Now things get interesting.
As the Dolphins (8-5) prepare for Saturday’s game against AFC East leader Buffalo (10-3), a game expected to be played in freezing temperatures and snow, not ideal conditions for a team that can’t run the ball, they’re looking at the possibility of a three-game losing streak in December.
Suddenly, a season that held so much promise a few weeks ago is teetering precariously on the brink of a pressurized finish that could be decided by a game-winning season finale against the New York Jets.
That’s what happens when you lose consecutive games to San Francisco (33-17) and the Los Angeles Chargers (23-17), like the Dolphins.
The challenge for coach Mike McDaniel, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is coming off arguably the worst game of his career, and the rest of the team leaders is getting everyone ready for the Bills and quarterback Josh Allen.
Coach Mike McDaniel finds reasons for 49ers and Chargers losses.
“I think part of where we are, sitting on a two-game losing streak, has to do with some guys who are maybe pushing, playing outside the scheme to some degree to try to make games,” McDaniel said.
No name was mentioned.
McDaniel didn’t make it look like a careless thing, rather something done out of an accelerated sense of urgency. But also something that needs to be fixed.
On another topic, McDaniel didn’t sound like philosophical shifts were happening on either side of the ball, or that he was about to overreact to back-to-back losses. It looks like the Dolphins need to be better at what they do.
“I would be very concerned if as part of the things we’ve been working on since August, if there weren’t technical answers,” McDaniel said.
The Dolphins, of course, defeated the Bills, 21-19, earlier this season in a game that saw Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, the former University of Miami quarterback, throw a fit , as well as a helmet, at the end of the match.
McDaniel said the weather (temperatures could be in the 30s with snow on the ground) won’t be a factor.
“If we’re trying to win a division game, we’re going to have to deal with elements in there,” McDaniel said. “It comes with the mindset. And everyone will experience the same temperature. So I don’t plan on using that as an excuse at all.
It would help if the Dolphins could run the ball if there were snow conditions in Buffalo. The Dolphins are 29th rushing with 89.8 yards per game; Buffalo is eighth at 133.7 YPG.
The Dolphins rushed for 92 yards against the Chargers, their best yardage since rushing for a season-high 195 yards against Cleveland four games ago. But it was not a good production.
“It was a tough movie to watch,” McDaniel said, noting missed opportunities.
The Dolphins will struggle to win in Buffalo for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being that they don’t play well against .500 or better teams.
The Dolphins’ last road win against a team currently .500 or better was against Baltimore in Game 2 of the season.
The Dolphins’ last win over a team currently .500 or better was against Buffalo in Game 3 of the season.
The Dolphins’ only remaining game against a .500 or worse team is against Green Bay (5-8) at Christmas. Of course, that could change depending on what New England (6-6) does against Arizona on Monday Night Football.
As things stand, Green Bay is just short of a must-win home game.
But that takes things too far ahead.
The focus right now is on Buffalo and preparing one of the best teams in the NFL in a short week with plenty of fixes from the previous two weeks. McDaniel said it would be nice if the Dolphins could do some kind of late-season turnover. McDaniel hopes these recent losses can turn into momentum for the, ahem, playoffs.
“If you’re able to make the playoffs, you don’t want to limp into the tournament,” McDaniel said. “It was a very, very valuable experience, especially the last two weeks against playoff-caliber teams. Whether or not this benefits us moving forward is up to the team to determine.