The 2013 Miami Dolphins had been the picture of inconsistency for much of the season, winning their first three games before dropping their next four (including a loss to the Buffalo Bills, who the Dolphins play Sunday). But this Dolphins team has finally hit its stride, riding a three-game winning streak with two of those wins coming on fourth quarter touchdown drives to take the lead. Sunday will be an excellent opportunity for this team to show the nation just how much growth they’ve made since Week 7 even with the infamous “Bullygate” scandal which has been over the Dolphins’ head since early November.
With the Dolphins traveling to Buffalo Sunday on a crusade to the playoffs, let’s reminisce on the 23-21 loss. The Dolphins were leading 21-20 with under three minutes left in the game when Mario Williams blew by Tyson Clabo and got to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill fumbled when he was hit, Kyle Williams of the Bills scooped it up at the Dolphins 34-yard line, and the rest is history.
With the Dolphins’ recent success (specifically the win against the New England Patriots) that game feels like decades ago to fans. But the players should have every emotion that filled their hearts after the game in their minds and remember what these Bills did to them on their home field. With the news that Thad Lewis is starting the Dolphins should have extra motivation as he is the quarterback who led the Bills to their come from behind win in Miami.
The way we see the Dolphins’ growth is to spot out their former weaknesses. Poor execution in critical times, turnovers and bad fourth quarter sacks was the theme in most of their losses, especially through the four-game losing streak in which the Bills game was a part of. These are the very things that the Dolphins have gotten better at over their past five games, and surprise, surprise, they have won four out of five.
The fact that Thad Lewis is starting is also significant as it gives the defense a chance to show their growth against the quarterback who was freshly promoted off of the practice squad and led the Bills to a win in Miami . Olivier Vernon probably has the most personal growth to show the Bills (besides Tannehill) as he was burrowing his way out of the label of worst 4-3 defensive end by Pro Football Focus the first time the teams played. This defense was also without a healthy Cameron Wake who was still recovering from an MCL sprain. I expect Thad Lewis to have a bit more traffic around him in the pocket, but keeping him in the pocket will have to be a point of emphasis from defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
There is no doubt that this Dolphins team has grown up and together since the first meeting of these two teams. Beating Buffalo will get them one step closer to their first playoff berth since 2008. Sunday is their chance to show their fans and the nation that they are not pretenders but a team who belongs in the playoffs.