I am a huge Miami Dolphin fan and for the first time and what feels like forever, I enjoyed watching them play football. I saw an identity and style emerge from toughness, discipline, and attack that was lead by Jay Ajayi. The young breakout running back used his power and patience to pound the ball. Each first down gave the defense rest and a morale boost to match his tenacity when they hit the field. Both sides of the ball did not play with speed or dazzle, but with power and efficiency that was awesome to watch.
For the first time this decade, the Dolphins had a winning identify. Run it, rush the quarterback, and make plays to stop or get first downs. Simple and proficient. Let the talent up front lead the way. Most importantly there was leadership in the play of Ajay, not with words, but performance. Tannehill’s game turned into a complimentary force to Ajay: keep the chains moving, don’t get sacked, and get that next first down. Most importantly, Tannehill played to keep Ajayi on the field.
Ajayi showed he has greatness, but greatness appears in a perfect storm and it is not a one-man show. Gase has coached the team up, the dolphins showing dominance in the late third and fourth quarter. The offensive line was healthy and bullied the Bills upfront. With those factors in place, Ajayi looked like the return of Ricky Williams. Tannehill isn’t and will never be Marino but he is much better than Jay Fiedler, and with a running game he showed he can get the job done.
Tannehill’s QB strengths fit best with the identity of smart smash mouth football. Move the chains, be proficient, and hit the 15 to 20 yard pass. His game in the past two weeks has greatly improved. He made plays with his legs and nailed some great passes while on the run. It’s one of his best skill sets, the only player who throws a better ball on the run is Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks have proven how successful a top notch run game, a tough defense, and smart quarterback play can be.
Gase’s game plans these past 2 games have produced winning football. He has coached to the strengths of his players and maximized them. Ironically, Ajayi was the player he showed least faith in the beginning of the season, benching him for game 1. Right now, that could be looked at as a terrible coaching move, but I see it as a smart one—every player now knows if they don’t perform they can get bench or cut. Ajayi has played with fury and determination retuning to the line. Gase challenged the young player and he answered. Ajayi is now the leader of the team, with the maxim—you play hard and well are no sit the bench.
The team can now use this bye-week to get healthy and feel confidence that they have a leader, and a competent coach and culture that equals a wining style of football. They are no longer a losing football team that is under performing. They can finally take a break from focusing on what is wrong with the team, to reflect on what they are doing right. Identity and knowing your role is the main ingredient for creating a winning team. It took some time and it was an ugly road to get there, but the Miami Dolphins now know who they are and how to win.
Christoph Paul is an award-winning humor writer and publisher of New English Press. His most recent books are Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks and Great White House 2: Billary Bites Back, and Horror Film Poems. Find him on Twitter @Christophpaul_and Christophpaulauthor.com.