DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins returned to South Florida from their latest win at 5 a.m. Sunday and were back at work a few hours later, smiling and chatty and betraying no signs of a short night’s sleep.
They’re too busy savoring success.
“Winning is fun,” guard Jermon Bushrod said. “That’s what we get paid to do. You want to be in meaningful games in December, and you just want to win, because winning feels real good.”
It’s a new sensation in these parts, with the Dolphins (9-5) now assured of their first winning season since 2008 following Saturday night’s 34-13 drubbing of the New York Jets.
But the Dolphins are focused on a more ambitious achievement — making the playoffs. They can end a seven-season playoff drought by sweeping their final two regular-season games, and could even clinch next weekend.
“The more you win, the more pressure the next game is,” Bushrod said. “Saturday was a big game for us, but it won’t be the biggest. I don’t want that to be the biggest game we play. I want us to keep finding a way to win, because that’s what good teams do.”
With eight victories in the past nine games, the Dolphins are clearly better than in recent years, and the weeks to come will help determine how good they are. They play Saturday at Buffalo and then conclude the regular season Jan. 1 against New England.
Miami regained control of its fate Sunday when Denver lost to New England . The Dolphins moved ahead of the Broncos (8-6) in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot, and will clinch a berth next weekend if they win and Denver loses at Kansas City.
Nobody preaches one week at a time more than first-year coach Adam Gase, and when asked if he allows himself even a moment to be excited about his team’s success, he stuck with a response so familiar he considered it not even worth quoting.
“I think you know what my answer is going to be,” Gase said. “It’s wasting paper and the internet. But that has been a great thing our players have embraced: Focus on what we’re doing right now.
“We play until somebody tells us not to. We just need to stick with that mantra.”
The Jets sure couldn’t stop them. The Dolphins completed their first sweep of their division rivals since 2009 as Matt Moore threw a career-high four touchdown passes in his first start since 2011.
“I think I got a good pulse of the guys and how they were feeling, and even if I didn’t, I would probably fake it,” Moore said. “But I felt really good, and I knew the guys felt good.”
They looked good, too. Kenny Stills had a reception covering at least 50 yards for the third time this year. Jarvis Landry turned a short pass into a 66-yard touchdown and surpassed 1,000 yards for the season, and Jay Ajayi became a 1,000-yard rusher.
On defense, Cameron Wake had a strip sack and his first career interception, and Tony Lippett added two interceptions, while Walt Aikens scored on special teams for the second week in a row.
With quarterback Ryan Tannehill sidelined by a knee injury, the Dolphins found a way to compensate, as they’ve done with season-ending injuries to their best defensive back (Reshad Jones) and best offensive lineman (Mike Pouncey).
“Once again, somebody goes down, and everybody rallies and steps up their game,” Gase said. “You don’t hear our guys putting their head down and being upset. It’s that rallying cry of next man up.”
As a reward, most of the Dolphins have a shot at the first playoff game of their career.
“This is an amazing feeling to be in the position that we are in,” Landry said. “I can’t remember in past years how many Dolphins teams were above .500 at this point in the year. So for us to be where we are is a testament to the hard work we’ve put in.”
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