MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Center Mike Pouncey has seen a lot in his six seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He has experienced five consecutive non-winning seasons, a bullying scandal and other things in the locker room that annually define a bad football team.
But Pouncey uses terms such as “special” and “tough” to define this year's Dolphins. After Sunday’s 28-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills, those in Miami’s locker room said they believe the team is building toward making a strong push in the second half of the season.
The Dolphins showed a new element Sunday in coming from behind, which is an area the team struggled with all season. Buffalo entered Sunday winning five of six in this series and led the Dolphins 17-6 late in the third quarter. Miami wisely didn’t panic and stayed patient with its running game, and behind Jay Ajayi’s 214 rushing yards the Dolphins scored 21 straight points to take the lead for good.
“In past years, down like that and the way the game was kind of going, they had a lot of momentum, we couldn’t find ways to come back,” Pouncey said. “This year I feel things are just different. The team, we’ve never given up no matter how the games turned out, win or lose. This team just comes in each and every day to get better, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
The Dolphins were written off by many just two weeks ago. They were 1-4 with their only win an ugly, overtime victory against the winless Cleveland Browns. The Dolphins potentially were staring at a 1-6 record facing two of the hottest teams in the NFL in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bills in back-to-back weeks. Buffalo had won four straight games entering Sunday’s meeting and Pittsburgh won four of five before facing Miami two weeks ago. In previous years, a 1-4 start by the Dolphins would mean the season was going in the tank. Instead they won two straight and are back in the thick of things in the AFC.
How important were Miami’s past two wins?
According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, no team (0 out of 90) has overcome a 1-6 start to make the playoffs under the current format. Even a split in the past two games with a 2-5 record would have put Miami’s playoff hopes at an abysmal 3.8 percent (6 of 157). At 3-4, the Dolphins have an 18.9 percent chance (39 of 167) to make the postseason. That’s a significant swing.
"We still have to be hungry, still have to come to work every single day and chip away and get better,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We won a couple games. We haven’t got everything figured out yet. We still have a lot of things to clean up, but I’m excited about the progress we’re making and the success that we’ve had so far.”
It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins can build off this success. They have a newfound, emerging star at running back in Ajayi, who became the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to rush for 200 yards in consecutive games. With help from the offensive line and Ajayi, Tannehill is playing more efficiently. The defense also is more physical and playing its best football.
Following their bye week, Miami has five straight games against teams with losing records. The Dolphins will face the New York Jets (2-6), San Diego Chargers (3-4), Los Angeles Rams (3-4), San Francisco 49ers (1-7) and Baltimore Ravens (3-4) during what likely will be their most important stretch of the season.
The time is now for the Dolphins to make a push and build on their recent success.
“I’m just proud of this football team,” Pouncey said. “A lot of people [pushed] us aside, gave up on us. Actually, I’ve seen all you guys’ [in the media] predictions at the beginning of the season. So to just prove everybody wrong and keep moving forward, this football team can be special if we keep doing what we’re doing.”