MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Some players have left, others have arrived.
The Miami Dolphins may not look exactly the same as they did a year ago, but the team still has a knack for knowing when ‘winning time’ is.
At the start of a new season with a new quarterback, the Dolphins showed one welcome carry-over from 2016: When the game is close, they know how to close.
The Dolphins came from behind in their opener last week at the Los Angeles Chargers and won 19-17 when two field goals in the final 65 seconds went their way.
The frantic, fortuitous finish was familiar for second-year coach Adam Gase, whose team has won nine consecutive games decided by a touchdown or less since Week 3 last season.
“I think that is something that can carry over, where you get to the fourth quarter and there is that belief that guys are going to make plays, and you can count on the guy next to you to do his job so you can do yours,” Gase said Thursday.
Luck’s a factor too. The Dolphins won last week only because the Chargers’ Younghoe Koo missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with 5 seconds left.
But the two-year trend argues there’s more than serendipity at work. Under Gase, the Dolphins have won six games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, including Sunday, when newcomer Cody Parkey’s 54-yard field goal put Miami ahead with barely a minute left.
“Watching that fourth quarter, you see a lot of good things, a lot of different guys stepping up,” Gase said.
The final period began with the Chargers leading 17-13 and threatening at the Miami 36.
“We never feel like we’re out of a game,” Dolphins safety Michael Thomas said. “You don’t want to make it that suspenseful, though.”
Sunday’s game could be close again. The Dolphins are favored by a touchdown at the New York Jets (0-2), and have a shot at their first 2-0 start since 2013.
New quarterback Jay Cutler may have a reputation as a grump, but he’s effusive describing a special chemistry cultivated by Gase.
“There is definitely an edge to this team,” Cutler said. “They know that they are good players. I think they lean on that.”
Last season Miami started 1-4 before staging a turnaround fueled by a succession of harrowing wins. That included a 27-23 victory over the Jets in Game 8, when the Dolphins came from behind three times and won on rookie Kenyan Drake’s 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 5:15 left.
Miami also won in the closing minutes on field goals, long touchdown drives and a 60-yard interception return. Parkey’s kick was the longest winning field goal in team history.
“The variety of different ways we’ve won says a lot about our team,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said. “We’ve had defensive touchdowns, special teams plays and offensive plays.”
The Dolphins were outgained Sunday, which is also nothing new. They were outgained by 798 yards last season, yet went 10-6 to end an eight-year playoff drought.
Overachievers? Maybe. Lucky? For sure.
“I hope our luck doesn’t run out,” said Rizzi, who has been with the Dolphins since 2009. “Listen, if you’re going to win, you’re going to have fortune somewhere along the way. I’ve had plenty of bad fortune in my time here too.”
The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000, and to end that drought, they’ll likely need to play better than they did in the opener. Or maybe not.
They were outgained 6.8 yards per play to 4.9. They went 0 for 3 in the red zone. Pass coverage was shaky, in part because of a lack of depth at linebacker, an area further thinned by the absence of veteran Lawrence Timmons, who is now suspended.
“A terrible win,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “We’ll take it.”
They would take 15 more just like it.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)