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What He Said: Dolphins coach on McDermott's D, facing Tyrod, third downs

Miami Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase

What are the challenges facing a team just two weeks after you already did? – “Well, since it’s the second time we’ve done it, it really … I have no problem with it. For me, you’re able to take at least some things that you might have liked that you already repped and be able to bring that back to where your guys still kind of remember what the other team does. In this case, being a division opponent, you have a little familiarity with personnel-wise and now scheme-wise – we have a better idea of what they do – (so) I think it’s good for the players.

Are you putting emphasis with your team on trying to ruin the Bills party so to speak? Obviously they have to win this game to make the playoffs. Is that a talking point in your locker room this week heading into the finale? – “No, it hasn’t been. We’re focused on ourselves right now. We’re trying to do a good job of getting better this week and being ready to go on Sunday and putting out a good performance.”

Obviously in the offseason you study your division opponents. I’m sure every team does; but then you go into a year where you don’t play them until the last two weeks of the season. Is it worth it? Does any offseason preparation on a division opponent do you much good? What do you think about that? – “It does. You can easily go back and check your notes and see what you were thinking at the time. A lot of times for myself, playing a coordinator in the past that I’ve seen, a lot of those type of notes carry over. You can always double check and see if the guy has changed over time or if he’s the same. A lot of us have gone against each other multiple times. Every guy usually has information on the other heading into a game. It’s really kind of how that game goes, how you play each other. You start feeling each other out to see if it’s the same or if it’s different. It’s really probably one of the (more) fun parts of this game, playing the same guys multiple times over a career.”

How did Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott’s defense compare to maybe what you expected when you studied it? – “It was exactly what we expected. It was a high-motor team that did a great job of covering our guys up. They did a pretty good job of tackling our guys. We really struggled to get any kind of yards-after-catch. We struggled to run the ball. I thought they did a good job of creating negative plays at the right time against us. Us getting behind, we tried to sneak a couple of runs in there and they weren’t having it. They did a good job of shutting us down in the red area. That was really a huge part of the game for us, to just try to make it close earlier, and they held us to field goals and then they got turnovers. They did exactly what they’ve been doing all year against us to where we turn the ball over and they did a better job of protecting it.”

You guys are last in third-down offense, which is surprising considering how good your receivers are. I’m sure you’re surprised at that. What do you think have been some of the third-down struggles? – “I wish I had a great answer. It’s frustrating because it’s something different every time, whether we break down in protection, we don’t have the right read or we drop a pass. We really put ourselves behind the eight-ball. Early in the season, in that first quarter, I think we had about three games where the first game we were okay and then the next three games, we were just awful. That kind of just started the trend. We had about two or three weeks where we were better and then it just fell back off again. It’s one of those things where when we hit the offseason, we’ll be able to really look at and figure out where we were going off-track on a lot of these third downs. I know a lot of the problem early in the season was we were third-and-10-plus way too much. Once we finally did get to third-and-2-to-5 or third-and-6-or-less, we didn’t convert as high a number as we needed to.”

Not to throw an excuse out, but on third down and red zone, precision is even more important and you’ve got a quarterback who doesn’t have 400 practices with his guys. QB Ryan Tannehill has got 400 practices with these guys. It matters, do you think? What do you think about that? – “It does matter, but when you have a guy that’s a veteran quarterback … I have a lot of confidence in Jay (Cutler). I know he knows where to go with the ball. We’ve just shot ourselves in the foot so much in so many different areas. There was no consistency. That’s really where we hurt ourselves more than anything, whether I tried to do something to pop somebody wide open versus the right coverage and then it wasn’t exactly the way we thought it would be, or one person makes a mistake and it kind of throws the whole thing out of whack. We found a different way to not convert each week, whether it be in the red zone or out in the field.”

Why do you think you guys have had such a tough time with QB Tyrod Taylor the last couple of years? He seems to really play a bit better against you guys. – “I’m aware, unfortunately. (laughter) I think he has done a great job of one, protecting the football, and I think he has done a great job where a lot of guys, when they play our defensive front, they do panic, and those guys get to them, where he has done a good job of staying in the pocket and when he does see a lane or he can get outside of the pocket, he does it and really hurts us when he does, whether he runs it or they scramble drill us and we don’t stay tight on the defender or stay tight on the receiver and he gets us for a big play. I think his patience has just been really good against us. He is not affected as much (as) some of the other guys that we’ve played with our pass rush. He just does a good job of taking each play as it comes. If something bad is going on, he’s finding a way to get out of it.”

How much of a headache does that make QB Tyrod Taylor to prepare for, for you guys? – “It’s tough when you play a guy that’s athletic and he has a really good feel in the pocket. Then he’s hitting the receivers or running backs when we’re playing them. It makes it extremely tough. When you got the guy that you got in the backfield, then it makes it even scarier, because if he gets the ball to him (LeSean McCoy), and there’s a lot of space, that’s when you’ve got some issues.”

CB Xavien Howard had – for a lot of people that don’t see you that often, see you every week – this great coming out game against New England on national TV. Is that reflective his whole season? How has he played the whole season? – “He’s actually played close to that most of the year. The difference is he caught both those passes that were thrown on (him) where a lot of the season he has either had breakups or he has been that tight in coverage and they’ve made really good plays. He has been a split-second late on getting his head around on a few things where he got hit. The same thing happened last week. He does a great job of covering some of their receivers, but Alex (Smith) makes a good throw, the receiver makes a great catch and that’s a completion on him. The more he plays, the longer he plays, the tighter the coverage is going to get, the more he’s going to see, it’s going to register in his brain – the faster he’ll get as far as being able to break up some of these passes. Guys get so frustrated with young corners or the kid themselves gets down on themselves because balls are completed on them. They get better with time if you stick with them and you don’t allow their confidence to waver.”

Kansas City does so much misdirection. Last week, is it maybe a tougher prepare because – not that I’m saying this week isn’t a tough prepare – but maybe more unusual, different because you’re not seeing that week to week? What do you think about that? – “It’s still a challenge because when you have possibly the best running back in football in the backfield and you have a quarterback that has hurt us the way he has hurt us, their tight ends have always played well against us the last three times we’ve played them, it’s a tough group to prepare for. You better know where ‘Shady’ (LeSean McCoy) is all the time, because he can hurt you in a million different ways. We can’t give them short fields, which we seem to have done a little bit too much this year to where it puts out defense in a bad spot and now all of a sudden, that just amplifies everything that you’re trying to stop, when they have less of a field to go down. No matter who you’re playing in this league, every week it’s just different challenges. Kansas City was one thing, because you’ve got three guys you’re trying to take away. This week, it’s just a different challenge for us, because we’ve got to play a different game.”

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