Miami Dolphins fact No. 1: On Oct. 17, 2010, the Dolphins won a game in overtime in Green Bay, defeating a Packers team that would go on to win Super Bowl XLV.
Miami Dolphins fact No. 2: Miami’s most recent regular season victory was in MetLife Stadium. On Dec. 12, 2010, the Dolphins defeated the Jets, 10-6.
Miami Dolphins fact No. 3: The Dolphins’ quarterback is Matt Moore, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns to help the Carolina Panthers defeat the Giants in the home team’s final regular season game in Giants Stadium.
None of this is meant to suggest the 4-2 Giants will face one of the NFL’s best teams when they host the Dolphins on Sunday. It’s a difficult argument to make when Miami is 0-6. But it serves as a reminder that the NFL provides its share of surprising results and performances every week. It may be a tired cliché, but it’s true that on any given Sunday, almost anything can happen in the NFL.
So while the Giants will meet a collection of powerful opponents in the coming weeks, they currently have eyes only for the Dolphins. Only one team can beat the Giants this week and Tom Coughlin and his players believe Miami is capable of doing just that if they don’t play to their capabilities – or let the Dolphins play to theirs.
“We haven’t played in a couple weeks (because of the bye) and if you study them, they are in every game,” Coughlin said. “They play hard but they haven’t been able to get themselves a win. It is not because they don’t have talent and it is not because they don’t play hard, because they do. We are concerned about our team and our team playing the best that we can play. We want to continue to ascend in terms of our execution and not turning the ball over and all of those things. The challenges are great for us.”
The Giants believe Miami is capable of pulling off a surprise because it employs numerous talented players – Reggie Bush, Brandon Marshall and Cameron Wake, to name three. It’s fair to say as the Giants have studied the Dolphins this week, the won-lost record has comprised the least-significant numbers.
“They have talent,” Eli Manning said. “They do good things. A lot of teams have had trouble with them. Teams aren’t going in there and scoring a whole lot of points against them. You have to be sound. You can’t give them easy plays. You can’t give them turnovers. And you can’t give them good field position. So we have to take care of our business on all three phases of the game and make sure we’re doing good things.”
“I think every team is a dangerous team. Looking at their losses, you can look at all their games, they’ve been in it,” linebacker Michael Boley said. “A couple of the games could have easily gone the other way. It’s just kind of a situation where they’ve made some mistakes in some critical situations that cost them the game. They are definitely not a team to be overlooked. They have playmakers over there and right now their backs are against the wall, and it’s tough to go against a team like that.”
Desperate teams can be dangerous teams. Playing football is hard enough when you’re winning. It’s a joyless endeavor when you’re not. The Dolphins want nothing more than to celebrate a victory and end a nine-game losing streak that stretches back to last season (it began the week after they defeated the Jets).
Giants center David Baas played six seasons for San Francisco 49ers teams that never finished above .500. He is a firm believer that a team’s record does not accurately reflect its desire, which is why he is as concerned about the Dolphins as he was when the Giants traveled to Philadelphia to face the Eagles.
“Never underestimate any team,” Baas said. “I’ve been on teams that struggled, and you’re out there every single week scratching and fighting. It’s going to be a battle. We know they have a good front and they do a lot of different things. They have to get a win somehow, at some point, and we just have to do everything in our power to make sure that we’re ready and our mindset is ready, and we have to go out there and execute, and that’s the biggest thing. We know it’s going to be a challenge, because their backs are against the wall. But we play that way every single week, because we have to improve, keep getting better and get more and more people to believe in us.”
“If I’m a team that hasn’t won a game yet, I’m doing everything in my possible power to make sure that this week is that week,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “If anything, they’re probably one of the more dangerous teams. If I’m on that football team, that’s what I’m telling my guys. When you haven’t won a football game you’re hungry to get a win. You definitely can’t look at this team as an easy win or anything like that. We have to do our thing. We have to go out there and play the game and play it the right way. Even though they haven’t won a game, there’s a lot of talent on that team, both offense and defense.”
Miami has had opportunities to win several games. In their opener against New England, they were stopped on fourth down at the Patriot’s one-yard line. Had they scored, the Dolphins would have been down just seven points. But it was New England that broke the game open on the next play, a 99-yard catch and run by Wes Welker from Tom Brady. In Week 2, the Dolphins trailed Houston by three points in the fourth quarter before a touchdown increased their deficit to 10 points. In their next game, they gave up a touchdown with 43 seconds left and lost to Cleveland, 17-16. Last week, Miami led Denver, 15-0, with less than three minutes remaining but lost in overtime, 18-15.
“Every game this year going into the fourth quarter they’ve been up some (or) they’ve been down a point or two,” Manning said. “They played New England very tight. They were about to score to put it to seven. They don’t score on a fourth-and-one and all of a sudden New England gets a 99-yard touchdown on the next play. It’s little things like that that have opened up some games. (Against) the Jets they had great opportunities early on. They just didn’t get some touchdowns. They ended up throwing an interception (that was returned) 100 yards. Little things like that have prevented them from winning some tight games. A lot of them have come down to the wire. They’ve played teams tight so we have to expect that. It is going to be a tight game. They are talented. We have to come out expecting to play great from the get-go and finish strong also.”
“We always live by the motto, ‘We’re not going to let them get well off of us,’” cornerback Corey Webster said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to treat them as they are. That’s not to say they’re a bad team. But whoever they are and whatever they have shown to be, we have to go out there and make sure they don’t get big plays against us. We want to limit the big plays like we’ve been doing. There will be no letdown on our club. We want to focus and concentrate and be well aware of their good plays and do what we’re supposed to do.”
*Prince Amukamara’s NFL debut will have to wait at least another week. The Giants’ first-round draft choice has been declared out of Sunday’s game. Amukamara this week practiced for the first time since breaking his foot on Aug. 6, but is not yet ready to participate in a game.
Rookie fullback Henry Hynoski did not practice today and is doubtful. He would miss his second game in a row if he does not play on Sunday.
Defensive end Justin Tuck (groin/neck) and tackle Stacy Andrews (back) are questionable. Andrews did not practice, while Tuck was limited.
Tuck has missed four games this season. Coughlin said the two-time Pro Bowler made it through the practice week without an issue.
“We will monitor him, for sure, but if the (defensive line) rotation is the way we expect it to be, he will be fine,” Coughlin said. “We always keep count (of the number of plays).”
Asked about Andrews, who has played well as an extra lineman is several packages, Coughlin said, “Normally, in this kind of situation, it is a day and then he would come back. I think he will work tomorrow morning hopefully and then we will make a decision on that.”
Linebacker Michael Boley (knee), running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) and guard Chris Snee (concussion) are probable. Snee practiced fully, the others were limited.
For the Dolphins, cornerback Vontae Davis (hamstring) did not practice and is listed as doubtful.
Guard Richie Incognito (ankle), safety Reshad Jones (knee), defensive end Kendall Langford (hip) and running back Daniel Thomas (hamstring) were limited and are questionable.
*Coughlin on whether wide receiver Ramses Barden will be activated off the reserve/PUP list: “You will have to wait and see on that.”
*Giants rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich, a bone cancer survivor, will be profiled Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which airs from 7-8 p.m. Correspondent Byron Pitts recently spent time with Herzlich for the story.
Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2009, as he prepared for his senior season at Boston College. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year, in 2008, Herzlich missed the 2009 season while undergoing treatment. He returned to start all 13 games for the Eagles last season and made the Giants as an undrafted free agent this year. Herzlich has three special teams tackles this season.
“He’s a football player. He’s dedicated. He’s smart. He learns very quickly,” Coughlin told 60 Minutes. “And he earned it primarily on his special teams play and his intelligence. You tell him one time what to do and he does it.”
Herzlich said, “I just got to prove I can help this team win. They asked me to come here because they wanted to see if I could play football and not see if I was over my cancer.”
*The Giants have won their last three games following a bye, scoring 44, 34 and 41 points. They have won four of their last five post-bye games. Overall, they are 7-15 following a bye. Coughlin is 9-6, including 4-3 with the Giants.