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Miami Dolphins beginning to resemble playoff squad

By The Sports Xchange
Los Angeles Rams running back Benny Cunningham (23) is chased down by Miami Dolphins linebacker Spencer Paysinger (42) at the LA Coliseum in Los Angeles, November 20, 2016. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI
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Los Angeles Rams receiver Tavon Austin (11) and Miami Dolphins defensive back Tony Lippett (36) battle for the ball at the LA Coliseum in Los Angeles, November 20, 2016. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI
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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is sacked by Miami Dolphins Cameron Wake(91) and Ndamukong Suh at the LA Coliseum in Los Angeles, November 20, 2016. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI
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DAVIE, Fla. -- More and more, Miami has the look of a playoff team.
The never-say-die Dolphins scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 4:02 and ran their winning streak to five games with Sunday's dramatic 14-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
The Dolphins (6-4), who were without three starting offensive lineman in the second half against the Rams, find themselves in the thick of the AFC playoff race now, and considering they face New England in the season finale they still have an outside shot at winning the AFC East.
But that's getting way too far ahead of things.
The focus, for now, is on the five-game winning streak and what's transpired during these victories.
Miami, which started Sunday's game with Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey (hip) and Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert (wrist) inactive, and then lost left tackle Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) in the second quarter, is now a supremely confident team that believes it can win in any situation. The Rams game was a perfect example.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill led scoring drives of 77 and 75 yards, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jarvis Landry and another to wide receiver DeVante Parker to cap the come-from-behind victory.
"As long as there's time on the clock," Tannehill said, "I believe we're going to win."
Miami now has three fourth-quarter victories during the winning streak defeating the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers in addition to the Rams, winning on special teams (Jets), defense (Chargers) and offense (Rams).
And the Dolphins refuse to settle.
Miami trailed the Rams, 7-0, at halftime, and 10-0 entering the fourth quarter.
After they drove to get within 10-7 on wide receiver Jarvis Landry's hard-fought 10-yard touchdown reception they were faced with the prospect of a game-tying field goal on their final possession.
"We wanted to (be) aggressive," Landry said. "We didn't want the field goal, we wanted the touchdown."
They got it the touchdown. They've also, for now, got the look of a playoff team.
--Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (24 of 34, 172 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) didn't have an especially productive game against the Rams through the first three quarters. But Tannehill came alive in the fourth quarter, going 13 of 16 passing for 116 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Before the first touchdown drive of the fourth quarter, Tannehill showed how his mentality has changed recently.
"I told the guys right before we went on our first touchdown drive," Tannehill said, "'Hey, everyone take a deep breath, we're going to win this game.'"
And that's what happened, largely because Tannehill led the way.
"He did exactly what big-time players do," wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. "They make the plays when it counts. He did that for us."
--Miami's offensive line is ailing. Three starters -- Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert (wrist), Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey (hip) and left tackle Laremy Tunsil (shoulder), the first-round pick -- were on the sideline for the second half of Sunday's win.
Albert, who had wrist surgery last week, said he wouldn't rule himself out for next week's game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's no word on when Pouncey will return. He missed the first four games of the season after an offseason hip procedure.
Tunsil, who was replacing Albert, sustained his injury in the second quarter against the Rams and didn't return.
That meant left tackle Sam Young joined left guard Kraig Urbik and center Anthony Steen as replacements on the offensive line along with regular right guard Jermon Bushrod and right tackle Ja'Wuan James.
The Dolphins were productive in the running game (19 carries, 98 yards, 5.2 yards per carry) but had a bit of trouble in pass protection (four sacks allowed). Still, they got the job done.
--Miami's run defense, which entered the Rams game 30th in the NFL at 128.8 yards per game, had a decent showing, keeping Los Angeles to 101 yards on 28 carries (3.6 yards per carry). The Rams had 17 carries for 56 yards (3.3 yards per carry) in the second half.
Middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (eight tackles) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (six tackles) anchored a run defense that wasn't spectacular but made enough plays when it counted. Rams running back Todd Gurley (20 carries, 75 yards) had three carries for five yards in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: RB Jay Ajayi has rushed for 802 yards this season, including 685 during the current five-game winning streak. Ajayi has been slowed a bit the last two games, gaining 79 yards against the San Diego Chargers two games ago and 77 yards against the Rams last week. Still, he's on pace to rush for way more than 1,000 yards. ... LB Kiko Alonso, the team leader in tackles at 79, had a forced fumble and recovery Sunday against the Rams. Alonso had a team-best eight tackles and continues to show he's past the knee problems that have slowed him the last two seasons. ... S Isa Abdul-Quddus quietly had a productive day against the Rams with seven tackles and one quarterback hit. Abdul-Quddus had been playing at a high level since Pro Bowl string safety Reshad Jones (shoulder) sustained a season-ending shoulder injury a few weeks ago.
Miami Dolphins beginning to resemble playoff squad Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 12:48 AM Rating: 5

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