Eleven and counting: The Dolphins are thriving in close games

"When you want to win a close game, it takes high-level execution down the stretch of all three phases," Julius Thomas said. "... That's something we've been able to do and need to continue to do." Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins made an interesting T-shirt for their players last week that said, "We R Not Normal."

There were multiple meanings to that statement, according to the Dolphins, which include their ability to overcome adversity. That was on display in last week's 17-point, come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

What also was on display was Miami's incredible consistency for winning close games. The Dolphins' 20-17 win over Atlanta, the reigning NFC champions, was their 11th-straight win in games decided by seven points or fewer. That's a franchise record for Miami and, according to ESPN Stats & Info, this is the third-longest streak in the NFL in the past 15 years.

Is this luck or a skill?

"I don't know if it's a skill," Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. "I think it's a great mindset that our players have of when the game gets tight. They're going to play better or at least they're going to make the plays necessary. I think this year it's a little different, because it's a lot more comforting when you look out there on defense and you actually see all our guys out there."

Last week former Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones made the game-sealing interception off Atlanta MVP quarterback Matt Ryan in his hometown. Jones missed 10 games last year after tearing his labrum in his shoulder.

Jones got off to a slow start to the season but is playing at a Pro Bowl level as of late. He was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded safety in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans in addition to his game-ending interception against Miami.

Defensive additions such as defensive end William Hayes, rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga have all contributed to Miami's 11th-ranked defense, which also if No. 4 against the run. This group has kept three games close for Miami -- all wins.

"In eight years I've never seen the camaraderie like it's been. ... It's like a brotherhood," Jones said. "Everybody is on one string, one chord, one heartbeat, like coach [Gase] would say. I feel good. I think we're doing some good things right now."

Winning close games remains Miami's best chance at making the playoffs for the second straight season. The Dolphins do not have the style of play that often leads to blowouts. They are ranked last in total offense and scored 20 points for the first time all season last week against the Falcons.

But if the game is close, the Dolphins' recent track record shows they have a good chance of pulling out the victory.

"That is a skill all of it's own," Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas said. "Certain teams are really able to come together. When you want to win a close game, it takes high-level execution down the stretch of all three phases. ... That's something we've been able to do and need to continue to do."