James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer 356d

Dolphins' defense supporting offense through recent struggles

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch saw division take place among the offense and defense during his stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Branch said it’s not a pretty sight.

“It can spiral downhill pretty fast,” said Branch, in his sixth NFL season and second with the Dolphins. “You got a lot of people pointing fingers. But that’s not the feel that we have on this team. This is a brotherhood. This is a family. Those teams weren’t, and that’s not a good feeling when it’s really not one team. You’re an offense, a defense and a special team. It’s just that unit, like us against them.

“We know we’re fine and we know those games are over. We can’t do anything about those but get better.”

The Dolphins are sticking together as a team during their recent struggles on offense to start the season.

The defense is playing some of its best football in recent seasons. Miami is ranked No. 4 against the run (77.7 yards) and No. 8 in points allowed per game (19.0). The defense also hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points in a game all season despite playing against a pair of top-tier quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.

However, the offense is in shambles and is dead last in scoring (8.3 points) and yards per game (249). That is the primary reason the Dolphins are 1-2.

It would be easy for Miami’s defense to say “we’re doing our jobs” and it’s up to the offense to step it up this week as the team prepares for the Tennessee Titans (2-2). But that isn’t the case.

“I think we understand what our offense has as a unit,” said Dolphins captain and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “Obviously there’s trials and tribulations that get to different situations and what they’re going through right now. Our job as a defense is to continue to strive and do better. We haven’t played perfect.”

The Dolphins’ offense is feeling the pressure. Head coach Adam Gase, who calls the plays, called the offense's play “garbage” last week and added Wednesday that the time for excuses is over. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler said after the loss to New Orleans that the group was “humbled” and “a little embarrassed” after scoring just six points in the past eight quarters.

It is impressive that Miami’s defense is keeping scoring down despite spending an uneven amount on the field via time of possession. The offense is converting on just 21.2 percent of third downs. That leads to a lot of punts and three-and-outs. As a result, the Dolphins are losing the time-of-possession battle by almost five minutes per game (32:25 to 27:35).

Thirty-four of the Dolphins’ 57 points allowed this season have come in the second half as the defense has worn down late in games.

“I told them we can’t do any worse by the defense,” Cutler said. “We can’t put them in any more holes than we’ve [already] put them in. ... We weren’t helping them out at all, and they played well against a couple of really good quarterbacks.”

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