It’s hard to say whether Sunday’s Dolphins boxscore should be burnt by the heat of 1,000 suns or sent to the Smithsonian.
Probably the latter because sports historians might want to study how a team can get out-gained by 240 yards, rush for 2.6 yards per carry, convert two third downs — and win.
But here’s the craziest part of the Dolphins’ crazy win against the Bills: How they did it should no longer come as a surprise.
For much of Adam Gase’s tenure, this has been a team that wins not because of its offensive execution but in spite of it.
Even by Dolphins standards, however, this year is something to behold.
They are 25th in points (244), 25th in point differential (minus-56) and 29th in yards (3,626).
After Sunday, the Dolphins have been outgained by a whopping 1,168 yards, which is the third-worst differential in football.
“Great,” Gase deadpanned, when alerted to that stat.
“I feel like we had some good, but the penalties we had were at the wrong time for us,” Gase said, when asked specifically about Sunday’s offensive performance. “I think we overcame a couple of things. We missed an opportunity there in the four-minute situation, get a first down and try to keep our defense off the field. We probably made it a little more exciting than we needed to. We’ve just got to keep correcting our mistakes and figure out a way to execute at higher level.”
Let’s unpack what Gase said:
The Dolphins committed eight penalties for 89 yards, including two offensive holding calls that were accepted (they had two others that weren’t).
They also failed to convert a third-and-1 at the Buffalo 46 with 3:24 left which would have essentially put the game away. Running back Kalen Ballage took the direct snap in the Wildcat, but Bills linebacker Matt Milano darted through and dropped him behind the line of scrimmage.
That gave the Bills one last chance, which they would have converted into a win had Charles Clay not dropped a touchdown pass on Buffalo’s final play from scrimmage.
So yeah, the Dolphins have no margin for error these days, particularly with how their offense has performed.
They are somehow 6-6 and a game out of the playoffs despite being outgained at a record pace. Their worst yardage differential in team history came in 1967, when the Dolphins gained 1,321 fewer yards than their opposition.
With the efficient Patriots in town this week, the Dolphins could eclipse that mark with three games left on the schedule.
By way of comparison, when the Dolphins lost all but one game in 2007, they were only minus-875 in yard differential.
Context is important here. It’s a much different game now than it was then, and today, yards are pretty low on the list of factors that decide a game.
No. 1 on that list? Turnover margin, and the Dolphins are tied for seventh in that category at plus-8.
“Just look at records off of that,” Gase said. “It’s insane probably with us.”
It is. The Dolphins are 5-1 in games this year in which they win the turnover battle. They are 1-5 in games they lose or tie it.
But they can’t count on that Sunday against the Patriots, who have turned the ball over just 14 times this year.
More will be needed from the running backs, who rushed for 54 yards on 19 carries Sunday.
More will be needed from the wide receivers, who combined for 12 catches and 105 yards against the Bills.
More will be needed from Tannehill, who produced just 4.5 yards per dropback. (Part of the reason for his paltry numbers: The Bills rocked him early and often; “He’s as tough as they come,” Gase said Monday.)
And more will be needed from receiver Danny Amendola and center Travis Swanson, offensive starters who missed Sunday’s game due to injury. Gase said their availability for New England won’t be known until Thursday, at the earliest.
“I like all of our guys, our skills guys,” Gase said, when asked who his go-to guys are. “They do a lot of good stuff. You look at explosive wise and you look at the way [Kenyan] Drake is, Kenny [Stills] and DeVante [Parker]. Those guys are guys who can create explosive plays. I think you need mix of that and consistency and who are the guys you want to grind out the yards for you. It’s hard to say there’s one guy you want to do that with.”