Dolphins playoff run started with tough love

Here we are Dolphins fans. We are no longer the doormats of the AFC East, but rather a force to be reckoned with. 

We are here. We are in the playoffs. 

The playoffs begin week 17 versus the New England Patriots who have to come into the building where the Dolphins are 6-1 this season. 

However, getting to 10-5 didn’t happen overnight and it had more to do with making tough decisions that helped the team get tougher as the season wore on. 

Tough nail-biting decisions like jettisoning offensive lineman like Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner. 

Tough decisions like being fine with Arian Foster’s retirement in favor of rolling with Jay Ajayi and being ready to make him the feature back despite his unhappiness week one and being left at home. 

Ask Byron Maxwell about that tough love seeing his job status tested after being benched for the younger and inexperienced Tony Lippett. As a result Maxwell returned to form and learned to lead his cornerback unit. 

Tough decisions such as re-signing Matt Moore in the off season when there were other backups out there-albeit cheaper. 

Tough decisions to bring about toughness. 

Looking at the Dolphins on both sides of the ball, on paper they aren’t perfect. 

The stats don’t jump out at you, but the team grinds. The team performs in the 4th quarter. 

For the Dolphins, games have been won or decided in the 4th quarter versus the Jets (at home), Chargers, Rams, Bills. In addition-two overtime wins have bulked the résumés of the Dolphins offense-specifically the running game with Jay Ajayi. 

Two blowout wins-Pittsburgh and Jets (on the road). 

When the Dolphins get to 34, they win. They beat the Jets, Bills (road), and Chargers by reaching 34. 

Except for this team, it’s more than just a stat sheet. It comes from the will to not relent to the pressure. 

It comes from that Strain that head coach Adam Gase talks about. 

It comes from the fact that these guys who haven’t had as much success in the NFL with Super Bowls nor playoffs-believe. 

It comes from the fact that both the offense and the defense are essentially accountable to each other. 

When you see teams in terms of chemistry you see a healthy respect and maybe a division between the offense and the defense. Teams such as the ’85 Bears had that division, but had mutual respect. 

Not so with these Dolphins as evidenced by Ryan Tannehill and Kiko Alonso’s hilarious attempt at a shoulder bump at midfield or an injured Reshad Jones and Ryan Tannehill yucking it up on the sideline. 

These Dolphins are bound by football and that common thread binds us all as fans, pundits, and misinformed national reporters who have underestimated the process that Gase holds true from his days with Nick Saban. 

No matter the score, you do what you can to win each and every single down. 

Go 1-0 each week and you win. 

It’s not simple, it’s essential, it’s fundamental. 

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