Dolphins showing new knack for winning close games


Dolphins showing new knack for winning close games

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Calling for a fake punt with four minutes left is risky stuff from a rookie coach, especially one as even-keel as Joe Philbin.

The Miami Dolphins coach concedes Las Vegas isn't for him.

``I work too hard for my money,'' Philbin said Monday. ``I'm not a gambler.''

He does play the odds though, which paid off in Miami's 17-14 win Sunday over the St. Louis Rams. A successful fake punt was one of several key plays by the Dolphins down the stretch before St. Louis missed a 66-yard field goal on the final play.

With consecutive wins by a total of seven points, Miami (3-3) is showing a newfound knack for winning close games.

``We have a sense of urgency right now,'' linebacker Karlos Dansby said. ``We have potential to be great, so everybody's chipping in and just doing their part.''

At .500, the Dolphins are far from great, but they do share the AFC East lead with the division's three other teams. Miami has a bye before playing its first division road game next week against the New York Jets.

``It's a whole new season for us,'' receiver Marlon Moore said. ``The sky is the limit.''

There's a sense of enormous progress over the past year, because Miami was 0-7 at the end of October 2011. And narrow victories have been critical to the turnaround.

The Dolphins lost five games by a total of 11 points last season, when they finished 6-10. They endured back-to-back overtime losses this year to fall to 1-3.

But Miami hung on a week ago to win at Cincinnati, 17-13, and dug in again against the Rams, who drove 52 yards before stalling at midfield in the final seconds.

The mood in the Miami locker room has changed, veteran guard Richie Incognito said.

``It's a different feeling,'' he said. ``We are all believing that we can win.''

The latest victory required some serendipity. The Dolphins gave up 462 yards, the most they've allowed in a victory since 2008. They rushed for only 19 yards, the fourth-lowest total in team history. They ran only 49 plays.

But for the second week in a row, they won with just 17 points.

Many elements are involved in learning how to prevail in close games, Philbin said.

``Hopefully the chemistry is a little better, the resolve is a little stronger, the urgency to make a play is there,'' he said. ``Our guys hopefully have watched the tape and learned from some of the prior mistakes and made adjustments.''

The coach did his part with the fake-punt call. Chris Clemons, the up back, took the snap and ran for 3 yards on fourth and 1 from the Dolphins' 40-yard line.

That allowed the Dolphins to keep the ball for another 2 1/2 minutes before the Rams got it back at their own 3 with 1:41 to go.

``I thought we needed a play,'' Philbin said. ``We didn't want to kick the ball back to them right then and there. It worked. It was well conceived by our special teams staff, and our guys practiced it well.

``If you're going to practice this stuff, you can't go 17 weeks and never use it. Do you believe in it or not? You've got to have faith that the guys can execute.''

Trickery can only do so much, however. Philbin's mostly interested in mistake-free football, and there Miami has made strides as well, winning the turnover battle the past two weeks.

While the ground game stalled against the Rams, rookie Ryan Tannehill had his most efficient performance yet, completing 72 percent of his passes and earning a quarterback rating of 112, both season highs. Since tossing an overtime interception that led to a loss at Arizona, Tannehill has thrown 55 passes without a turnover in the past two games.

His passer rating in the fourth quarter is a solid 90.8, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The rookie is learning how to close out games, just like his teammates.

``We're a couple plays away from being 5-1,'' Tannehill said. ``It's just about finding a way to make plays at the end of the game. We did that the last two weeks. We've just got to continue to do it, and we've built some confidence getting these last two wins.''


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Should Bradley Beal be an All-NBA selection?


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Should Bradley Beal be an All-NBA selection?

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by guest co-host Travis Thomas to break down Bradley Beal's All-NBA chances and John Wall's injury rehab.

They also discussed the crazy Eastern Conference playoff race, Trae Young's draft stock and essentials for a good snow day.

You can listen to the episode right here:

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings