Stinging from humiliation on national TV, Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke is glad his team lost its scheduled bye this week.
He would rather play and try to make amends, which the Dolphins will get a chance to do Sunday against Tampa Bay. The game was rescheduled from Week 1 because of Hurricane Irma, forcing Miami to give up its bye and play 16 weeks in a row.
“Things happen in mysterious ways, I guess,” Burke said Thursday. “Not having the bye week, to me, honestly helps us. If we had to sit two weeks and chew on that for a bye weekend and not play for another two weeks … we can’t wallow in it.”
The Dolphins were dismantled Monday night at Carolina, giving up touchdowns on five consecutive second-half possessions in a 45-21 loss. The Panthers set a franchise record with 548 yards, including 294 rushing.
“Not an easy game to swallow,” Burke said. “No one played well.”
The first-year coordinator went straight to the office when the team returned home early Tuesday, skipping a night’s sleep, and summoned the entire defense for a video session that afternoon.
Burke played the entire second half for the group, something he doesn’t usually do.
“It wasn’t easy to look at it,” he said. “But there are things that had to be addressed, so we did that together.”
What made the performance especially alarming was that it continued a recent pattern. The defense was stout under Burke through the first five games before going soft of late.
Miami has allowed 140 points in the past four games, an average of 35 per game. Missed tackles, poor pass coverage and a weak pass rush have been among the problems.
The matchup against the Bucs (3-6) offers a chance for the Dolphins (4-5) to dig in. Tampa Bay is without injured quarterback Jameis Winston and has totaled 28 points in its past three games.
Miami coach Adam Gase is optimistic his defense will stiffen.
“I expect that group to come out ready to perform and play well,” Gase said. “That’s the best thing about playing defense. It’s really about a mindset of 11 guys doing their job and playing with energy and emotion, and playing fast and physical. That’s what I think our guys need to get back to doing — having fun and playing with emotion.”
The Dolphins rank last in the NFL in scoring, making it essential the defense play better if they’re to salvage the season.
That’s especially true with two games looming against Tom Brady and Super Bowl champion New England in a 16-day span beginning next week.
Part of the problem on defense has been Miami’s offense, Gase said. The Dolphins have yet to lead a game at the start of the fourth quarter, which has neutralized the front four, supposedly the strength of the team.
Miami is tied for 26th in the league with 16 sacks, in part because opponents have usually been in the lead and running the ball a lot.
“We haven’t really come through on offense,” Gase said. “That’s the part that has really been more disappointing for myself — we haven’t been able to put those guys in the position that we wanted to.”