Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes (21) intercepts the ball as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) attempts top tackle during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky
November 23, 2015

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) The Miami Dolphins might need to lower their sights. They persisted in talking Monday about making the postseason, even though a more modest achievement - finishing at .500 - could be beyond their reach.

Miami must win four of the final six games to go 8-8 for a third year in a row, and that won't be easy, especially given the way the way the team has played lately. A 24-14 defeat Sunday against Dallas was the third loss in the past four games.

The Dolphins (4-6) will try to bounce back Sunday at the Jets, who won against Miami in London in Week 4. The Dolphins are 0-4 in the AFC East, leaving them at a disadvantage regarding playoff tiebreakers.

They might need to sweep the final six games to end a seven-year postseason drought.

''We've still got a chance,'' defensive end Olivier Vernon said. ''We're not making up any fairy tale. We know what we've got to do.''

The Dolphins cling to playoff hopes, however faint, because through Sunday only five AFC teams were above .500.

''That's the crazy part - as bad as our situation is, we're still in the mix,'' safety Michael Thomas said. ''So nobody is giving up. We've still got a lot to play for.''

Aside from chasing the postseason, or even .500, players are trying to help popular interim coach Dan Campbell, but each loss reduces the chance he'll be back next season. Miami is 3-3 since Joe Philbin was fired.

Campbell praised the attitude of his players following Monday's team meeting, saying they took ownership for mistakes. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh gave a passionate speech.

''You always have emotional days after a loss,'' Campbell said. ''You've got to face the music before you can move on.''

The season has been full of sour notes because the Dolphins have achieved a kind of balance no coach wants. They rank 26th in the NFL in both total offense and total defense, and they're 19th or worse in other major categories: rushing offense and defense, and passing offense and defense.

Miami has managed to score more than 20 points only twice all season, and the point totals the past four weeks have been 7, 17, 20 and 14.

''That's a hard way to live,'' Campbell said.

To make matters worse, the offense has given up a score in each of those games.

Season-long problems continued Sunday. The Dolphins, last in the AFC in third-down conversions at 28 percent, went 1 for 10 against Dallas. They again had a pass-run imbalance, with only 14 rushing attempts despite averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Familiar issues on defense persisted, too. Miami ranks rank next to last in run defense and gave up 166 yards on the ground.

The Dolphins blamed their own mistakes for the defeat. They committed nine penalties, misplayed a kickoff and dropped a pair of early third-down passes.

''It made me a little sick to lose in that fashion,'' Vernon said. ''We've been inconsistent. We've got to break that mold, man. We've got to start fighting and stop doing self-inflicted wounds.''

It might not help that four of the last five games are at home. The Dolphins are 1-2 in Miami this year, and 18-24 at home since 2010.

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine. . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine

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