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‘Do the Dolphins know how good they are? ‘ – The Mercury News


A veteran NFL scout answered his phone this week like this:

“Do they know how good they are?”

He was talking about the Miami Dolphins after their loss last Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. He wondered where they stood on intangibles like confidence, perspective and self-awareness as they processed that loss ahead of Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers — and beyond.

Maybe way beyond that. He thought that a lot of them.

“It’s the kind of loss that I bet makes them feel better inside (the team),” he said. “They did things in San Francisco that nobody did when (the 49ers) had all their players.”

It was an undercurrent to the Dolphins’ 33-17 loss to one of the NFC’s top contenders. A moral victory? It was more than that, really. This sparked thoughts about them. It showed they could play with the best after having free open receivers against the league’s No. 1 defense.

There were two, three, four touchdowns left on the field?

“You can see them right there,” the scout said.

For years, denial was a necessary psychological tool for Dolphins teams to succeed or, more accurately, survive. They weren’t understaffed, they were laughing at the analysts. They didn’t like talented players, they said. Denial covered the cracks for them. There was no value in seeing the obvious.

Now can they see the evidence? Do they understand that they are surpassed by no one? That, especially on offense, the impact of receiver Tyreek Hill and the strategic insights of coach Mike McDaniel created open space for everyone to thrive?

In November, the question was whether the Dolphins were feasting on defensive defenses. San Francisco responded to that. It elevated the idea in a way that got people talking this week.

“I’ve never – ever – seen the 49ers defense exposed like it was in this game,” NBC analyst Chris Simms said on his podcast, referring to the 49ers under coach Kyle Shanahan. “I’ve never seen more open receivers…”

‘It was amazing. This is going to be useful for the Miami Dolphins. They lost, yes. But there’s no way they’re getting off that pitch saying they’ve been outclassed.

So what happened? Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a bad day. It happens. He’s missed the receivers he’s hit all season. This shouldn’t happen again since precision is his best tool. Losing a big game can be part of the path to winning big games.

“We were in a hurry, weren’t we? said offensive coordinator Frank Smith. “Were we trying to be perfect rather than letting the game come to you? Those environments, those things are things that we obviously have discussions about afterwards.

Sometimes, Smith says, it’s just a day off for a good team. Each season has hypothetical days and but only. The idea is not to repeat mistakes. Las Vegas lost four games while leading by 13 points. Baltimore coughed up four games in the final minutes.

This three-game road trip is considered a defining milestone for the Dolphins in large part because they’re in the hunt for December. The other part is San Francisco and Buffalo are the top contenders.

Chargers are a different test. They are 6-6. It’s an injured team. It’s about taking care of business and it could come down to quarterbacks, Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, in a way the TV world set this game up on Sunday night.

Four Chargers defensive starters, including Pro Bowl safety Derwin James, did not practice this week to go along with passing thrower Joey Bosa and Pro Bowl cornerback JC Jackson, who have been out most of the year. So Tagovailoia and that incendiary attack from the Dolphins will have a good chance again.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles wide receiver Mike Williams returns Sunday after missing time with an ankle injury. Williams and Keenan Allen have played 46 snaps together this year, according to TruMedia, the equivalent of less than an average match. This Dolphins secondary is also injured, so Herbert should have his shots.

The Dolphins are the better team, which they showed even in a loss to San Francisco. The video should have reminded them of who they are. There are a handful of teams rising as we sail through December. The Dolphins should be one of them.

Sometimes it’s about understanding who you are. As the scout asked: Do they know how good they are?



California Daily Newspapers

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