MIAMI GARDENS -- They're not good.
But they're not dead.
That's the slogan of the season, a season that is somehow still alive in a playoff sense after another unaesthetic outing, a 21-17 victory against the Buffalo Bills.
"It was a big win," linebacker Kiko Alonso said. "It was a huge game. This time of year, you've got to keep fighting."
The real fight is the struggle to keep watching them.
This was the 10th time during the season that the Dolphins have been outgained. Ten. Out of 12.
Somehow they are 6-6.
In one of the two games they outgained the opponent, it was by six yards against Tennessee. The other was the overtime win against the Bears. Both of those games were at home. Sunday was the 6th time this season they've been outgained by at least 100 yards. It was the second time this season the other team has had more than twice as many yards -- this time it was a ludicrous 415-175 in Buffalo's favor; Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen had nearly as many yards on nine carries (135) as the Dolphins did on 50 plays!
And it marked the third time this season the Dolphins have gained 175 yards or fewer.
Not for a quarter.
Not for a half.
For the entire game.
All three of those 175-or-fewer games, incidentally, have come against AFC East opponents -- Patriots, Bills, Jets -- with two of those actually being wins, but all three speaking ill of Miami's offensive coaching staff, starting with the head coach (Adam Gase) who calls the plays. After all, those are the teams that know you best. Clearly, Gase isn't fooling anyone.
Not even when he calls a direct snap to his third-string running back (Kalen Ballage) on a critical 3rd-and-1, and Ballage is met by five Bills. Because a quarterback sneak is so last century.
And yet, miraculously, Miami remains alive. How? No idea. They remain alive despite scoring at least 25 points in only three games, and only 15 times total in Gase's 44 games as coach; for context, the Kansas City Chiefs have now done that 17 straight times, including Sunday after kicking their best running back (Kareem Hunt) off the team. They remain alive even though it's not clear what Matt Burke is doing, particularly with a lead, playing the softest zones in situations that would seem to call for additional pressure. They remain alive even though they entered the game with the 28th worst offense and 29th worse defense in the league, with neither likely to rise in the rankings after Sunday's slopfest.
Sunday, they won in part because two of their former players -- Jordan Phillips and Charles Clay -- made foolish decisions. Phillips, the former second round pick banished this season due to a lack of consistency and professionalism, made some disruptive plays but couldn't stop yapping either, called for a critical taunting penalty (he claimed after he was just fist pumping and made some silly promise about "seeing the Dolphins again"). And Clay oddly stayed fastened to the end zone when his quarterback, on a desperation play, needed him to come back to the ball sooner. If he makes that fourth down catch and gets tackled at the 1, the Bills still had roughly 51 seconds to punch it in.
But he didn't. And they didn't. And the Dolphins are still positioned to punch a playoff ticket. The Ravens won Sunday, also using a rookie quarterback the Dolphins didn't covet in the draft (Lamar Jackson). The Titans and surging Broncos, who have a soft schedule, won too. But the Colts, who looked so unstoppable in the fourth quarter against Miami last Sunday, went scoreless against the reeling Jaguars.
Baltimore is 7-5, leading for the 6th and final spot.
Miami, Tennessee, Denver and Indianapolis are all 6-6.
The Dolphins have the tiebreaker on the Titans but not the Colts.
They have, by far, the worst point differential of the five: minus-56.
The Titans are next-worst at minus-24.
So they are not good.
But they are not dead.
And at least the field and uniforms look nice.
Ethan J. Skolnick can be reached at @EthanJSkolnick and @5ReasonsSports and sometimes @DolphinMaven.
Photo by Tony Capobianco.