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Dolphins encouraged by resurgent ground game

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Dolphins encouraged by resurgent ground game

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Reggie Bush's vantage point was from behind. Carrying the ball on a sweep, he happily followed 303-pound pulling center Mike Pouncey, who led the way like a runaway bulldozer.

``I knew it was going to be a big play,'' Bush said.

It ended in the end zone. The 21-yard touchdown run showed that when the Miami Dolphins get their ground game going, they can be hard to stop.

For the first time since Week 3, the Dolphins topped 100 yards rushing Sunday in their 24-21 victory over Seattle. While Ryan Tannehill led a fourth-quarter comeback and Dan Carpenter kicked the winning field goal on the final play, the resurgent running attack was an unsung hero - and cause for encouragement heading into December.

``All week we talked about getting back to Miami Dolphin football - running the ball well, getting 4 or 5 yards, and the big runs will come,'' Bush said. ``We really talked about controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.''

That they did. Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks' 1,000-yard rusher, netted only 46 yards in 19 carries for a season-low 2.4 per attempt. Miami outrushed Seattle 189 yards to 96.

That's the sort of differential coach Joe Philbin envisions as a winning formula for the Dolphins. With a rookie quarterback and so-so secondary, he figures the ground game and rushing defense should be Miami's strengths.

``It's important for us to be a good running football team, and a good defend-the-run team,'' Philbin said.

Running the ball might be mandatory for Miami to keep up with high-scoring New England on Sunday. The Dolphins (5-6) are unlikely to catch the Patriots (8-3) in the AFC East, but they're only a game out in the race for the conference's final wild-card spot.

``Every game is a playoff game from now on out,'' linebacker Kevin Burnett said. ``Now is the time.''

The Dolphins are ready to make a run at it, with a ground game that has become a two-back attack. Bush and Daniel Thomas have been alternating series in recent weeks, and against Seattle the tandem clicked.

Bush, who had just 82 yards in the previous three games, did his best work on the flanks. He made the most of Pouncey's uncommon agility on the touchdown run and finished with 87 yards in 14 carries. Thomas, working mostly between the tackles, added 60 in nine carries.

Combined they averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

``We definitely wanted to set a tone,'' Thomas said. ``We haven't been running the ball too well lately.''

The Dolphins' ground attack was potent at the start of the season but then stalled, a major reason they took a three-game losing streak into the Seahawks game.

Blocking was much improved Sunday, and the backs were tough to bring down, Philbin said after reviewing videotape of the game.

``Everybody offensively should take a look at this tape and see what we're capable of doing,'' he said. ``We haven't been doing that consistently enough, clearly. The other tapes we've showed would tell you that. We just need to continue.''

The same goes for a run defense that led the NFL a month into the season, then allowed the next five opponents to average 132 yards per game.

``Some people may have felt we were slipping a little bit,'' defensive end Jared Odrick said, ``and we were.''

Seattle netted only 96 yards rushing, including 38 by Russell Wilson on quarterback scrambles.

Even so, Philbin said, there's room for improvement across the board - the spin expected from a coach about to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. Against a team averaging an NFL-best 37 points per game, Miami will need stingy run defense, a clock-eating ground game and more.

``We've got an excellent team coming to town,'' Philbin said. ``We're going to have to play our best game of the year to win. We're going to have to improve. We're not inventing a brand new offense, defense or special teams to win this game. We have to get better from within, and we've got to do it quickly.''

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4.26.18: Rick Horrow sits down with Jeff Conroy, Chairman and Co-founder of Embody

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USA TODAY Sports

4.26.18: Rick Horrow sits down with Jeff Conroy, Chairman and Co-founder of Embody

Rick Horrow The Sports Professor sits down for an exclusive interview with Jeff Conroy. He breaks down the business of the NFL Draft and more from the $1 trillion-dollar business of sports in this week's 'Beyond The Scoreboard' with Rick Horrow.

By Rick Horrow

Podcast editor: Tanner Simkins

Guest info: Jeff Conry - Chairman / Co-founder, Embody. Embody is a medical company developing regenerative medical devices for the repair of tendon and ligament injuries, specifically the achilles tendon and rotator cuff tendon.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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Blazers' C.J. McCollum has a theory on DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Wizards to reunite with John Wall

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USA Today Sports Images

Blazers' C.J. McCollum has a theory on DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Wizards to reunite with John Wall

Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has a theory that may sound familiar to Wizards fans. The star shooting guard now hosts a podcast and said on his most recent episode that he could see DeMarcus Cousins teaming up with John Wall in Washington.

McCollum's Blazers happened to lose in the first round to Cousins' Pelicans, though Cousins did not play in the series due to injury. Now, McCollum has offered thoughts on his future.

Here is what McCollum said about Cousins potentially going to Washington on his Pull Up podcast, as transcribed by SLAM Magazine:

"No slight against the homie. I think he’s a very, very good player. But you just have to look at the team roster and try to figure out what’s best for that roster moving forward...

“I think team success, playoff success, factors in to decision-making with personnel moving forward. Obviously, Jrue Holiday, Rondo, AD will have input on what they decide to do going forward. So that’s something to keep an eye out on in the free agency.

“And if that is the case, Boogie would jump out in to the market as a free agent and be a very hot commodity, and could potentially team up with the Washington Wizards.

“You heard it here first. You heard that here first. You know that Kentucky connection, man. I could see that happening. That’s just something to think about going forward.”

The funny part of those quotes is that McCollum said "you heard it here first." Wizards fans, of course, have been banging that drum since, oh, 2010 when the two were drafted.

As it has often been throughout the last eight years, a reunion of Wall and Cousins is unlikely. Yes, Cousins is expected to hit free agency, but the Wizards currently do not have the money to sign him. They are in the luxury tax and would have to move some big contracts to make room.

Cousins is also coming off a torn Achilles injury. That creates major questions about his future and how much money teams will offer him. 

If healthy, Cousins would fit nicely with the Wizards who will need to get younger at the center position at some point. It just doesn't seem like a good bet given all the factors in play. 

You can listen to McCollum's full podcast here.

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