The question now is whether the team’s first victory in 39 days will quell any discord.
“Sometimes stuff happens in the family,” coach Joe Philbin said Friday. “Some of it is not always great, and you have to deal with it. That’s what we do.”
When asked if he’s satisfied with the Dolphins’ chemistry, Philbin referred to their 22-20 win over Cincinnati 12 hours earlier.
“I think the character of the team was revealed,” he said.
Cameron Wake became only the third NFL player to end an overtime game with a sack when he tackled Andy Dalton at the goal line in the 69th minute Thursday.
The victory put the brakes on a tailspin by Miami (4-4) that included a four-game losing streak and talk of dissension between coaches and among players, including teasing by teammates that might have contributed to the abrupt departure of tackle Jonathan Martin.
The second-year pro from Stanford left the team to receive help for emotional issues, and it’s unclear whether or when he’s expected back.
“Our primary concern is for the health of the individual,” Philbin said after the game. “He has been excused with a non-football illness. Our concern and support are with him, and really that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.”
Given the tumult of the week, another loss could have been devastating. Instead, with one improbable play – Wake’s tackle – the Dolphins revived their flagging playoff hopes.
Late-game dramatics had gone against the Dolphins in recent weeks. They had chances to win in the fourth quarter in three consecutive games and came up short each time. They changed that script against Cincinnati.
Against the Bengals, they drove 50 yards in the final 84 seconds of regulation for a tying field goal, made a stand in their own territory in overtime to force a punt, then won with a sack.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said. “It came down to the wire, and we finally finished.”
With the victory, the Dolphins matched their best record at the halfway point since 2003, which shows how woeful the past decade has been for the franchise. Now Miami still has a reasonable shot at its first winning season in five years — and perhaps more than that.
After two games in five days against first-place teams, the schedule eases a bit. The Dolphins get a 10-day break before playing on a Monday night at winless Tampa Bay, followed by consecutive home games.
“We had our backs up against the wall for a couple of weeks in a row,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We kept getting pushed further back, and finally we got out of that hole a little bit.”
Tannehill has been getting sacked at a franchise-record pace, and guard Richie Incognito suffered a neck injury Thursday that further depleted the beleaguered offensive line. But Nate Garner filled in for Incognito and won praise from teammates, while Tyson Clabo — benched a week earlier — had a solid game as Martin’s replacement.
Incognito is expected to be available for the Tampa Bay game, and Clabo said he hopes Martin returns soon, too. Regardless, he said, the victory will make the locker room a happier place.
“Those consecutive losses are tough,” Clabo said. “They start piling up, and you have to get a win to stop the bleeding. Hopefully we can turn this thing around and get a streak going the other direction.”