It is no secret now and has been no secret over the past several weeks that Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will be one that that will define the Miami Dolphins season. If they win, they are in excellent position to make the playoffs, even if they lose the following week to the New England Patriots. Lose though & the chances of making the playoffs become very slim.
While players and coaches haven’t admitted in the past that the upcoming game is a big one, they are taking a different approach to this week and are all well aware – publicly and privately – of how big this game is.
“This is an important game. We hadn’t gotten into all the scenarios, there’s 9 million scenarios I’m sure and 8,000 different tie breaker rules,” Joe Philbin said. “The thing is, we’ve told the team and they started to watch the film, this is an excellent football team we’re playing and we’re going to have to play extremely well. It’s great we have a home game at our stadium and it’s December. They know that and we’ve got to play extremely well. So I haven’t spent time really figuring out all the variables and all the possibilities. What I have spent time on is watching these guys and preparing a plan for our guys. This is a good football team we’re playing.”
While Brent Grimes says that he is preparing for this game just like any other, he also admitted that in the month of December, the games get tougher, faster and more competitive and that’s when everyone needs to really step up.
“There’s been a sense of urgency the whole year. I’m not lying when I say I approach every game the same. If I’m going to sit here and say that I’m approaching this game more than (others), then that would be disrespectful to the rest of the season. Every game counts, but obviously we know now these are big games. I’m approaching the game just like I approached game one or game three. Play ball and do your job and, if you do your job, you did your part and you’ll be happy with how it comes out. If everybody approaches it like that and does their job, we’ll like the outcome of the game.”
Grimes added that if they do everything they are supposed to do on Sunday and approach it the same way as every other game, the rest will handle itself and the Dolphins will be in good position to do the right things. Jared Odrick took a similar approach to Grimes, saying that every game in the NFL is a do-or-die and that you can’t overlook anyone or take an opponent for too much of what they are really worth.
“Every game that we play, we treat it as if it’s a make or break, as if it’s a playoff game itself. I think that’s the way you have to approach it. As soon as you don’t approach a game like it’s not do or die, that’s when you die easy. It’s as simple as that. You have to approach every game from here on out as do or die, you have to, there is no other option. I think everybody on this team knows that.”
Ryan Tannehill said that the month of December and the playoff race is exactly what they’ve been preparing for since April. He noted that this is why they put in all the hard work, all the extra time and all the extra preparation – for this time of the year in the NFL.
“I think teams play better later in the year. As a trend of the year, you should constantly be improving as the year goes along. Hopefully, we play our best football in December and, like you said, it comes down to make or break. It’s a huge game. I think we all realize at what point we are in the season. Every game has another level of importance. It’s a December game, conference game, both fighting to make the playoffs, the same records. I think it’s two good teams matching up. I think it’s going to be a fun game. As a team, we understand what the game is and have our goal set on what we want to accomplish. We have to go out and play well from here on out.”
While some may point to the history of the Ravens vs. Dolphins and how the Ravens always seem to have the upper hand, Philbin wasn’t buying any of it and dismissed it as just background noise.
“I think each game is different. I’m trying to rack my brain, this is my third year here, I don’t think we played them (Baltimore) my first year. We played them last year and it was a 26-23 game if I’m not mistaken. And we certainly had our opportunities but they certainly deserved to win. They played better than us. I don’t really think guys think about that that much. It’s a new year, it’s a new game.”
We all know the importance of Sunday, the players and coaches know the importance of Sunday and everyone keeping an eye on the playoff race know the importance of Sunday. Now, it’s time for the Dolphins to take the field and pick up the victory that they need to have to stay alive for the playoffs.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs