Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Key to Victory: Sustain the ground game
The focus here will be on the field for the Miami Dolphins.
Last week, Joe Philbin’s team snapped a four-game losing streak thanks to a 22-20 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
In some ways, the game was eerily similar to the Dolphins' outing the previous week, a 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots.
In that contest, Miami owned a 17-3 halftime lead thanks in part to a running game that rolled up 103 yards on 22 carries in the first two quarters. The Dolphins ran just nine times for 53 yards after intermission, and a 14-point lead turned into a 10-point loss.
Last week versus the Bengals, Philbin and company owned a 17-3 advantage midway through the third quarter and in the process had already rolled up 142 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Once again, the Dolphins squandered the lead (before rallying late and in overtime). And once again, the ground attack was a non-factor late, as Miami ran just eight times for 15 yards the rest of the evening.
Against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dolphins may want to chew up a little more clock this week should they jump out to a double-digit lead once again. And the Bucs can tell you everything you know about blowing a big lead.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key to Victory: Close the door
It was theirs for the taking.
And obviously, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t take it.
After jumping out to a stunning 21-0 second-quarter lead over the Seahawks in Seattle and owning a 17-point lead in the third quarter, the Bucs stopped there.
Seattle would score the final 20 points of the afternoon in a 27-24 overtime win, the latest loss in a nightmare season for head coach Greg Schiano and company.
Tampa’s second-half woes this season haven’t gotten a lot of attention, but they are certainly worth noting. The Buccaneers have been outscored a combined 92-36 in the final two quarters and overtime.
It shapes up as an interesting tilt with the Dolphins, who we have seen in recent weeks have their own issues protecting halftime leads. And the absence of workhorse running back Doug Martin hasn’t helped Schiano’s case this season.
The Bucs have made a habit of finding ways to lose this season. And unfortunately for all involved, they’ve gotten rather good at it.