The Miami Dolphins are heading into Week 14 and finally playing meaningful December football with their first eight-win season since 2016. In the second game of their three-game homestand, they’re preparing to host the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, looking to extend their win streak in one of the NFL’s toughest final four-game stretches of the season.
Dolphins Face Toughest Defensive Test of Season, Specifically at TE Position
This matchup presents multiple challenges for the Dolphins (8-4) defense as Kansas City (11-1) brings in the most high-powered offense in the league, equipped with the best tight end in the NFL: Travis Kelce. Kelce currently holds the NFL TE record for consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with five and is currently second in the league for receiving yards for all players.
“Travis Kelce is an outstanding route-runner. He’s got great hands, he can make tough catches in traffic, he usually comes up with big plays,” Miami defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said. “They move him all around, so obviously he can handle the whole offense. He’s just really an outstanding player (and) it’s kind of mind-numbing to think that guys that are playing at that high of a level are actually just improving and he really has had a great season.”
Travis Kelce Makes History, Will See Miami Safety Eric Rowe Sunday
Kelce is fifth in the NFL in receptions with 82 and will be looking to continue his hot streak after breaking a record that he set in 2018 for most receiving yards through 12 games by a TE with 1,114 yards. Dolphins safety Eric Rowe has done a good job covering tight ends all season and will be covering Kelce in the game. But, his matchup with Kelce on Sunday poses the biggest challenge of the season for him.
“Well, you have to defend every tight end a little bit differently because everybody has got a different skill set. Some are more blocking than receiving and some are more receiving than blocking. This one is more receiving than blocking, obviously,” Rowe said on the challenge of guarding Kelce. “I already see from a little bit of film that the way he runs his routes are like receivers. He’ll stem leverages, he’ll push you outside, cut you inside to go back outside. He does a lot of stuff. Obviously, with that, I have to approach it differently.”
Rowe Has Been a Nightmare For Big-Name TEs All Season
Rowe has done a solid job defending TEs all season, holding guys like San Francisco’s George Kittle to 44 yards and Los Angeles Chargers’ Hunter Henry to just 30 yards. He has also only allowed one touchdown all season, that to Henry in Miami’s Nov. 15 matchup.
No TE has recorded more than 55 receiving yards on Rowe, but trying to slow down Kelce will be a test for the entire defense, not just Rowe.
Rowe Looks At Kelce, Chiefs Offense as Dolphin Overall Team Test
Kelce currently has eight TDs this season through 12 games, at least 50 yards in 11 of those games, and has topped the century mark five times.
“This is really going to test us to see how good we are as a defense – from our run defense, to pass, to pass rush, to coverage, to everything. It’s not like a team that let’s say we get a jump on them and we have a comfortable lead and we’re good,” Rowe said. “This is going to be a good test for us, (but) we’ve got to play all four quarters, 60 minutes. Everyone has to be on their details because one slip up and we all see how explosive this offense is.”
But, thankfully for Rowe and the Dolphins, Miami is fifth in the NFL in defending TEs, due in large-part to Rowe’s limitations to the position all season.
Game Has National Broadcast Considerations
This game will be a challenge for the entire Miami defense as they face off against one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league. If the Dolphins can come away with a win or a close loss they could start to get some serious league recognition.
The Dolphins will host the Chiefs on Sunday with kickoff set for 1 p.m. eastern with the game currently in consideration to be nationally televised with commentators Jim Nantz and Tony Romo already flexed to the call for CBS’ national game of the week.
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