ATLANTA—Adam Gase isn’t the type of coach who will stomp around and scream after a win, even one the Dolphins needed this desperately, but he’s got players who can show him how it’s done. And after he pulled off the biggest win of his tenure with Miami, one of them wanted to make sure he didn’t miss the joyous celebration.
As Gase walked off from the Dolphins’ 20-17 comeback over the Falcons, his eyes dead set on the locker room tunnel and his mind already skipping ahead to post-game obligations, Jarvis Landry upended him. Landry wrapped him up in a bear hug and hoisted him skyward in a moment that let everyone know how much relief there was for an offense that had been totally incompetent over the past month.
Gase might not think so, but he needed that validation and there’s no more meaningful source from which it could’ve come. Nothing the media says, no roar from the crowd, can compare to Landry lifting him off his feet and smacking his back a few times in jubilation.
“It means a lot to me,” said Gase, who’s been as much under fire as anyone for Miami’s mess of an offense. “Those guys are battling with physicality, and we’re on the sideline. We’re spectators for the most part. You do everything you can to put them in the best position possible. Really, it’s their game. We’re just kinda there with them.
“I think he knew how I felt about getting things going on offense. With that being the side of the ball that I’m in charge of, we hadn’t really done anything, and I kinda felt like we were letting the defense down. He knew I wanted to get it going.”
Getting it going is the right way to describe what the offense did Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It wasn’t barrage, but at least it was a start. For the first time in a month, there’s some shred of potential for the Dolphins to claim.
It didn’t look like it was headed that way in the first half, when Jay Cutler threw away their only decent drive with confounding interception at Atlanta’s end of the field and the Dolphins trudged into halftime down 17-0.
But here’s where we see one aspect of Gase that truly makes him head coach material instead of just another play caller. It’s the unwavering self-confidence that makes these guys follow him. When almost everyone on the outside thought Atlanta was cruising toward a blowout, Gase got the Dolphins in the locker room at halftime, pointed out some positives and told the offense exactly how he saw the rest of the day playing out.
“Everything he told us at halftime came to light,” Jermon Bushrod said. “We did what he said we were gonna do, what we knew we could do.”
That’s a viable narrative given that the Dolphins opened the third quarter with one of their most impressive drives of the year. From their own 25-yard line, they all the way down the field in 15 plays (only one for negative yardage) and capped a nearly nine-minute possession with Cutler’s short touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.
You remember Cutler, right? The guy everyone booed last week when he put up a 52.1 passer rating at home? Those chants for Matt Moore only make Gase more resolute.
“That’s why I don’t listen to anything,” he said. “I’m gonna do what I want to do and I’m gonna do what’s best for the team. That’s how we’re gonna operate. I know the direction we’re headed. I watch practice every day. I go through the steps with these guys every day.
Defiant Gase is the best Gase. That’s the streak in his personality that makes him bet big on fourth downs, which he did successfully on 2 of 3 tries in Atlanta.
It took some good fortune for the Dolphins on Sunday, too, and few would deny they deserved to catch a break or two after a string of bad bounces. This game was a confluence of everything they needed, and it produced the kind of win that can change the course of a season.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Miami got its next scoring chance with the help of a botched punt, a phantom pass interference call and a roughing the passer flag that negated a Cutler interception. That left little work to do, and Gase was on such a hot streak that the pass play he called for Stills surprisingly sprung Landry open instead.
The Dolphins flooded the right side, and Landry initially started running from left to right, then cut back and found himself striding toward the end zone with no one near him as he cut Atlanta’s lead to 17-14. It was perfectly imperfect.
“I don’t know if they just thought Jarvis was going across the field on a reverse or what really happened,” Gase said. “Normally they cover him. It kinda worked out.”
It’s hard to remember the last time anything came that easily for Miami’s offense.
The Dolphins kept scratching with Cody Parkey’s tying field goal from 49 yards and his game winner from 38 with 2:30 remaining. Their five second-half possessions were touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, run out the clock in victory formation. Usually those drive charts have been cluttered with punts and turnovers.
This wasn’t championship-caliber offense by any means, but it was good and it signal the start of something bigger. It’s also the first time since the opener Gase left the field with something resembling a smile on his face.
“It’s what this team needed,” Landry said. “It’s what we all needed, especially him.”
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