New Era at New Era: Adam Gase Continues Giving ‘Same Old Dolphins’ an Entirely New Meaning
It looked, for a moment, as if it was all about to fall short. Years of waiting, standing tantalizingly close to the postseason, and a 55-yard field goal from Andrew Franks would hit the ground to put a dent in the team’s playoff hopes.
…and then it didn’t.
Trotting out the Dolphins’ inconsistent kicker to attempt to boot through a 50+ yarder at the end of regulation seemed like a dicey proposition at best. However, much like the proposition of winning nine of the team’s last 10 games to salvage a season, it was the only option.
Rex Ryan’s failure to ice the kicker in a timely manner was just one of the strokes of good luck that the Dolphins were the beneficiaries of on Saturday. Sure, Ryan’s tenure as the Bills’ coach has reached a new level of ineptitude as we near the end of 2016, but some of the plays in this game were just bad breaks.
First, he fails to ice the kicker. Obviously the goal is to call the timeout immediately before the kicker winds up in an attempt to psych them out. However, Ryan didn’t time it correctly and the Dolphins got the snap off.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Dan Carpenter missed a field goal that would have all but ended the Dolphins’ hopes of taking the game to overtime.
Despite a productive day from Charles Clay, it will be the play that he didn’t make that defines the game for the former Dolphin.
Tyrod Taylor had an exceptional day and had Charles Clay finished the job and gotten his feet down, the perception of his performance would be entirely different.
Finally, the crown jewel of Rex Ryan’s 2016 season: After fighting for four quarters, he failed to get all 11 men onto the field defensively when Buffalo allowed a 50+ yard run from Jay Ajayi to set up Miami’s game-winning FG.
A defensive-minded, veteran head coach didn’t get enough men onto the field in overtime of a key divisional matchup facing playoff elimination.
Had any of these moments gone the other way, whether Charles Clay had dragged his left foot or Rex Ryan had gotten enough men on the field, the Dolphins might not be sitting where they are today.
A different outcome in any of those key moments would also have resulted in a classic refrain emerging from the furthest stretches of those watching the team’s Week 16 showdown.
“That’s so Dolphins.”
While it was clearly a pleasure to watch a game with 1,000+ yards of combined offense between two bitter rivals, the greatest part of the game for those hyperfocused on the Dolphins’ culture change is that the team avoided any kind of implosion that usually defines their games late in the season.
It wasn’t just about the Dolphins getting lucky; it was about the team making all of the right calls in big moments.
At times, it appeared that Matt Moore’s shaky play could cost Miami at New Era Field (formerly known as the Ralph).
On short passes, the Dolphins’ QB appeared to lack touch or accuracy, often causing drives to stall.
The worst of these plays was a well-designed pass to Damien Williams that Moore threw well behind the mark.
Before halftime, a miscommunication cost the Dolphins a chance to put points on the board.
It looks as if Matt Moore expected Stills to cut back underneath to get body position on the safety and make a play for the ball. However, given the situation, getting points on the board without taking a risk should have been the team’s M.O.
But, if you live by the gunslinger, you’re going to have to die by the gunslinger.
These moments caused doubt to creep in for those waiting to see how Miami responded in their biggest game since 2008. Refrains of “same old Dolphins” didn’t ring out because everyone was afraid to admit that it looked like a heartbreaking situation could be on the horizon.
Then, things started going to the Dolphins’ way.
Credit should go not only to Jay Ajayi for this season’s events, but also to Adam Gase for being able to bring Ajayi into the mix after such a dismal start to the season. Gase didn’t keep Ajay in the dog house longer than he felt was necessary to teach the young player a lesson about being a good teammate. Some coaches become absorbed proving a point and end up ridding their team of a valuable asset simply due to ego.
Adam Gase demonstrated that he wasn’t going to let his ego, or one outburst from a promising player, eliminate a potential contributor.
Now, let’s heap some praise onto the Dolphins’ offensive savior.
Jay Ajayi’s play this season has been the difference maker for Miami. Not only do they have a coach that is willing to adopt a balanced offensive approach, but they also have found a player whose style compliments a high volume of carries.
When heading towards the line of scrimmage, Jay Ajayi’s quickness allows him to fall forward for positive yards even when plays are bottled up.
It’s an underrated part of a running back’s job, but every 2-3 yards makes a difference in a tight game.
Ajayi’s balance is also something that had been sorely lacked by the Dolphins’ last lead rusher, Lamar Miller. If anyone touched Miller in the backfield, he was likely to go down. Jay Ajayi demonstrates a consistent ability to stay on his feet despite being hit behind the line.
He even refused to let his own QB tackle him.
Ajayi’s production has also been possible due to the presence of an offensive coaching staff that actually allows him to succeed, calling the right plays at the right times to spark the ground game.
On Saturday in Buffalo, the right time to call a running play was actually all of the time.
Adam Gase’s change in Miami isn’t a gimmick; it’s about utilization of assets. He isn’t going to get caught up in the moment, even when his team is down late, surrendering either the run or the pass because he feels that time is of the essence. Gase has the wherewithal to realize that the best scoring option changes based on the day.
Against the Jets, Miami went with an aerial assault to light up the scoreboard.
In Buffalo, even when the team has locked in a tight contest late, Gase stuck with the run knowing that a play would eventually break open.
The Dolphins’ first possession of OT? Four straight run plays.
The Dolphins’ second possession of OT? You know how that went.
Adam Gase understood that it was simply a matter of time before Jay Ajayi was able to break open a big run to put the Bills away. Rex Ryan’s team was failing to wrap up ball carriers all afternoon, losing any semblance of tackling ability.
Entering OT with 30 carries, Jay Ajayi was primed to break loose for a big one.
Gase played the end of the game perfectly and outcoached Rex Ryan thoroughly on the afternoon. While Miami’s defense obviously struggled (something we will get into in a later article), offensively Gase was able to take it to Rex Ryan and render any of the Bills’ tactics moot.
2016 has been a long journey for the Miami Dolphins. A team that started out 1-4 has now rebounded to lock up its 10th win and a playoff bid before the final week of the regular season arrives.
In Week 5, fans were booing Ryan Tannehill and looking at draft prospects. At that point in the season, it seemed like everyone would be pretty indifferent to the end result of Week 17’s matchup with the Patriots.
They were right – most will be pretty indifferent to how Week 17’s game ends. However, it’s because the Dolphins, in 11 weeks, went from the basement to the ceiling.
It’s a new time for Miami football – where the team would usually falter, they stand tall. In the face of adversity, whether it was weekly or throughout a longer stretch, the team put its head down and pushed through.
The Dolphins lost their best player in the secondary and responded by shutting down the Steelers’ offense.
The Dolphins had a would-be game-winning kick return called back against the Jets for a penalty, so they ran back another one.
The Dolphins surrendered a near-comeback to the 49ers and responded with a goal-line stand to win the game.
The Dolphins lost their starting QB and responded by winning two straight.
The Dolphins went down 31-28 against the Bills in Buffalo and responded with a drive to set up a kick that was twice as long as a previously missed attempt from Andrew Franks. “That’s so Dolphins” would have been shanking the field goal to lose the game. “That’s so Dolphins” would have been Franks nailing the attempt, only to hear the ringing of a whistle following a Bills timeout. “That’s so Dolphins” would have been giving up a TD to the Bills in OT.
Now, “that’s so Dolphins” is Ryan failing to call a timeout as the howling winds of Western New York lift Franks’ seemingly-short kick through the uprights for a miraculous field goal to send the game into overtime.
After the game, Cameron Wake attributed the win to the team’s consistent belief that no matter what happens, they’ll be able to find a way to secure a victory.
Thanks to Adam Gase, “that’s so Dolphins” no longer means finding a way to lose in heartbreaking fashion.
It now means that the team will find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, instead of falling in the opposite fashion.
Enjoy this, Miami. You’ve waited a long time for a coach like Adam Gase to shift the culture of an organization that had been written off and to drag the team back to where they belong: January football.
Getting back to the playoffs is great. But, do you want to know what’s even better?
Adam Gase is just getting started.