With rout of Chargers for 3rd consecutive win, Philbin has Dolphins headed in right direction

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DAVIE, Florida — Here's a list of Miami Dolphins coaches who never won a game by 37 points or more:

Jimmy Johnson. Nick Saban. Tony Sparano. Dave Wannstedt. Cam Cameron. Todd Bowles. Jim Bates. George Wilson.

Now Joe Philbin has done it. One day after a stunning 37-0 victory over San Diego, Philbin offered this message: Don't get used to it.

"We can't anticipate we're going to shut out our next eight opponents," Philbin said Monday. "That's not real life in the National Football League. And it's hard to average 37 points a game in the NFL over an eight-game stretch. We're going to have to find new ways to win, and just keep improving."

The Dolphins improved to 5-3 with their most lopsided victory since 1995, when Don Shula was still in charge. That was eight coaches ago.

After 2½ years in Miami, Philbin is at .500 (20-20), his job future beyond this season still uncertain. But with three consecutive victories, Philbin is on the verge of a breakthrough, because he has never had a team win four in a row.

A lack of sustained success is one reason Miami hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008.

The Dolphins won three in a row in 2012, Philbin's first season, then lost three in a row. They enjoyed a 3-0 start in 2013, then lost the next four. They won three in a row last December, then endured a late-season meltdown and lost their final two games.

How will this team handle success?

"It's a good question," Philbin said. "It's one we've got to answer."

The win over San Diego was an emotional one, with Philbin receiving a game ball from owner Stephen Ross. The coach missed two days of practice last week to be with his father, who died Friday, and Philbin will be absent again Tuesday and Wednesday to attend the funeral.

When it comes to the more mundane matter of wins and losses, Philbin appears to have things headed in the right direction.

"We're a better team today than we were Oct. 1, or than we were in September," Philbin said. "The challenge every week is to find ways to improve."

Miami is an underdog Sunday at NFC North leader Detroit (6-2), and still off the radar with many playoff prognosticators. Receiver Mike Wallace said he'd prefer the rest of the league not take note of the latest win.

"Hopefully not, so we can do the same thing next week," Wallace said. "Hopefully, nobody ever catches on. Hopefully, people just keep taking us easy, so we come away with wins like this."

The Dolphins look like more than one-game wonders. For the first time since 1997, they've scored at least 24 points in five consecutive games, according to STATS. They've outscored opponents during that span 153-68. The lone loss during that stretch came in the final seconds against Green Bay, leaving them one play from a five-game winning streak.

Midway through his third season, Ryan Tannehill is blossoming at quarterback. He ranks only 28th in the league in yards per attempt, but over past five games he has completed 68 percent of his attempts while averaging 8.2 yards per pass, with a rating of 104.1.

Meanwhile, the defense leads NFL in yards allowed per play, yards allowed per pass and first downs. Miami ranks second in pass defense, third in total defense and fourth in rushing.

Now's not the time to savor statistics, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.

"We're only halfway through," he said. "You look down the road, we've got a few dicey ones on the horizon."

The next three games are against teams who are a combined 17-7. The Dolphins might just be built for the challenge.


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