DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Coach Adam Gase was at home late on Christmas night grading videotape of the Miami Dolphins’ most recent game when their first playoff berth since 2008 was secured.
Time to hit the pause button on the video, break out the eggnog and trade high-fives with the wife? Apparently not.
“I don’t think there was a high-five,” a stoic Gase said Monday.
The first-year coach is unwilling to celebrate when there are more games to be won, and when a postseason berth was part of the plan from the start.
“This is kind of what we expected,” Gase said. “That’s how you think as a coach.”
Others discounted the Dolphins’ chances, especially after a 1-4 start. But they’ve won nine of their past 10 games, often in harrowing circumstances, and clinched an AFC wild-card berth Sunday night when Denver lost at Kansas City.
Even relative newcomers to Miami such as second-year Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills appreciate the magnitude of the playoff breakthrough.
“That monkey is off your back,” receiver Kenny Still said, “but we’ve still got a lot of things to do.”
The Dolphins (10-5) will travel to Pittsburgh or Houston for the opening round of the playoffs, but first comes Sunday’s regular-season finale at home against AFC East champion New England (13-2).
While Miami is locked into a road game as a wild card, the Patriots are battling for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Gase said he won’t rest his starters.
“This is absolutely a team that, if you look past them, will embarrass you,” Gase said.
Oddsmakers figure that might happen — the Dolphins are 9 1/2-point underdogs.
“I feel like the world wants to take us off track,” tackle Ja’Wuan James said, “but we’re going to just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
They’ll likely go again with backup quarterback Matt Moore, who has thrown six touchdown passes in his two starts, both wins. No. 1 QB Ryan Tannehill is out of his leg cast after straining his left ACL and MCL two weeks ago. But he’s not expected to play against the Patriots, and it’s still uncertain he’ll return this season.
Jay Ajayi was “a little banged-up” but is expected to be fine after rushing for 206 yards in Saturday’s overtime victory at Buffalo , Gase said. Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus was awaiting MRI results for a neck injury that could further deplete the secondary.
The Dolphins have lost their best defensive back (Reshad Jones) and best offensive lineman (Mike Pouncey) to season-ending injuries. But they’ve taken advantage of a weak schedule while winning eight in a row in games decided by a touchdown or less.
As a result, Miami is in the playoffs for the first time since Stephen Ross became majority owner in 2009. He fired two coaches and two general managers before finding success with Gase, the NFL’s youngest head coach.
“I’m happy for our guys,” Gase said. “There are a lot of people that have been here for a long time, and they’ve been waiting for an opportunity to keep playing after the regular season is over. That was our goal when we started this whole process. This is the first step.”
The Dolphins will be seeded sixth and start the playoffs at Pittsburgh unless they win Sunday while Kansas City loses at San Diego. In that case, the Dolphins would be seeded fifth and open the postseason at Houston.
Miami beat Pittsburgh 30-15 in Week 6, and hasn’t played Houston this year.
The elimination of the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos left a postseason opening for Miami. While Gase said the telecast of the Denver game provided “background noise” while he worked Sunday night, some of his players were glued to the tube and relished the result.
“It’s kind of surreal, to be honest,” said long snapper John Denney, who has been with the Dolphins since 2005. “It was like, `Wow, this is happening.’ It has been in a while.”
“The DBs had a live group chat going,” safety Michael Thomas said. “Guys were celebrating. Other than that, back to work.”
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