DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The young Miami Dolphins fan gleefully bounding down the stadium ramp minutes after her team’s scintillating comeback victory over Philadelphia shouted the same thing over and over in astonishment.
“We never win!” she screamed with a grin. “We deserve this! We never win!”
Lately that’s not so true, however. Miami’s upset victory Sunday was the third in five games for a ragtag group that has rebounded from a historically bad start in the season’s first two months, and overcome a wave of injuries that made a mess of an already gutted roster.
The Dolphins have beaten the Jets, Colts and Eagles and are now the NFL’s most upbeat 3-9 team.
“It has been a fun year,” rookie coach Brian Flores said Monday. “I enjoy coaching this team. We have a group of guys who really work hard, and I’ve been impressed with how they’ve dealt with the adversity. We’ve improved, and that’s the goal in coaching.”
Each victory hurts the Dolphins’ position in the 2020 draft, complicating their search for a franchise quarterback. But success also signals they may have finally found a coach who can lead them to their first postseason victory since 2000 — not this year, but someday.
There are now rumblings on social media that Flores, who lost his first seven games, deserves votes for coach of the year.
“We’ve stuck to our process, our routine, the things that coach Flo preaches each week,” running back Patrick Laird said. “It might not seem like it on the outside, but this team is really close.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Sunday was another dismal day for the ground game. Three running backs combined for 25 yards on 15 carries, and Miami remains on pace for the fewest yards by any team in a 16-game season.
In his fifth NFL season, receiver DeVante Parker has transformed from a first-round bust into Miami’s best offensive player.
The 6-foot-3 Parker made several spectacular leaping catches Sunday and finished with a career-high 159 yards receiving on seven catches, including a career-best two scores.
“He really got it going and fueled us as an offense. He wanted that ball on every play,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “I talk about him every week as just being a consistent, reliable guy.”
Parker’s performance helped the Dolphins reach their highest points total since 2015.
A chronic underachiever plagued by injuries throughout his career, Parker has stayed healthy this season. He leads the AFC in yards receiving since Week 6 and is on pace for his first 1,000-yard year.
“Those 50-50 balls, he has really made those plays the entire year,” Flores said. “Fitz knows that. He’s looking for them, and DeVante’s coming through for him.”
The Dolphins-Bengals game Dec. 22 has lost some sheen as a showdown for the No. 1 draft pick. The race for the first choice has become more competitive, and Miami is one of seven teams with three wins or less.
Running back Kalen Ballage departed with a left leg injury that was still being evaluated Monday, Flores said. Ballage is averaging 1.8 yards per carry, which would be the worst full-season average by a running back with at least 70 carries since 1936.
1977 — That’s the last time an NFL kicker scored on a touchdown reception. Miami’s Jason Sanders achieved the feat when he caught holder/punter Matt Haack’s 1-yard pass on a trick play.
“That was awesome,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “Kickers and punters are people too.”
The Dolphins might not be done winning; their next three opponents are 7-29. They’ll try to build on their best game of season when they play Sunday at the New York Jets (4-8).
“Momentum is fleeting in this league,” Flores said. “We have to recreate that momentum every week.”
(© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)