Published November 14, 2017
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Following lopsided losses earlier this season, Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase fumed about missed assignments and poor work habits, threatened to demote starters and even traded his Pro Bowl running back.
This time he's drawing consolation from other colleagues around the AFC mired in mediocrity or worse.
"It's not like anyone's running away with anything," Gase said Tuesday. "It's a total disaster everywhere. There are about two teams where everybody is all happy. Everywhere else it's misery."
The Dolphins (4-5) remain in the playoff picture even though they've hardly looked like a playoff team lately, with three consecutive losses, all in prime time and two by blowout margins. That includes Monday night's 45-21 humiliation at Carolina , where the Panthers rolled up a franchise-record 548 yards.
Gase reacted angrily to earlier drubbings by the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens. Now, with the season seemingly on the brink, he's taking a different approach.
Effort isn't an issue, Gase said, and he and the front office didn't overestimate the level of talent on the roster. He dismissed the idea of a lineup shakeup, such as the surprising trade of running back Jay Ajayi two weeks ago.
"I don't really see us reaching to just do something to just drop a bomb on everybody," Gase said.
But three consecutive duds must be addressed, with the Dolphins being outscored 112-45. For the season they've been outscored by 87 points, third-worst in the NFL, leaving many to wonder how they've won four games.
The players' spirits remain high, Gase said, and the season can still be saved.
"This group is pretty good at moving on," he said. "I think the coaching staff, too. That's our job, and we've got a lot of time left, a lot of ball left."
The Dolphins will try to rebound Sunday at home against Tampa Bay (3-6), which ended a five-game losing streak Sunday by beating the New York Jets 15-10. Miami is favored, even in the wake of the Carolina fiasco.
"We just put ourselves in a deeper hole," center Mike Pouncey said, "but we're going to keep continuing to work hard, and we're going to get us a win next week."
To do so, Miami must solve problems on both sides of the ball. Offense was the problem early in the season, and the Dolphins still rank last in the league in points, but lately the defense has devolved, allowing 184 yards rushing per game during the losing streak.
Against the Panthers, Miami gave up touchdowns on five consecutive possessions. Gase said the problem is players overcompensating for mistakes by teammates.
"It's biting us a little bit," he said. "We've just got to get back to the basics and fundamentals. Every guy do their job. That's the hardest thing about defense. When you do have as many playmakers as we have, and things start getting a little leaky, somebody's going to try to step up and make a play. And when they miss, then it's an explosive play."
Gase declined to put Sunday's game in the must-win category. But looming in the five weeks that follow are trips to Buffalo and Kansas City, and two games against AFC East leader New England.
Miami can make a run, even against such a daunting schedule, quarterback Jay Cutler said.
"There is a lot of football left," Cutler said. "The pieces are in the locker room, I truly believe that. I have been around a lot of good teams -- there are a lot of good guys and a lot of good talent in there. We just have to get back to work. It's really the only thing we can do."