Dolphins take 3-game winning streak to West Coast
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins are about to hit the road running.
After three consecutive wins at home thanks to a newfound ground attack, the Dolphins will embark on a West Coast swing, playing Sunday at the San Diego Chargers and Nov. 20 at the Los Angeles Rams. The team will spend the week between games in California.
“We’re going to see what type of team we really are,” left tackle Branden Albert said Monday. “We’ve got to stay grounded, stay humble.”
It should be easy to stay grounded. Emerging star Jay Ajayi has rushed for 529 yards in the past three games and leads the NFL at 5.9 yards per carry.
Ajayi ran for 111 yards in Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, who came into the game with the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. It was an impressive encore by Ajayi after consecutive 200-yard games, and further evidence the Dolphins have found a recipe for success.
They’re 4-4 and have a shot at their first four-game winning streak since 2008, which happens to be the last time they made the playoffs. Miami rallied past the Jets by wearing them down , and Ajayi netted 55 yards in the fourth quarter.
“I reminded our guys again today — don’t let me go away from Jay,” said Adam Gase, the first-year coach, play-caller and quarterback guru by reputation. “Don’t allow me to start getting in that rhythm of just throwing the ball.
“The reason Jay is so effective is he’s a guy who runs very angry. When you do that for four quarters, eventually the other team is going to break. He’s a big back who runs hard and runs through contact. The key for us is the attempts, staying with it, finding that rhythm. Eventually it’s going to work out for us.”
Gase has stuck with the plan for three games, with the Dolphins running the ball 109 times and throwing it 78 times (58 percent runs). In the first five games, they ran 92 times and threw 164 times (36 percent runs), and went 1-4.
The transformation is such that leading receiver Jarvis Landry caught only three passes for 33 yards Sunday.
“I’ve got to do a better job of getting Jarvis the ball,” Gase said. “Anytime we put the ball in his hands, he makes something happen. It’s my job to make sure our best player on offense is getting the ball.”
Whether Landry is Miami’s best offensive player is debatable, because there’s growing competition. Ajayi? Albert? One of the other blockers in an increasingly dominant line?
Ajayi, a Brit who knows his Beatles, refers to his blockers as “the Fab Five.”
“I feel confident every time behind those guys,” he said. “I know they’re going to create creases, and then it’s just about hitting it hard and breaking tackles.”
Ajayi makes it sound simple, and his confidence is fed by heady success. The Dolphins beat the rival Jets at home for the first time since the 2011 season. The victory was their second in the AFC East, one more than all of last year. They’ve won four home games, one more than all of last year.
More winning means fewer no-shows, and Sunday’s crowd was perhaps the largest and noisiest in several years.
“I feel like people are starting to believe in us,” Albert said. “We’re starting to fill the seats back up. Four weeks ago there was nobody in the seats.”
Now Miami hits the road, pledging the trip will be all business amid the many temptation of Southern California. Gase smiled when asked if he’ll impose a curfew next week.
“Maybe,” he said. “We’ll see how Sunday goes.”
NOTES: LB Jelani Jenkins said he’ll be able to play this week despite breaking his left hand Sunday. ... DT Earl Mitchell (calf) is expected to come off injured reserve this week. ... The Dolphins must decide by Wednesday whether to activate CB Chris Culliver (knee) or leave him on the physically unable to perform list for the remainder of the season. ... TE Jordan Cameron wants to continue his career despite a season-ending concussion, Gase said.