The Miami Dolphins are heading into the final quarter of the 2020 season with an 8-4 record, the sixth-seed position in the AFC playoff picture, and just a game out of the AFC East lead. A year after tearing down their roster, Miami does not look like a team just building for the future, but a team ready to compete today. On Sunday, they will get a chance to prove that.
The Dolphins will host the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, welcoming in a team tied for the best record in the league. If Miami is going to prove they are among the heavy hitters in the AFC, they are going to have to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs. That is not an easy task, and Dolphins safety Eric Rowe discussed that on Tuesday.
“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,” Rowe explained. “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. Nah, we’ve all seen them score and put up points. I think last year they put up like 21 points in two minutes or something like that against the Texans. This is going to be a good test for us. 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.”
Kansas City is obviously led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who currently leads the league in passing yards, is fourth in yards per attempt average, is third in touchdown passes, and is second in passer rating. “He’s a complete quarterback,” Rowe said of Mahomes. “He can make all the throws, he has the arm, he can read defenses, he can read coverages, he can read protections, he’s mobile enough to get out and run for the first down. He’s not slow, so he’s the complete package. What’s unique? He’s got it all.”
Rowe has been effective in a myriad of ways this season, fully embracing his role as a safety after years of being a cornerback. His main task this weekend may be covering tight end Travis Kelce, who is second in the league in receiving yards this season. “Well, you have to defend every tight end a little bit differently because everybody has got a different skillset,” Rowe stated when asked about facing a tight end who is such a high receiving threat. “Some are more blocking than receiving and some are more receiving than blocking. This one is more receiving than blocking, obviously. 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 continued, looking at the challenge that Kelce represents for Miami’s defense, saying “It’s a great opportunity. You can’t really ask for anything better – going against a guy that’s been consistent every game for years now. Just having that challenge ahead of you. I’ve been looking forward to it since the schedule came out. It’s a great test, not just for me, but as a whole defense too and as a whole team. It’s going to be a great test this week.”
Asked again about Kelce, Rowe went into a little more specifics about how Kelce is different than other tight ends, stating, “With Kelce, just like I said before, what makes him different is a lot of tight ends when they run their routes, they don’t really stem, they don’t push leverages, they don’t do stuff like receivers do. They kind of just run the route like you see on paper. If it’s an over, they’ll run straight across the field and you’ll be like ‘ok, that’s easy.’ But with him, he’ll push you vertical, maybe a couple of juke steps, jab out, then break on his route, which obviously makes it harder to cover. He has a totally different skillset.”
Finally, Rowe compared Kelce to another great tight end, and one Rowe knows well from being teammates together with the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski. “The difference between those two guys is ‘Gronk,’ his route-running ability is not like Kelce’s with the stemming and all of that,” Rowe explained. “But what makes ‘Gronk’ great is the way he knows how to use his body. He’s a wide dude. He’s a big bodied guy and obviously he has tough hands. You put the ball anywhere in his radius and ‘Gronk,’ he was getting it, even with the hits coming on. Two different skillsets, but obviously I think Hall of Famers.”
How Rowe handles Kelce could be critical to Miami’s ability to stand up with one of the top teams in the league. If the Dolphins come out of Sunday’s game with a win, or even a close loss, they could be a team that suddenly starts getting recognition as a contender.