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Dolphins refute ‘cuteness’ label as they prepare for crows

MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins, the same team that hung 70 points on the Denver Broncos in Week 3, scored an offensive touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16.

And they won 22-20.

These are the new Dolphins led by Mike McDaniel.

In 2022, Miami was a very offensive team. He finished sixth in yards per game, but ranked 24th in defense, 18th in yards allowed per game, and 21st in defensive expected points added. When their offense faltered, as it did in the final month of the season, the Dolphins’ new defense and running game revealed the team to be one-dimensional.

The perception of Miami as a fast, thin team that will get pushed around by physical opponents is a narrative the Dolphins can abandon for good with a win this weekend against the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (1 p.m. ET , CBS).

“To spend your time worrying about narratives, I would be a stressed person,” McDaniel said. “I think it’s a little strange though. I feel like – I haven’t checked lately – but I feel like we’re pretty good at stopping the run and running the football. It’s not usually associated with kindness.

“It doesn’t matter. I mean, there’s always going to be something.”

After an early-season offensive blowout that resulted in searches of the NFL record books, Miami’s defense has been its most reliable unit over the latter part of the 2023 season. say that Miami’s offense has fizzled, as the Dolphins lead the league with 30.9 points per game and 411.5 yards per game. But they’ve cooled off a bit since Week 8, averaging 367 yards per game over the past two months, sixth-most in the NFL. Miami declined significantly in yards per carry, to 3.9 yards per carry; he averaged a league-best 6.3 yards per carry through the first 7 weeks of the season.

The defense, however, took over. Since Week 8, the Dolphins rank second in defensive EPA (61.98), first in scoring (15.9 points per game) and yards per game (253.8), and fourth in sacks per dropback (9 .4%). With two games remaining in the regular season, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s unit has already set a franchise record for sacks in a single season with 52.

In Week 16, Miami held the Cowboys — the NFL’s highest-scoring offense over the past month — to 20 points.

It’s a stark turnaround for a team that’s missing arguably its best passer in Jaelan Phillips, its starting middle linebacker in Jerome Baker and its starting safety in Jevon Holland.

“Well, every season it’s a new deal,” Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “I would say it sounds cliché, but every season…you always hope and pray that this is the team.

“I think what sets this team apart from other teams is the leaders we have on both offense and defense, and guys willing to… hold others accountable for what they need to do. I “I would say that’s what seems a little different this year than maybe a few other years, with the teams we’ve had.”

Maintaining that level against the Ravens will be a challenge, especially after Baltimore beat the San Francisco 49ers, 33-19, in Santa Clara. While Sunday’s win over Dallas secured a playoff spot, beating the Ravens would allow Miami to win the first AFC East title since 2008 and keep its quest for the conference’s top seed alive.

“That was the team’s ultimate goal, so they would be very happy about that. It would be secondary right now to this game and winning it,” McDaniel said. “You want these kinds of games. You want to play against the best, and that in itself warrants 100 percent of our attention.

“But you want to talk about a team that will make you pay if you are outside the bounds of what your goal should be. They will teach you, fast and furious, to consider them. We have our hands full in that regard, but We’re also in a really, really cool time to be here and enjoy, because we’re building on an entire season of work.”

The Dolphins have caught the attention of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who said he sees similarities between the Dolphins’ defense and the one he faces in practice. The Ravens defense is giving up a season-high 16.3 points per game.

“The defensive line is phenomenal,” Jackson said. “(Their) secondary is phenomenal as well (and their) linebackers.

“Yes, I see similarities.”

ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.

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