DAVIE, Fla. – A rare fourth-quarter rally on the road has given the Miami Dolphins a clearer path to the playoffs.
They still might need to win the rest of their games, however.
Miami is trying to end its six-year playoff drought, and a 16-13 comeback victory over the New York Jets left the Dolphins tied with five other AFC teams at 7-5. While their 6-3 record within the conference helps in potential tiebreaker scenarios, the Dolphins have little margin or no for error in their final four games, beginning Sunday at home against Baltimore (7-5).
Coach Joe Philbin said he doesn't need to talk with his players about playoff ramifications.
"They are aware. There is a lot of stimulus out there that they can tap into that their generation is more used to tapping into than mine," Philbin said Tuesday. "We've talked to them more about the month of December and the importance of each and every game in December. This one that we have coming up, Baltimore, both on paper and on film, is as good as team as we've seen."
To beat the Ravens, Philbin said, the Dolphins must play better than they did Monday night. Miami gave up 277 yards rushing and trailed for much of the game, but outscored New York 10-0 in the final quarter to escape.
The fourth-quarter comeback win was only the Dolphins' second on the road since 2005, fewest in the NFL, according to STATS.
"Bad game, good win," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said with a grin. "We'll take it. Sometimes you have to do it that way. I hope the players come out of it with confidence in the fact that they can win a game at the end."
The Dolphins had been 0-3 in games decided by four points or less. In all three defeats they blew a fourth-quarter lead, so defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was especially pleased to shut out the Jets over the final 22 minutes, with Reshad Jones making a game-clinching interception in the final seconds.
"I'm proud of the way the guys kept their resolve and composure," Coyle said. "When we had to come up with plays to win the game, we were able to do that. I think we showed a lot of character, and it was noticeable growth in our team overall."
One key play was Cameron Wake's third-down sack late in the third quarter to push the Jets out of field goal range when they led 13-6.
"We had talked prior to the game about there being points where individual players were going to have to step up and make plays," Coyle said. "That was something that has been missing a little bit for us at critical times late in games. I think Cam certainly took that to heart.
"When he came off the ball on that particular play, they had two players trying to block him, and he literally ran over the top of both of them with a fierce determination to go and make the sack. He made it up in his mind that he was not going to be blocked. He ran through the wall to get to the quarterback, and it was a huge play."
The Dolphins will face the woeful Jets again in the season finale Dec. 28. Also remaining are games at AFC East leader New England and at home against last-place Minnesota.
The No. 1 issue in practice this week will be run defense, a strength most of the season. Miami has allowed 478 yards rushing in the past two games, an average of 5.7 per carry.
Missed tackles have been part of the problem, including three Monday on a single play — a 47-yard run by Chris Johnson.
"We have to tackle better," Philbin said. "This game is not overly complicated."
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