By Abe Gutierrez
Last week, the Miami Dolphins had their six-game win streak snapped by a Ravens squad on a steady march toward the postseason. It was a game in which the 'Fins couldn't get anything going on either side of the ball. As luck would have it, Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco and Baltimore's defense were simply unstoppable.
Clearly, there isn't much left to do for this bunch other than tip the cap, learn from the experience and move on to the next one. After that humbling, 38-6 beating, the Dolphins returned home and began preparations for a pivotal Week 14 contest against the Arizona Cardinals and their top-notch defense.
Dolphins' Mistaken Identity
Hopefully, Adam Gase and his staff have learned a thing or two about this ball club over the past several games, as they need to start rethinking their strategy in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
In short, the Dolphins have gotten too comfortable relying on quarterback Ryan Tannehill carrying the heavy water, all the while, they have neglected their best weapon: running back Jay Ajayi.
Following his historic two-game stretch of 200-plus rushing yards, the Boise State product has seen a decline in carries, and thus, his production has also taken a significant dive.
Ajayi rushed for 204 yards on 25 carries in Week 6 against the mighty Steelers' defense and followed that effort by smashing a respectable Bills' defense the week after to the tune of 214 yards on 28 carries.
After the bye, Ajayi failed to make history, but still eclipsed the century mark by rushing for 111 yards on 24 attempts versus a Jets' defense that at the time was ranked second in the NFL allowing just 74.1 rushing yards per game.
Numbers Don't Lie
Since then, the fourth player in NFL history ever to rush for 200-yards in consecutive ballgames has become a decoy to Tannehill and Miami's inconsistent aerial attack. It's mind-boggling that Ajayi hasn't carried the ball more than 19 times in a single game in almost a month.
In Week 10 at San Diego, Ajayi rushed for 79 yards on 19 carries. Against the Rams, the week after, he ran for 77 yards on 16 carries. He followed that effort with 45 yards on 18 carries against the Niners, and in last week's 32-point shellacking at Baltimore, he touched the ball 12 times for 61 yards.
Even with the scarce opportunities of late, Ajayi ranks seventh in the NFL in yards per carry (5.2), while sitting in 15th place in the league in actual attempts per game.
So, why has Gase and his staff chosen to shy away from one of the best running backs Miami has had in years? The truth is that it's hard to argue with success, and since the Dolphins won most of those games, everything's been swept under the rug.
Now, it's gut check time for the Miami Dolphins in Week 14, as December football is here, and boy, did it get off to a rude start last week in Maryland. Will Gase continue to put the fate of his team in Tannehill's hands, or will logic prevail by making Ajayi the focal point of this offense?
Going up against a Cardinals defense that ranks second in total yards allowed (297.2), third at defending the pass (199.3), but 11th in points (20.9) and 12th against the rush (97.9), opportunities will be there for Gase and the Dolphins to get back into the playoff race.
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