DAVIE (AP) — Miami's mishaps on special teams last week against the Buffalo Bills taught the Dolphins a valuable lesson about the importance of that third phase of the game.
It's not often that a team allows a blocked punt, a kickoff return for a touchdown and muffs a punt deep in its own territory.
So Miami's special teams coordinator, Darren Rizzi, has made sure his unit had a grasp on what needs to be corrected — better fundamentals and execution — before Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Really we just focused on fundamentals," coach Joe Philbin said. "Coach Rizzi was in the special teams meeting today and he made a point that he and (assistant special teams coordinator) Marwan (Maalouf) had watched and there's been 15 blocked kicks in the National Football League in two weeks, punts and field goals. Their assessment was 14 of those were just a lack of fundamentals and execution."
Rookie returner Jarvis Landry took the lessons of the week to heart, as did veterans like punter Brandon Fields and long snapper John Denney. They are hoping the friendly confines of Sun Life Stadium will bring about a better performance this time around.
Landry muffed a punt in the fourth quarter against the Bills that led to a field goal, and this came after Rizzi's kickoff coverage had a breakdown that allowed Buffalo's C.J. Spiller to go untouched en route to a 102-yard return to restore a 13-point lead. The second-round draft pick out of LSU still earned a vote of confidence from Philbin, who reiterated that Landry is still his top returner, and he is looking forward to rebounding against the Chiefs.
"I'm just excited about the opportunity to go out there with my teammates and compete at a high level and not worry about anything else other than getting the win," Landry said. "It was just missed opportunities and things we can't have at any point in the game, whether we're winning or losing. I knew immediately went wrong and came to the sidelines and told Coach Rizzi and after that it was squared away. This week it was a little more attention to detail."
The last time the Dolphins experienced that type of poor outing on special teams was four years ago in a 41-14 loss to the New England Patriots at home. They surrendered a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 35-yard return of a blocked field goal for a touchdown and a blocked punt and Fields was the punter on that team.
Now a Pro Bowler and one of the top punters in the league, Fields could relate that experience to the younger players like Landry and what it took to bounce back. He compared the feeling this week listening to Rizzi to that of a child having done something wrong, heard about it from his mother already and then sensing his father's disappointment.
"Now it's about correcting the mistakes, and what we've been trying to do with the young guys the whole entire year is trying to coach them up on stuff," Fields said. "We've shared our experiences and pointed out certain tendencies and what has happened in certain situations so they can be better prepared. Right now it's all about still adjusting to the faster speed and higher intensity of the game compared to the preseason, and if we can get out there and play well and put together a good performance you can erase that bad taste."
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