The Dolphins were officially eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday because of victories by San Diego and Jacksonville, but a four-game winning streak has raised optimism for next season.
Miami beat the New York Jets 24-20 last Sunday with their third comeback win in as many weeks. Ricky Williams had a 23-yard touchdown run and backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels hit Marty Booker for a 50-yard score to rally the Dolphins from a 17-10 deficit.
“I think the difference is believing in the system and we are on a little bit of a roll now so we have some confidence,” said defensive end Jason Taylor, who had three sacks in the win. “Guys are trusting one another, and when you get that on a team, and when you expect to win and you finish games in the fourth quarter you are going to be successful.”
Miami trailed San Diego 7-3 in the third quarter before winning 23-21 two weeks ago, and was behind 23-3 in the fourth quarter of a 24-23 victory over Buffalo on Dec. 4.
Since the Dolphins’ 22-0 loss at Cleveland on Nov. 20 and coach Nick Saban’s subsequent comments that the team was looking toward the future, Miami has been a different club.
The Dolphins are tied with Cincinnati for the AFC’s longest-current winning streak and have outscored opponents 48-20 in the fourth quarter during those four games. Miami hasn’t won five in a row since Oct. 10-Nov. 7, 1999.
“For him to say that was the perfect thing,” defensive end Kevin Carter said. “I understood and a lot of us in the locker room, we all knew what he meant. … Being a good team is a process.”
Gus Frerotte will be the starter at quarterback this week as long as he can grip the ball. Frerotte missed the second half of last week’s win with a right index finger injury, and watched as Rosenfels led his second fourth-quarter comeback in three weeks.
The Dolphins are looking to finish strong a season after posting a 4-12 record, the team’s worst since 1969.
“That’s what we’ve been striving for, to turn this thing around,” Booker said. “And now we’ve got a little winning streak going on, and we’re just trying to find something to build off of. We want to finish out this season strong. That’s the main thing, and hopefully it carries into next year.”
Tennessee was eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago and coach Jeff Fisher needs a win in one of the season’s final two games to avoid posting his worst record in 11 full seasons with the franchise.
The Titans played well against Seattle last Sunday, but fell 28-24 for their fifth loss this season by eight points or less. Tennessee led the Seahawks 24-14 in the third quarter, but couldn’t hang on against the NFC’s best team.
“The moment we start congratulating players for their effort … and overlook the fact we’re losing rather than winning, that’s going to set you back along the way so I’m not satisfied with anything associated with this game only because we didn’t win it,” Fisher said.
Tennessee allowed a season-high 459 yards.
“We have to learn how to work well with a lead and stay on the field when we need to stay on the field and get the ball back when we need to get the ball back,” offensive tackle Brad Hopkins said. “We just have to find a way to play a complete ball game.”
Tight end Erron Kinney could return this week after practicing on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Dec. 6. Kinney leads the Titans with 54 receptions.