Dolphins visit Chiefs with no margin for error
The visiting Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs both carry playoff aspirations into Sunday's game at Arrowhead Stadium.
But while the Chiefs have multiple scenarios that put them into the playoffs, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase and his squad must win their final two contests and cross their fingers.
"Our job is to go out there and try to win one game and see what happens," Gase said. "We really lost control of our own destiny after last week but there's a lot of things that possibly could happen, but we've got to take care of our business before worrying out about anybody else."
Miami (6-8) rode an emotional roller coaster the last weeks, stunning the New England Patriots in a 27-20 upset two weeks ago. Then came Sunday's 24-16 setback to the Buffalo Bills, putting the club's playoff prospects in dire straights.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said he sees a wide spectrum in Miami's play swinging from the highs to the lows.
"At times they have played some really good football and there are times you turn on the tape and every facet of the game they are playing at a really high level," Smith said. "And you can understand the expectations they had for themselves at the beginning of the season because of that.
Gase spent six seasons in the AFC West on the coaching staff of the Denver Broncos, and he saw the re-emergence of the Chiefs under Smith and head coach Andy Reid, along with young players such as tight end Travis Kelce.
"It's one of those teams that just gotten those players that were all young when I was there, they've become veteran players and you can kind of see their growth and development in how they've become really good players," Gase said. "It's a tough matchup. They're always a touch matchup, even when I was in Denver."
Gase remains wary of how quickly Kansas City can strike on offense with the triumvirate of rookie running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Kelce.
"Those guys get one-on-one matchups, that's where they're really hurting people," Gase said. "It's all about trying to coverage-wise stay as tight as you can with them, make throws hard to the two guys outside."
Hunt did most of the damage for the Chiefs in the last two weeks, barreling through the defensive fronts of the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers in convincing Kansas City wins.
"You have to do a great job of tackling the running back," Gase said of Hunt. "If you take a wrong angle, if you don't wrap up, if you don't gang-tackle, he's going to run through contact and he's going to make a two-yard gain into 10."
Focusing on one of Kansas City's three big playmakers, however, runs the risk of getting beat by the others. Hill beat the Chargers' secondary last weekend for a 64-yard touchdown pass, his 10th pass reception of 40 or more yards the last two seasons, which includes six touchdowns.
"When you've got a guy that is dangerous and can change the game in one play, you've got to make sure that you do a good job with whatever coverage is called or whatever defense is called," Gase said. "Everybody's got a role in that defense and they have to execute it."
Reid said the Miami defense, led by tackle Ndamukong Suh, pose a challenge with its ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage.
"The whole defense wants to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage," Reid said. "So we take that into account. They've got good players. Good coaches and good players. We've got to have a good week of practice here, make sure we get everything down."
Suh was among six Dolphins who did not participate in practice Wednesday. The lingering knee issue hasn't forced the durable Suh off the field. He last missed a game in 2011, and sat out just two contests in his eight-year career.
The Dolphins did make a couple of big roster moves Wednesday, placing offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod and tight end Julius Thomas to injured reserve.
The Chiefs enter this week's contest with two key starters on the sideline. Kelce and left tackle Eric Fisher both missed practice Wednesday with an illness, but the team hopes both can recover by Sunday.
Updated December 21, 2017