A six-pack of Dolphins notes heading into Thursday night’s game at Baltimore:
• The Dolphins, in their rich franchise history, have never done what they’re about to do: play three consecutive nationally televised prime time games.
And the hope, for Miami, is that this will go nothing like most of the Dolphins’ national TV appearances in the past three years.
The Dolphins have lost six of the seven games televised to the entire country over the past three years and been outscored 179-98 in those games.
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They’re 1-3 in nationally televised games under Adam Gase.
In 2015, Miami lost to the Jets 27-14 in London (Joe Philbin’s final game before his dismissal), 36-7 to the Patriots on a Thursday night and 31-24 to the Giants on Monday Night Football.
In 2016, Gase’s first year, Miami lost 22-7 to the Bengals on a Thursday night but beat the Jets 34-13 – behind Matt Moore – on a Saturday night in December. Then they lost to the Steelers, 30-12, in the playoffs.
This season, the Dolphins lost 20-0 to the Saints in a nationally televised game in London.
The Dolphins’ failures in their games with the highest exposure, coupled with seven consecutive seasons of between six and eight wins before last year’s 10-6, are two reasons why the Dolphins’ success might be viewers with some skepticism nationally, even though Miami is on a stretch of 13 regular season wins in 17 games.
This stretch of three consecutive prime time games is essentially’s Miami reward for last season’s playoff berth. And unlike last year’s Thursday game in Cincinnati, this Ravens game will be aired on both CBS and NFL Network, not merely NFL Network.
That’s followed by only the Dolphins’ third appearance ever on NBC’s 12-year-old Sunday night football package (Nov. 5 against Oakland), and then a Nov. 13 Monday night game in Carolina on ESPN.
The Dolphins have another nationally televised game Dec. 11 against the visiting Patriots on Monday Night Football.
• Receiver Kenny Stills is most associated with his speed and skill in catching deep balls. But Stills showed some nifty route running on his three touchdowns in the past six quarters – the 11-yarder against Atlanta and two against the Jets – for 28 yards and two yards.
“I've worked hard to get better at running some of the underneath stuff,” he told me this week. “I've never been terrible at it. It's something that I wanted to focus on, creating more separation on slants and underneath routes and being able to add that part to my game, because then it makes me harder to stop.”
He said he has worked with Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker on those intermediate routes and “we all push each other to do things. The more we can do as a group, the harder it is for people to stop us and game plan us. So we've all got to be able to do everything on the route tree and then it just opens up the offense for everybody.”
Which is more satisfying – catching a deep ball for a touchdown or a shorter or intermediate route for a score?
“They're both fun,” he said. “It depends on what's going on in that situation. I love catching a deep ball because then it opens up everything else for everybody. The safeties have got to stay back and the run game can get going again. I love catching the short stuff because it backs the defender up and they know they have got to back up a little bit and we can start making some plays with yards after the catch.”
• Why did Stills look, well, unusual during the Jets game? He allowed rookie guard Isaac Asiata to put war paint on his face before the game. Asiata did that as a college player at Utah and had a standing offer to Stills, which the receiver finally accepted last week.
“Isaac has been trying to convince me to do this since Week 1,” Stills said. “I’ve been telling him, no, no, no. But [Sunday] I was feeling it, so he put the eye paint on me. I went out there and balled out. The guys are telling me I’ve got to do it again since I played well.”
Stills was non-committal about whether he would do it again and said his “eyes were sore trying to get” the paint off on Monday.
• The Dolphins have never won at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium (0-3) but have won six of their last eight regular season road games – the franchise’s best road stretch since 2010.
• The Dolphins are fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (82.3), but the Ravens are 12th in the league in rush offense at 120 yards per game, and Miami will be tested if Andre Branch is limited by a groin injury.
Defensive coordinator Matt Burke said he’s comfortable with Charles Harris’ ability to stop the run and he played the most of any Dolphins defensive end last week. The Dolphins are cautious not to play William Hayes more than 25 snaps or so.
• David Fales, who will be Matt Moore’s backup Thursday, said he “figured” he would be the first quarterback Miami called after Jay Cutler’s injury. He has been with the team just two days but said he absolutely could play Thursday if needed in an emergency.
“I am familiar with the offense,” he said, having been with the team throughout preseason. “It's nice coming into situation where I've practiced, where I had a training camp. I have a pretty good grasp… on protections, verbiage.”
Fales, who had been unemployed, said he has been staying in shape and throwing footballs but “it's different when you're not practicing, when you have to stay in shape and run. I’m excited and ready to go.”
Here’s my Wednesday midday six-pack of Dolphins nuggets.
Here’s my Wednesday 10-pack of UM personnel nuggets.
Here’s my look at why Tony Romo - who calls Thursday’s Dolphins game - has thrived as a game analyst, with thoughts from his CBS boss.