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Dolphins fire coach Joe Philbin after 1-3 start

10.05.15 at 12:55 pm ET
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Joe Philbin

Joe Philbin

The Dolphins announced Monday that they have fired coach Joe Philbin following Sunday’s 27-14 loss to the Jets in London.

Philbin is 24-28 in three-plus seasons, including a disappointing 1-3 start this year. In losing three straight, the Dolphins have been outscored 91-48.

“This was a tough decision for me to make knowing how tirelessly Joe worked in his four years here to make this a winning team,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement. “He is a man of the highest character and integrity that I developed a close personal relationship with.

“I am extremely disappointed with how we have started the season, but I feel confident that we can improve quickly with the talent we have on our roster.”

Philbin, who grew up in Western Massachusetts, met with Ross after Sunday’s loss and said he was confident he would remain as coach. Instead, he become the first coaching casualty of the season.

Tight ends coach Dan Campbell reportedly will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season.

The Patriots host the Dolphins in a Thursday night game on Oct. 29.

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5 things you have to know about Cowboys: Dallas struggling with injuries heading into clash with Patriots

10.05.15 at 12:28 pm ET
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After a four-game suspension, Greg Hardy is expected to make his debut for Dallas this weekend against the Patriots.  (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

After a four-game suspension, Greg Hardy is expected to make his debut for Dallas this weekend against the Patriots. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Five things you have to know about the Cowboys, who will face the Patriots Sunday in Texas:

1. They are really struggling with injuries.

The Cowboys will be without quarterback Tony Romo (broken clavicle) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot), two of their offensive difference-makers. It’s a big break for the Patriots, as Romo had been playing well over the first two games of the season (75 percent completion rate, 551 passing yards, 3 TDs), while the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Bryant (who had five catches on seven targets for 48 yards before his injury) is a difficult cover for any opposing cornerback. On Sunday night, Dallas also saw linebacker Sean Lee — the Cowboys’ leading tackler — go down with a concussion in the first half. And then running back Lance Dunbar left with a left knee injury on the opening kickoff of the second half. The extent of the injuries to Lee and Dunbar aren’t know quite yet, but it’s clear that this is a Dallas team that’s struggling with health as it comes into a Sunday showdown with the Patriots.

2. There’s uncertainty at the quarterback position.

In place of Romo, the Cowboys have turned to veteran backup Brandon Weeden. (They’ve also signed former New England backup Matt Cassel after the Bills cut him last month.) Weeden has had his moments — he looked every bit the quality starter as he led Dallas down the field for a game-tying touchdown late in Sunday’s contest against New Orleans. But the 31-year-old also struggled mightily at times against an average Saints defense. Ultimately, the loss left the Cowboys with their first road defeat of the season, but it also stretched Weeden’s personal losing streak to 10 games, as he finished 16-for-26 for 246 yards and a touchdown. While it’s likely that Weeden will get the call Sunday against New England, it certainly wouldn’t be a shock if the Dallas coaching staff pulled the trigger and went to Cassel against his old team.

3. They should get some defensive help this week with the arrival of defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain.

The controversial Hardy, who was suspended for four games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy stemming from an incident last year with Carolina, will be permitted to make his Dallas debut against the Patriots. (During his ban, Hardy has not been allowed around the team but has had contact with the team’s medical staff.) McClain, who was suspended for four games under the substance abuse policy, also is eligible to return. (The 26-year-old, who spent the 2014 season with the Cowboys, has been able to work out at Valley Ranch during his suspension.) The 6-foot-4, 255-pound McClain started 12 games for the Cowboys last season and had 67 tackles, two interceptions and one sack, per Pro Football Reference. As for the 6-foot-4, 278-pound Hardy, he should provide support for the Dallas pass rush, as the 27-year-old has 27 sacks in his last 32 contests.

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Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve got our work cut out for us’ despite Cowboys’ injuries

10.05.15 at 8:14 am ET
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Coming off the Patriots’ bye week, Tom Brady joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Monday morning and touched on a variety of topics, including next weekend’s opponent, the Cowboys. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The shorthanded Cowboys dropped a 26-20 overtime decision to the Saints on Sunday night. Dallas is 2-2 as it attempts to keep pace without quarterback Tony Romo (broken clavicle) and star receiver Dez Bryant (foot injury).

Brady said he would prefer to see opponents at full strength, but injuries are a fact of life in the NFL.

“I think it’s always great to play against the best players and the best that they have,” he said. “But at the same time, football takes a toll. We have guys that are out, they have guys that are out. Obviously they have some of their very best, best players out, which is a bummer.

“I’ve never been down to that stadium. We haven’t obviously had much of a history with the Cowboys. It will be a fun game regardless. They went to New Orleans last night, I know it was a tough loss. They’ve had two tough losses. I think they’re a very good football team, especially on defense. We’ve got our work cut out for us. I’ve been studying them a lot the last three or four days. They went up to Green Bay last year at the end of the year and almost beat [the Packers] for an opportunity to advance to the NFC championship game. It’s a good football team. We’ve got our work cut out for us, no question.”

The Cowboys might be down another key player, as linebacker Sean Lee left Sunday’s game with a concussion he suffered in the first half.

“He’s a great player,” Brady said of Lee. “He’s got all those type of instincts that I remember from [former Dolphins linebacker] Zach Thomas, and he makes all those plays and tackles, always around the ball, he’s an interceptor, he just kind of knows where the ball’s going. He may be back, and we’ll certainly prepare as if he’s going to play. I know it’s a big blow when they lost him last night, but we’ll prepare for him to be there.”

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History says teams that are below .500 after four games face massive challenge in quest for playoff spot

10.05.15 at 8:00 am ET
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The Dolphins -- who lost to the Jets Sunday to drop to 1-3 on the season -- now face a massive challenge to try and make the 2015 playoffs. (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

The Dolphins — who lost to the Jets Sunday to drop to 1-3 on the season — now face a massive challenge to try and make the 2015 playoffs. (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s starting to get late early when it comes to the NFL playoff picture. Especially if you’re four games in and you’re already below .500.

Since the NFL adopted its current playoff format in 1990, only 25 teams have gotten to the playoffs after starting the season 1-3 or 0-4, an average of one team a year. Here’s the list of the 25 teams that turned the trick in that span, and how far they got in the playoffs. It’s clearly not an impossible feat — after all, the 2001 Patriots bucked the trend and won the Super Bowl, while two other teams made it all the way to the conference championship. But a slow start certainly doesn’t give you a lot of margin for error heading into the final three-quarters of the season.

1990 – New Orleans, Wild Card Playoffs
1990 – Philadelphia, Wild Card Playoffs
1991 – New York Jets, Wild Card Playoffs
1992 – San Diego, Divisional Playoffs
1993 – Green Bay, Divisional Playoffs
1993 – Houston, Divisional Playoffs
1995 – Detroit, Wild Card Playoffs
1995 – Philadelphia, Divisional Playoffs
1996 – Dallas, Divisional Playoffs
1996 – Jacksonville, Lost AFC championship
1997 – New York Giants, Wild Card Playoffs
1998 – Buffalo, Wild Card Playoffs
2000 – New Orleans, Divisional Playoffs
2001 – Patriots, Won Super Bowl XXXVI
2002 – Tennessee, Lost AFC Championship Game
2002 – Atlanta, Divisional Playoffs
2002 – New York Jets, Divisional Playoffs
2002 – Pittsburgh, Divisional Playoffs
2004 – Green Bay, Wild Card Playoffs
2005 – Chicago, Divisional Playoffs
2007 – San Diego, Lost AFC Championship Game
2008 – Minnesota, Wild Card Playoffs
2011 – Denver, Lost in Divisional Playoffs
2013 – Philadelphia, Wild Card Playoffs
2013 – Carolina, Lost in Divisional Playoffs

That brings us to 2015. Keeping in mind that the league has averaged one playoff team a season that has started with something as bad a 1-3 record dating back to 1990, here’s the list of the 12 teams that can finish the week no better than 1-3 through the first four weeks of the 2015 season: Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco. (Seattle is 1-2 going into its Monday night game against Detroit. In addition, Tennessee is 1-2, but was inactive this weekend because of the bye. As a result, the total could stretch to 14 by the end of action on Monday.)

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Tom Brady spends Sunday night catching up on Cowboys

10.04.15 at 10:07 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady apparently spent part of his bye week doing a little scouting of New England’s next opponent — the following picture was posted to his Facebook account on Sunday evening during the Dallas-New Orleans game.

Back at it tomorrow… All eyes on the Cowboys

Posted by Tom Brady on Sunday, October 4, 2015

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Bill Belichick isn’t sleeping on Brandon Weeden: ‘They moved the ball, scored a lot of points’

10.04.15 at 6:21 pm ET
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Brandon Weeden has taken over for the injured Tony Romo in Dallas. (Getty Images)

Brandon Weeden has taken over for the injured Tony Romo in Dallas. (Getty Images)

Part of Bill Belichick‘s job is to never overlook any aspect of an opponent, even if that opponent is significantly undermanned.

When Dez Bryant went down in the Week 1 with a foot injury and Tony Romo was lost to a shoulder injury in Philadelphia the next week, it was widely assumed the Cowboys offense would sit with them. But the Cowboys held on for the win in Philly behind Brandon Weeden and raced out to a big lead against Atlanta before falling apart in the second half in Week 3.

As the Patriots get ready for the Cowboys this week in the heart of Texas, they will be taking apart film on Weeden.

In his first starting assignment after taking over for the injured Romo, Weeden showed early on against Atlanta that he could put points on the board. The quarterback, who will turn only 32 on Oct. 14, completed 13-of-14 passes for 164 yards as Dallas jumped out to a 28-14 lead. The most efficient part of his game was handing the ball off to Joseph Randle, who had three rushing touchdowns in the first half.

“I thought he did a good job for them last week,” Belichick said of Weeden. “It obviously didn’€™t quite work out there but they moved the ball, they scored a lot of points. He did a good job of getting the ball to his outlet receivers, used the backs well.”

But Weeden and the Cowboys went ice cold in the second half, completing 9-of-12 in the second half, with two sacks as the Falcons outscored Dallas, 22-0, to take a 39-28 win.

“They had a lot of production. He’€™s an experienced player,” Belichick said. “They have a great offensive line. They have good skill players. They have really good backs, a lot of depth in their backfield. I think he’€™s done a good job of utilizing those guys. They’€™re a good football team. I know they’€™ve lost a couple key players, but they’€™ll be getting some more guys back next week, and they’€™ve got a lot of players to work with. It’€™s going to be a big challenge for us. They’€™re very good in the kicking game, tough team defensively, and a lot of explosive players on the offensive side of the ball. It will be tough.”

If things don’t work out with Weeden, the Cowboys will turn to former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, acquired by the Cowboys in the week after Romo’s Week 2 injury. The Patriots beat Cassel in Week 2 of the 2014 season when Cassel started for Minnesota.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Weeden, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick closes the book on Michael Hoomanawanui: ‘We won a lot of games with him’

10.04.15 at 4:46 pm ET
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Michael Hoomanawanui

Michael Hoomanawanui

Before moving onto preparing for the Cowboys, Bill Belichick gave some props to a player he dealt away last week.

The Patriots head coach gave props to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui on Sunday during a conference call after he dealt the veteran to the New Orleans Saints for defensive end Akiem Hicks.

“[He] had a lot of position versatility, smart guy. We won a lot of games with him,” Belichick said.

Of course, Belichick wouldn’t have felt comfortable pulling the trigger on the deal if he didn’t feel Michael Williams, acquired in a deal with Detroit in August, hadn’t worked hard to get up to speed.

“I think Mike has done a good job coming in here and learning what we’€™ve asked to him to do in a relatively short period of time, and I think he’€™s got a good future in front of him,” Belichick said. “But again, all that being said, it wasn’€™t like we were looking to move on from Hooman, but you have to give up something to get something. So that was really more of the nature of that trade. I don’€™t think it was necessarily a commentary on, I mean, I feel good about our tight end situation, but again, if you want to get something, you have to give up something, and sometimes that’€™s what you have to do.

“I think Mike has done a good job, and I’€™m glad that we have him, and he’€™s learned. He wasn’€™t playing that position at Detroit. He was playing more of the tackle position, so it’€™s been a transition for him as far as learning what to do and re-acclimating his technique and so forth to the tight end position. He’€™s done a good job of that. It’€™s certainly a credit to him that he’€™s come as far as he has in the past few weeks in terms of making a position change and that type of thing. That’€™s been good, no question about that.”

As Chris Price noted, Belichick has been a wheeler dealer of late, not afraid to pull the trigger on trades if it adds a veteran for depth, even if that veteran is headed for free agency at the end of the season.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots,
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