Very little talk surrounding the Miami Dolphins this week has had anything to do with what happens on the field or the strategy for Week 10.
On Monday night against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dolphins will try to move past a week full of headlines involving alleged internal harassment between players and a league investigation into the matter.
"Right now we're focused on sticking together as a team, having each others' backs as a team, and getting ready to play a football game," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "At the end of the day, we're playing a Tampa Bay team on the road on Monday. So we have to deal with this, yes, but we also have to get ready to play a football game."
A second straight win would move the Dolphins (4-4) above .500 and get them back into the forefront of the AFC wild-card discussion.
They've had a streaky first eight games, winning their first three before dropping the next four. A 22-20 overtime win over Cincinnati at home Thursday night ended with a safety when Cameron Wake sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
"It's almost like a movie moment," said Wake, only the third player in NFL history to end an overtime game with a sack.
Behind Lamar Miller's first career 100-yard rushing day, Miami's ground game has continually gained steam in recent weeks. Miller ran for 105 yards on 16 carries, helping the Dolphins set a season high (157) for the third straight week after they totaled 156 and 120 yards in the previous two games.
"You never want to lose four games in a row," coach Joe Philbin said. "And we had an excellent football team coming in town. It was time for us to step up and we had to make a decision - what are we going to be? And I thought they answered the bell pretty well."
Miami forced four turnovers for the first time this year and Tannehill didn't throw an interception after tossing four in his previous two games. The Dolphins lost one fumble and evened their season turnover ratio heading into the Tampa Bay game.
Tannehill was 20 of 28 for 208 yards, but was sacked three times. He's absorbed three or more in seven of eight games, giving him an NFL-high 35.
Consistent protection has been made even more tricky with starting offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito sidelined. Martin left the team before last week's game due to alleged bullying by Incognito, who was suspended indefinitely this week.
The Bucs (0-8) remain winless after blowing a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth time this season in Sunday's 27-24 loss at Seattle.
"Tough loss, but there's a lot of good things on that tape. ... Things we can build off of," coach Greg Schiano said.
They led 21-0 late in the second quarter, but didn't score after Rian Lindell's 33-yard field goal with 9:48 left in the third gave them a 24-7 lead. The Seahawks scored the final 20 points, including the winning field goal in overtime.
The 24 points were a season-best for Tampa Bay, which ranks second to last in points per game (15.5) and yards per game (304.4).
Rookies Mike Glennon and Mike James offered the team a glimpse of offensive improvement.
Glennon connected on 17 of 23 passes for 168 yards and has thrown five touchdowns with no interceptions in the last three games. His 123.1 rating against the Seahawks ranks third among rookie quarterbacks this year.
James ran for a career-high 158 yards on 28 carries as he continues to fill in for the injured Doug Martin.
"Those are things that are getting us excited and encouraged," Schiano said. "Three games without an interception. That's how we have to play the game. I'm mad at myself for not getting us there sooner."
The Bucs have won three of four against the Dolphins, including the last two meetings in Tampa Bay. The Dolphins haven't won there since Oct. 30, 1988.
The Associated Press News Service
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