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Miami Dolphins

Gameday: Dolphins return home looking for sixth straight win

Florida Football Insiders

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

Having had a successful two weeks in Southern California with wins over the Rams and the Chargers, the Dolphins come back home to host the woeful 49ers Sunday afternoon looking to solidify themselves in the AFC playoff picture.

Here are three things to watch:

Dolphins want to pound it

Any hope that San Francisco has to stay in the game revolves around them being able to stop RB Jay Ajayi, and Miami’s desire to run first and set everything into motion. The Dolphins do have injuries on the offensive line to Mike Pouncey and Branden Alberts, but make no mistake, the 49ers are poor against the run giving up an average of 179 ypg. So, it should be a big day for Ajayi.

Kaepernick again, a lightning rod

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick began the year sitting, later kneeling for the National Anthem and also sitting on the bench when it came time to play. Since becoming the starter again five games ago, Kaepernick has surpassed 210 yards passing only once, he has eight total TD’s (not nearly enough), and most importantly, they haven’t won a game.

And, those pedestrian numbers were overshadowed by the Wednesday phone conference call the QB had with the local Miami media. That’s when Cuban born Dolphin beat writer, Armando Salguero, of the Miami Herald took Kaepernick to task over wearing a Fidel Castro shirt in the pre-season and actually, make complimentary comments about Castro and education in Cuba. (The 90 year old infamous Cuban dictator coincidentally died after long illnesses Friday night) Read Salguero’s recounting of the exchanges on the phone with Kaepernick and his own commentary about it here.

Needless to say, it will be a wild scene as Kaepernick (and his team) come to Hard Rock Stadium and he continues to kneel for the Anthem Sunday.

Finally, “Uncle Mo

The Dolphins pulled out those last two road games both in the fourth quarter with heroic efforts. In San Diego two weeks ago, it was a staggering four interception fourth quarter of Phillip Rivers, including LB Kiko Alonso running in the winning pick six in the final minutes. Then, in L.A. last week, QB Ryan Tannehill and the pass game came to life, as he led them to two TD’s in the final four minutes for the 14-10 comeback win. So, obviously, Miami is playing with confidence and as we wrote earlier in the week, have momentum headed to December looking to make the playoffs. A win to make them 7-4 would do just that.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins grabbing RB Frank Gore looking smarter and smarter

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins were right about Frank Gore.

And the risk they took in signing the 35 year-old as a free agent in March and making him a prominent part of their run game, paid off in their dramatic 31 – 28 win over the Chicago Bears in overtime Sunday.

Gore gouged the Bears for 101 yards on 15 carries and ran stronger and harder as the game wore into the extra session.

His 32 yard run help set up the potential winning touchdown, only to have fellow running back Kenyan Drake cough up the fumble at the goal line to keep the Bears alive.

Still, when Chicago missed their field goal and the Dolphins had new life, Gore was again out there pounding on the Bears defense, as Miami eventually lined up and kicked the game winning field goal with rookie Jason Sanders.

The Colts elected not to resign the the 14-year veteran this past March. And, Gore’s desire to come back home, where he grew up and starred for the Hurricanes made the marriage with the Fins a natural one.

Still, the Dolphins could have elected to go get another back in free agency, but did not. They did draft Arizona State Kalen Ballage in the fourth round and have hopes that he will mature into an every-down back.

For now, Gore is not only a mentor to Drake and sharing the load, but he actually delivered when the Dolphins were desperate and Drake’s confidence was shaken.

Gore was limping at the end of overtime after taking a shot on one of his runs late, and who knows how much more he can give Miami as this season wears on at 35 years of age?

However, you cannot disagree that the Dolphins took a calculated risk and it’s already paying off to have Frank Gore in their backfield.

As the saying goes, there’s no substitute for experience, and Miami’s backfield has it with #21.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins continue trend of winning wild home games

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Say this for Dolphin fans buying tickets at Hard Rock Stadium: they have gotten their money’s worth and then some, on crazy plays and drama. Oh, and Sunday was no exception, as Miami needed every second of five periods to triumph 31-28.

By the time rookie kicker Jason Sanders (above) booted through his game winning field goal, as time expired in overtime, it had to feel more like Fins fans had been on a three hour roller coaster ride against the Bears Sunday.

After all, Miami controlled the first half and led Chicago 7-0 at the break. This after the Bears in their last game, two weeks ago against the Bucs, set a franchise reord with 38 first half points in a blowout win.

However, in the third quarter Chicago capitalized on backup QB Brock Osweiler’s interceptions and scored three touchdowns-all in less than two minutes off the clock each time.

You couldn’t blame fans for thinking “here we go again” as Miami was staring at a third straight bad loss.

Still, the Fins dealt with a circus 7 hour twice weather delayed game with the Titans that opened the season with a victory. Then two weeks later, beat the Raiders with plays that included a flipped “jet sweep” TD to speedy Jakeem Grant and eventually, a clinching score from Albert Wilson for a long catch and run TD.

Sunday was “Deja Vu” for Wilson and the big play: a replica catch and run by Wilson that tied the game late:

75 yards on the scamper by Wilson tied the game and set into motion a wild “bonus period” of football, too.

A period that had the dramatic low of Kenyan Drake fumbling on the one yard line going in for the game winning TD-only to have Chicago recover and move into winning field goal range.

Only, wouldn’t you know it, former Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey, who left for the Windy City and big bucks, misfired wide right for the win to give Miami life, again.

Drake redeemed himself, along with Osweiler, with a 15 yard catch and run of his own into Bears territory to set up Sanders winning boot. And once it went through, the third year back went to his knees and then face on the ground with tears in his eyes, relieved that Miami had won 31-28.

 

It hasn’t been pretty in all cases, but it also hasn’t been boring.

And Fins fans can’t complain about being 4-2 at this stage, when they won only six games all last year. Most of all, when Miami plays at home, big plays and wild endings have been the norm.

And if you stay until the end, you are rewarded.

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Miami Dolphins

Gameday- Suddenly struggling Dolphins host Bears

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

What: Dolphins (3-2) vs. Bears (3-1)

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens

Spread: Bears by 4 points (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)

Can the Dolphins, who were once 3-0, stop their sudden slide of two awful road losses? Will the Bears, off their bye week, be ready to deal them another defeat? Here’s what we are watching:

Is there a psychological crisis in Miami?

The Dolphins responded off of their blowout loss in New England playing good football for two and a half quarters in Cincinnati last week. However, leading 17 – 0, Miami proceeded to melt down, including giving up too easy defensive scores deep in their own territory as part of a Bengals 27-17 win.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was under duress, had two of those giveaways get returned for the scores, and has to take better care of the ball in this match-up with the Bears.

Tannehill participated fully in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was listed as limited/questionable for the game today.

And there is now doubt as to whether he can make the throws or complete the game:

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, who is covering the game, reported later Sunday morning that Tannehill is “doubtful to start” as the shoulder worsened Friday and Saturday.

Osweiler has started 25  games previously in Houston and Denver (seven last year) over the last three seasons. It will also be interesting to see if David Fales or rookie Luke Falk will the be the active “third QB” today in this scenario.

Will Trubisky continue his roll?

When last we saw Chicago second-year quarterback, he was torching the Tampa Bay secondary for five first-half touchdown passes and six of them overall in a 45 – 10 victory

The Bears, have had the week off, have good weapons in the backfield in running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, but it’s trubisky play that will help them sustain some drives.

Trubisky has to stay away from turnovers, as well. The Dolphins secondary has more interceptions than any other unit in the NFL.

Get Khalil Mack blocked

It seems simple enough, yet through the first four games of the Season, no one has been able to get in front of the All-Pro pass-rusher acquired from the Raiders on the eve of the season.

Mack has five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown in his first four games for Chicago. There was good news late in the week for the Dolphins when left tackle Laremy Tunsil cleared concussion protocol and will be able to block Mac some one-on-one when he lines up on right defensive end.

That will be a match-up to zero in on as the game unfolds.

The rest of the time? You might have to have two or three people try to engage Mack, but you’ve got to contain him or it will be a tough day for the offense.

 

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