent we had in this room. We knew we weren't doing everything we were capable of doing. You don't get to be at this point if you didn't believe that.

“I wouldn't say we're impressed with ourselves. A lot of our guys, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We think we should be winning games a little bit differently. When we execute and do our jobs, teams can't play with us.”

• Remember: The Dolphins will be the fifth seed and open the playoffs at Houston if they beat New England and Kansas City loses at San Diego. Otherwise, Miami will be the sixth seed and open postseason at Pittsburgh.

For a look at what Gase had to say today, please click here.

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