Miami Dolphins Play Perfect Game to Honor Their Grieving Coach

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

“This one was for you, Joe.”

4-3 football teams aren’t supposed to blow out 5-3 football teams. Franchises with only one playoff trip in the last dozen years aren’t supposed to win 37-0. For that matter, NFL teams aren’t supposed to shut out other NFL teams, period. So what in the world happened Sunday in South Florida?

This one was for you, Joe.

If your jaw dropped when you saw the score flash by on the ticker or you did a double-take when you opened up your mobile app to check the score Sunday, no one would blame you. For crying out loud, the last time the Miami Dolphins shut an opponent out by such a wide margin, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t even born yet. So, we ask again, what in the world happened Sunday in South Florida?

This one was for you, Joe.

The answer, simply, is that the Dolphins played a practically perfect game to honor their head coach during one of the most difficult weeks of his life. The Dolphins dominated the Chargers for 60 minutes in a 37-0 victory — that probably wasn’t even that close — to give Head Coach Joe Philbin an important win. That important win came less than 48 hours after Philbin’s 93-year-old father, Paul, died in Massachusetts Friday night.

Philbin was there when his father passed away, re-joining the Dolphins for practice Saturday. The whirlwind weekend ended with what the Miami coach called “the best game we’ve played, for sure,” and it was obvious what his players’ motivation was.

“We all knew what was going on with Coach,” Defensive Back Brent Grimes told MiamiDolphins.com. “We knew how close he was with his dad. We just wanted to put together a good game for our coach. We came out here and played for him and it showed on the field.”

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

“We dedicated the game to Coach,” D-lineman Jared Odrick said to the Miami Herald. “We used that emotion. We channeled it. It motivated us all week.”

This one was for you, Joe.

The box score told the tale of domination. One team had zero turnovers. The other had four. One team controlled the ball for more than 36 minutes. One team outgained the other by 263 yards. It was a complete win. It was a thorough performance. It was a fitting tribute to a leader who was grieving.

After the game, Philbin tried to deflect all the credit. “I kind of just showed up for the game,” he said. “I thought they did a fantastic job during the week keeping their focus and working hard.”

In the locker room after the game, Owner Stephen Ross presented Philbin the game ball, which the coach said he planned to take back north for the funeral this week. When Philbin finally had the chance to address his players , this is what he had to say, “That’s a team victory in every respect. It wasn’t three phases out there — it was one football team…

The game’s not necessarily about stats, or shutouts, or 37 points. The game’s about the team. Guys doing whatever they have to do for one another. That’s the reason the scoreboard was 37 to nothing today, without a doubt. We’ve got guys in this locker room and this organization — starts right there with the owner — that care about one another and lay it on the line for one another. Each and every day, each and every play. That’s why it’s 37 to nothing.

When Philbin finished his speech, one of the men in the locker room responded loudly — and proudly. His was a sentiment that was obvious to all who watched the Miami-San Diego game, readily apparent to anyone who knew the backstory, and clearly evident to football fans from coast to coast on one of the more impressive days in recent Dolphins franchise history. It was the story of the game, in a nutshell. And, it needed no further explanation.

“This one was for you, Joe.”