Surprising Dolphins in thick of AFC playoff race


Surprising Dolphins in thick of AFC playoff race

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) The Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback is hurt, their running attack is in a slump and they've been outgained by nearly a quarter of a mile in the past two games.

Yet they're winning. Three consecutive victories have left the Dolphins (4-3) above .500 for the first time under coach Joe Philbin, and they begin preparations for Sunday's game at Indianapolis in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

A year ago the Dolphins were 0-7. They've won 10 of 16 since, including a 30-9 road rout against the New York Jets on Sunday.

Surprising? The Dolphins say no.

``I don't know what everybody else believes,'' defensive back Jimmy Wilson said. ``But we believe the Miami Dolphins are a pretty good team.''

That was the case against the Jets, even without quarterback Ryan Tannehill, sidelined in the first quarter by a left knee injury and bruised left thigh. The Dolphins were awaiting results of an MRI exam Monday to determine whether Tannehill will be available for an all-rookie showdown against the Colts' Andrew Luck.

Matt Moore, Miami's most valuable player in 2011, replaced Tannehill and finished with a fine passer rating of 96.6. Moore lost a battle this summer with newcomer Tannehill for the No. 1 job.

``The majority of my career, I've been a backup,'' Moore said. ``I just prepare and know that the opportunity can come at any time. When you get in there, manage the game, don't turn the ball over, but at the same time take your shots and make big plays. That's just how I approach it.''

Moore committed no turnovers and threw for a score, only the fifth TD passing by the Dolphins, which ties them for last in the NFL. They're fifth worst in yards rushing per carry at 3.7, and haven't reached 100 yards rushing in a game since Week 3.

But they lead the league in third-down defense, and they've been stout against the run and in the red zone. Brandon Fields ranks first in punting, and special teams have come up with a succession of big plays, in part because of daring decisions by Philbin.

A fake punt in Dolphins territory helped them edge the St. Louis Rams two weeks ago, and an early onside kick set the tone against the Jets.

``Daring is usually not associated with me,'' the low-key Philbin said with a smile. ``We felt like it was the right thing to do. But let's face it, there's going to be a time where we think that and the other team does a better job executing, and it's not going to work. Then we're going to be (called) careless and too risky.''

Miami's special teams are about more than mere trickery. Against New York, the Dolphins deflected a field goal, blocked a punt for a touchdown and returned a kickoff 57 yards to set up a TD.

Such plays are why Miami has won despite being outgained 825-428 in the past two games.

``The way we're built right now, we have to play well on special teams,'' Philbin said. ``We're not a super high-scoring offense today as we speak; I think we're going to get better as the year goes on. Our defense is playing well on third down, and they're playing well in the red zone. And we've got a pretty good punter. That's kind of the way we've been playing.''

The Dolphins, who trail only New England (5-3) in the AFC East, have benefited from a soft schedule. They have yet to beat a team that has a winning record, and they might be favored in the next four games before tough back-to-back challenges against the Patriots and San Francisco in early December.

``We've always known the kind of team we are,'' Moore said. ``We've always had belief in ourselves. People are going to say what they're going to say, but this is a good team. There are great character guys in this locker room. These guys are going to play their hearts out for 60 minutes. A lot of times, that's going to end with positive things.''


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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

With a march on Washington planned for this weekend following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were invited by the Wizards to attend their Friday morning practice at Capital One Arena.

About 20 of the kids showed up to watch the Wizards practice, took pictures with players, got a tour of the facilities and walked away with Wizards hats and gear. It was a small break away from what has been a tumultous time ever since the massacre at their school on Feb. 14.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis was on hand to speak with the students, who are set to lead the 'March For Our Lives' through downtown Washington on Saturday.


Wizards guard Bradley Beal met with the media after taking photos with the students.

"For us to be able to take their mind off of it for just a few minutes is always a great feeling," Beal said. "At the end of the day, we're all human beings regardless of our careers are and what our jobs are. A lot of us have families, kids, brothers and sisters. The last thing that you want to happen is what happened to several of those families. You can never imagine."

Beal went to college in Florida and has participated in his own forms of activism. He has found inspiration in the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students. They have taken what happened to their school as a catalyst for what they hope produces change in the ability to protect similar attacks from happening again.


Beal, 24, finds that admirable.

"It's amazing sometimes to learn from the youth on how to do things," Beal said. "It's a testament to where our world needs to lead to, to where we need to get to and to come together as a society. It starts with us as the younger generation. We've gotta come together with love and do things like this. I think what they're doing is awesome. It's spreading positive vibes and it's true humanitarian work that they're doing."

The Stoneman Douglas students are expected to attend Friday night's Wizards-Nuggets game as well.

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Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

The relationship between Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal and Bullets legend Phil Chenier goes beyond your average friendship between a current and former player, or a current player and team broadcaster.

Beal and Chenier are close to the point Chenier often offers advice as a fellow shooting guard who helped lead the organization to some of their most important accomplishments.

Beal is always open ears when Chenier is talking and took great honor in being the one to tell Chenier personally that his jersey would be retired by the Wizards.

The day has come for Chenier's No. 45 to be raised to the rafters and Beal feels a unique sense of pride in seeing a man he reveres to the highest degree finally have his day in the sun.

"It's unbelievable. It's more than deserving," Beal said. "I was happy to be the one who told him about it. It's a special night for him. He's been a mentor to a lot of us for many years."


Chenier was a three-time All-Star for the Washington Bullets back in the 1970s. Following his playing career, he became a legendary broadcaster calling Bullets and then Wizards games for over 30 years.

Beal is now an NBA All-Star himself, having earned the honor for the first time this season. He is a shooting guard, just like Chenier.

Chenier was the color analyst for Wizards games for the first five years of Beal's career and Beal has always seen Chenier as a model to follow both on and off the court.

"It's always motivation for me to get better and I feel like this is the final touch of it, having your jersey retired by the franchise that you played a part in their success," Beal said.


The honor Chenier is about to receive is another goal to strive for. Beal wants to achieve a lot of what Chenier has accomplished in his life from winning a championship to making All-NBA to now having his jersey hang in the rafters at Capital One Arena.

"It definitely motivates me for that to be a goal of mine. Especially with the fact we both play the same position," Beal said.


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For more on Chenier's jersey retirement, check out our in-depth interview with him on the Wizards Tipoff podcast: