As the Miami Dolphins prepare for their much anticipated and long overdue home opener this weekend in newly-christened Hard Rock Stadium, they are hoping to continue the offensive game plan that saw them come back and come oh-so-close to erasing a 31-3 deficit last weekend with three second half touchdowns.
If that happens, the Cleveland Browns are in for a long day.
But as much as fans want to see those offensive fireworks continue, the team is mindful of how they got into the bad situation in the first place. Head coach Adam Gase pointed out this week that those same downfield plays were there in the first half against the New England Patriots, but the execution fell short.
“For the most part, that's kind of what we've been,” said head coach Adam Gase. “If you're not in rhythm, if you don't get it going really quick, then all of a sudden you start having three-and-outs, and you're looking up and you're like, 'Well, we burned 30 seconds off the clock,' and now you're putting the other side of the ball in jeopardy.”
In last week’s game, by the time the Dolphins got within striking distance in the fourth quarter, the defense was worn down, having spent the majority of the first half on the field due to the offense having three straight three-and-out possessions. And the players understand how, if that time of possession is unbalanced, it affects one side of the ball in a negative way.
“We can't be an 'almost' team, or a second half team,” said wide receiver Jarvis Landry. “We can't leave the defense out there for 50 plays in the first half, and we only get 15, and expect them to stop people - after they've been out there for 75 plays - on the last drive. We can't put it in their hands. We have to complement each other."
And a good way to get that started against Cleveland this week? A fast start. Getting first downs early. Keeping drives alive.
"You just want to find a way to get that first, first down” said Gase. “You want to make sure you're getting completions. A lot of those plays that we had in the second half were down the field throws and intermediate throws. It shortens up the drive quite a bit. But at the same time, you just better make sure you're executing, you're getting the first down and then you're getting points on the board.”
“If you're getting points on the board, the time of possession really is irrelevant because it's going to be tough for the other team to keep up with you,” Gase continued. “We just have to find a way, when we do huddle, when we do slow it down a little bit, just clean up a few of our details, keep the mentality of playing fast when the play starts. That's going to be the biggest key for us."
Is it realistic to expect the Dolphins to come out with guns blazing this weekend?
"Yes,” says offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. “I really think it is. I think that's what we've based the thing on. I think for the last whatever number of years that I've been in this offense, one of the neat things is that you're never out of a game. That would be one characteristic of Coach Gase in Denver and I think myself in Indy. You're never out of it because that's what you do - two-minute offense, getting up-tempo.
“That's the ideal thing. All of a sudden you get into a rhythm in that first half, and you play with a lead, and give our defense a chance to play with a lead, which would be a pleasant change to be up 17-0, to be up 14-3.”
After trailing all but a few minutes of the first two games, but still coming close against two top-notch opponents, starting a game with a lead would be a welcome change. The players know they let some good opportunities slip through their fingers, but as a whole, they are banded together and looking to improve in each of the next 14 games.
"The last two weeks, we've played tough opponents, and you give them credit for that,” said Landry. “But at the same time, we've shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and a couple of three and outs. It's things like that. We have to find a way to get that first, first down, and move the ball effectively and play the first half like we played the second half."
And Landry sees that happening this week.
“We're a building group. We're building more and more chemistry every game.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
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