With lopsided loss, Dolphins lose control of playoff fate
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) The Miami Dolphins rebounded from a 1-4 start, and now they must regroup from their most lopsided loss of the season.
They need to do it quickly, too, because the Dolphins are running out of room for further stumbles if they want to end an eight-year playoff drought.
A 38-6 drubbing Sunday at Baltimore snapped Miami's six-game winning streak, but coach Adam Gase said he's confident his team can bounce back this week against Arizona.
''It ain't the first time we got smacked around a little bit,'' Gase said Monday. ''It has been a while, though.''
The Dolphins' first loss in two months cost them control of their playoff fate, leaving them at 7-5 and a game behind Denver in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot.
Gase shook his head when asked about a diminishing margin for error.
''I'm not even going to worry about it, because you hear that every year, and really everybody is usually wrong,'' Gase said. ''You play until somebody tells you you can't play anymore. We were 1-4 and everybody said our season was over. I'm pretty sure if everybody went to Vegas and put money on that, they'd be broke.''
If Gase isn't fretting about the playoff race, he should be worried about weaknesses exposed by the Ravens, who shredded Miami's pass defense and intercepted Ryan Tannehill three times after the lopsided score forced the Dolphins to abandon the ground game that's their strength.
There are troublesome trends beyond the single loss. An injury-depleted defense has allowed season-high yardage totals (475 and 496) each of the past two weeks for the highest total against a Miami team in back-to-back games since 1984.
Shaky depth may be further tested if linebacker Kiko Alonso is unavailable this week. He suffered a broken right thumb Sunday that required surgery.
Gase said he doesn't know whether cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) or center Mike Pouncey (hip) will return this week. Pouncey has played in only five games this year, but Gase said there's a ''great chance'' he'll be back before the end of the season.
Reinforcements would be welcome for a team that may have been overestimated during its winning streak.
The Dolphins have beaten only one team that's above .500 (Pittsburgh at 7-5). Their other victories came against teams that are a combined 19-52.
The schedule remains favorable. The Dolphins face only one team that has a winning record the rest of the regular season (AFC East leader New England on Jan. 1), and are at home Sunday against Arizona (5-6-1).
''There's still a lot of football left for us,'' Tannehill said.
But while the Dolphins still have a good shot at their first winning record since 2008, their record can be viewed as misleading. They've been outscored by 23 points, including 83-27 in the first quarter, and outgained by 544 yards. They rank 25th in both offense and defense.
And they're coming off their most one-sided defeat in four years.
''The good thing is in the NFL, no matter how many you win by, how many you lose by, it's one win, one loss,'' Gase said.
Even so, running back Jay Ajayi said it seemed strange to lose.
''We'd been on a streak and hadn't tasted a defeat in a long time,'' Ajayi said. ''It's tough. It's a weird feeling. We're used to winning, but it's OK. We'll get past this, and we'll start a new streak.''
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