While Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake accumulates sacks at a rate unprecedented in franchise history, his team keeps getting thrown for losses.
Barring a late-season surge starting Sunday at San Francisco, the Dolphins (5-7) will finish with a losing record for the fourth consecutive year. It so happens Wake, one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, joined Miami four years ago.
"I hate losing," he said Wednesday, "more than I love winning."
The Dolphins are 25-35 since 2009, but don't blame Wake. During that span he's tied for fourth in the NFL with 38½ sacks, and ranks fourth in this year with 10½.
This season, 7½ of his sacks have come in defeats, including one Sunday against New England. But he keeps trying.
"You've got to be really stubborn to play this game, and probably more so on defense and the position I play," Wake said. "Ninety percent of the time, I don't get the job done. You've got to erase that last play and give the exact same 100 percent effort one more time.
"So whether we're 0-15 or 15-0, I'm going to give that effort. Every game I'm going to give my all. It doesn't grind me down because I feel like every time you go out there, it's an opportunity to win."
Opponents struggle mightily to take Wake out of the game, so there was cause for head-scratching when the Dolphins took him out of their most recent game in the fourth quarter. He watched from the sidelines for much of a clock-eating, 77-yard scoring drive by the Patriots that sealed their victory.
Dolphins coaches defended the decision, saying Wake was taking his turn on the bench as part of a rotation the team has used all season to keep defensive linemen fresh.
"We did continue with the rotation right up to the very end," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "We didn't play particularly well in that last drive, but that had nothing to do with who was in the game in terms of the rotation."
At least one player grumbled about the strategy, but Wake said he understood.
"I would like to be on the field — even on offense," he said with a chuckle. "I'm sure I could play tight end or running back or something. But we've been rotating like that since Week 1."
There was a time when Wake was a full-time spectator. A four-year letterman at Penn State, he went undrafted and was cut as a rookie by the New York Giants in 2005. The following year he became a mortgage broker.
"I was sitting on the couch watching games and watching guys play," he said.
Wake then gave the CFL a try, climbed from fourth string to stardom with the B.C. Lions, and signed as a free agent with the Dolphins. He spent a year coming off the bench in passing situations, won a starting job and made the Pro Bowl in 2010.
His sack total is the highest for any player in his first four seasons with Miami.
"Now he's one of the premier pass rushers in the league," said Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, a former college teammate who played against Wake last month. "You can tell he just figured out what his body can do. He started playing football in the 11th grade, so he was a late bloomer. In college we all knew he was loaded with talent. We just wished he had a little bit more dog in him, and he found it."
At 250 pounds, Wake is small for his position, but he has shaken a reputation as a pass-rush specialist. Run defense is the Dolphins' strength, and opponents show no inclination to pick on him with their ground game.
"He's no weak link," defensive tackle Randy Starks said. "He gets credit for sacks, but it takes all four linemen to be good at run defense, and he's right there."
Wake and the rest of the run defense will be seriously tested by the 49ers, whose ground attack ranks second in the NFL. The Dolphins need an upset win to keep alive their faint hope of a wild-card berth.
Faint hope is more than enough to keep Wake going.
"At this point in the season," he said, "you never know."
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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