There are no homecoming games left on the Miami Dolphins’ schedule. Those ended for good Monday night when their defense and COVID-19 joined forces to thrash the New Orleans Saints. The Dolphins have now won seven straight after losing seven straight — the first team in NFL history to do just that — an unprecedented swing that saved their season and more than a few jobs.
Miami Dolphins win seventh straight against the New Orleans Saints
“I think this team has stuck together through this entire year,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said late Monday evening. “Obviously, we dealt with a lot of adversity early in the year. It revealed a lot. I would say it revealed the character of our guys in our locker room.
“It revealed that some people were with you and some people were on the fence,” he added. “Our guys keep fighting, keep sticking together. They support each other, they work hard, they give great effort. When you do those things, you put yourselves in position to get the results you’re looking for.”
Flores’ answer, in our opinion, needed a bit of clarity. Was he referring to the many doubters outside of the building (this writer was among them), or were there a few inside it? His answer to our follow-up question didn’t exactly shoot down the idea that there might have been people within the organization that were, in his words, “on the fence.”
“There’s distractions, always,” Flores responded. “When things aren’t going your way, I think it just reveals a lot about a lot of things. I’ve always had belief in this team, our players, our coaches. Maybe there were some people that didn’t share that same belief. I understand why. At the end of the day, it’s not about anyone else. It’s about the guys in that locker room, the guys in our building, the people in that building. We believe in each other, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
Flores is right. The Dolphins have done something remarkable, in no small part, because of the spirit within the building.
Dolphins have a championship-caliber defense
The Dolphins’ defense is championship-caliber and has fueled their improbable run. Since Week 9 — the beginning of their winning streak — Miami is first in defensive EPA per play. And Monday night was their best showing yet. They sacked poor Ian Book — New Orleans’ fourth-string rookie quarterback — 8 times and picked him off twice, including one by Nik Needham that he returned for a touchdown.
Nevertheless, it was against Ian Book. The Dolphins got a bit of virus luck this week, with seemingly half of the Saints’ roster either hurt or on the reserve/COVID-19 list. But that’s been the rule for Miami during their streak, not the exception.
It’s fair to say the Dolphins have both played well and been fortunate. The teams they have beaten during this streak are a combined 32 games under .500. The quarterbacks they’ve faced were Book, Tyrod Taylor, Lamar Jackson, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, P.J. Walker, Mike Glennon, and Zach Wilson.
Miami’s strength of victory (.375) is the third-worst in the conference. They’ve beaten just two teams all year with winning records. Tua Tagovailoa has been better than he was last year, but he still has a ways to go, as evidenced by his bad interception in the second half Monday. Yet, with all of that said, the Dolphins will greet the New Year in the AFC playoff field. That deserves praise, particularly where this franchise was two months ago.
Up next: Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans
Now, it gets real. The Dolphins likely need to win out to get in. And their next two opponents — the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots — are almost certainly playoff squads.
The Titans, in case you need the dots connected, have Ryan Tannehill as their quarterback. Tannehill was the Dolphins’ starting QB for seven years. He’s no longer their signal-caller because Flores and general manager Chris Grier didn’t want him to be. There will be a lot written about that in the coming days, both on this website and dozens of others.
But that’s a worry for another day. The Miami Dolphins were winners again Monday night. No matter the opposition, that’s something to celebrate in the NFL.
“Emotions are high,” Miami running back Phillip Lindsay said. “Everybody’s excited. You have a team that’s 1-7 and now has won seven straight. That’s hard to do in the NFL.”