‘Got the talent, baby’: Dolphins’ postseason hopes hinge on accountability

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill played deep into the postseason each of the last four years with his former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. And Hill has all the confidence his new team can make the playoffs this season.

The Dolphins (8-6) will host the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day, hoping to snap a three-game losing streak which has taken Miami out of the AFC East lead, and treading water for a wild card playoff spot.

What makes Hill so confident?

“Because we’ve got the talent, baby,” Hill said with a smile in the Dolphins locker room before being named to his seventh Pro Bowl on Wednesday.

“We’ve got one of the most swaggiest coaches in the league. Then, we’ve got one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league. So, everybody believes. Nobody has lost faith. And we’re going to keep rolling and keep chopping this wood.”

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Talent and swag are reassuring for Miami – but the Dolphins are holding themselves accountable for their three-game skid..

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled against the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers, causing his league-leading QBR to drop from first to second (71.8), now behind Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes (79.8).

Against the Bills, Tagovailoa threw a 67-yard touchdown Jaylen Waddle and a 20-yard touchdown to Hill in the third quarter, to help Miami take a 29-21 lead into the fourth quarter.

Bills star Josh Allen tied the game, and Buffalo kicked a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. But the Dolphins regret two early red zone opportunities that resulted in field goals during the first half.

“I had a crucial drop in the end zone, which can’t happen to a top-tier guy, a leader on this team,” said Hill, who played in four straight AFC title games and two Super Bowls with the Chiefs.

“We just have to make plays. We made plays down the stretch, but we have to make those key plays that can really change the game around and turn three points into seven points.”

Tagovailoa, who did not make the Pro Bowl despite leading all players in fan voting, hopes to build on his performance against the Bills last week for a strong finish in Miami’s final three games.

“Let every game stand on its own merit. Don’t let what ended up affecting us offensively from the 49ers game to the Chargers game into the next game that we played, which was against Buffalo,” Tagovailoa said

“I think a lot of those things were corrected by a lot of us offensively. And it took the leaders to step up. I would say we did offensively and really we just got to continue to build off of that.”

The Dolphins have the worst 3rd-and-short conversion percentage in the league (21 of 49 attempts, 42.9 percent, on third and 1-3 yards), which is unique because they have the third-best percentage on third and medium situations (17 of 29, 58.6 percent, on third and 4-6 yards), according to TruMedia.

“The reason I know we’re last in short yardage, I live it,” McDaniel said.

“I take that super seriously and I’m not going to put it on players and I know that it needs to get better for us to win football games in big-time moments. … I know run or pass, the idea is that the team needs us to stay on the field and so we need to do a better job collectively and it starts with me.”

Staying on the field has been one of Miami’s biggest problems this season.

As a result, the Dolphins defense ranks in the lower half of the league in many top defensive categories like 23rd in total defense, 26th in scoring defense, 27th in passing defense, 27th in third-down defense and tied for 29th with just 13 turnovers forced.

Now, the Dolphins must prepare to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, whose two-headed monster at running back in Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon accounted for three touchdowns last week against the Rams. The Packers’ young receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs have hit their stride, but Green Bay is 6-8 and vying for a playoff spot just like Miami is.

“[Our defense] earned the right to play on national television, took it very seriously and got embarrassed in their own minds. Their expectation was to do well and it wasn’t,” McDaniel said.

“So, I think we’ve really attacked the possible reasons for those things. And my expectation is that they improve drastically in a short amount of time.”

The Dolphins host the Packers, visit the New England Patriots, and host the New York Jets in the season finale with hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Miami has reached the postseason just twice since 2002.

“We have a lot of goals that we set as a team, and that’s really the main goal for me and for the team is to focus on this game first, obviously, but make a playoff run,” Tagovailoa said.

“And hopefully, we get that opportunity to win those games deep in January and then make a make a Super Bowl run.”

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