DAVIE, Fla. – How is this for a dilemma: Beat the New England Patriots – the hottest team in the NFL -- at their house or the 2014 season is over.
That is what the Miami Dolphins (7-6) are facing heading into Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium. They lost a crucial game last week to the Baltimore Ravens that put Miami into the No. 9 spot in the AFC. The Dolphins essentially have to win out to have a chance at the postseason.
It starts Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the Patriots are 6-0 and currently playing their best football of the season, winning eight of their last nine games. Players in Miami’s locker room say the team is taking a playoff mentality into this game. They know one loss will end their season.
“It’s definitely gut-check time,” Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson said. “Obviously, we’re not standing where we want to be or where we think we should be. ... You can’t do anything about the past. All we can do is finish the season like men and go out there and try to get three victories.”
The Dolphins entered this season with a “playoff-or-bust” mentality. They were 8-8 a year ago and missed the postseason by one game. This year’s team is deeper, more talented and free of distractions suffered in 2013. Yet Miami is in significant danger of missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Miami knows it has a tall task ahead, but the team is not lacking in confidence. The Dolphins have beaten New England twice in a row, dating to last season. However, both meetings have been at Sun Life Stadium.
“When you hear so much about beating the Patriots, beating the Patriots, beating the Patriots, I think you get tired of hearing it during the week that you have no choice but to go out and beat the Patriots,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “I don’t think we get geared up more for those guys; I don’t know what it is. We know the challenge that they’re going to present every single time. ... There is not one time when you play those guys that you think you can barely get a win and sneak out of there.”
A win Sunday doesn’t guarantee the Dolphins will get into the postseason, but it keeps the team in the hunt for at least another week. That’s all they can ask for after blowing a chance last Sunday against Baltimore to control their own destiny.
“We can’t dwell on the past. What happened, happened,” Wallace said. “We lost. We have to go about our business the way we have to and that’s focusing on these three games, one at a time and trying to win. Whatever happens at the end of the year, we can’t do anything about it at this point.”