DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins want to be known as an aggressive, fire-breathing defense that creates turnovers and forces three-and-outs on a regular basis. They want to be known as playmakers.
They don't want an identity as a "bend but don't break" defense.
"I hate that term, to be honest with you," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said on Monday.
So how did Dolphins coach Joe Philbin describe his defense a day later?
"It's been a little more 'bend but not break' type of philosophy," Philbin said on Tuesday.
We'll let those two bicker over how to classify their defensive style.
In truth, the Dolphins have had more of an identity as play-making defense than a "bend but don't break" unit.
Yes, they've allowed lots of yards, which is a hallmark of a "bend but don't break" group.
The Dolphins' defense is 25th in yards per game (393) and 20th in points per game (23.4).
They're 15th in rushing yards per game (105.4) and 27th in passing yards per game (287.6).
All are disappointing rankings.
The "bend but don't break" moniker comes because they've only allowed 16 fourth-quarter points. They haven't "broken" very many times despite statistics such as allowing six 100-yard receivers.
"We've given up some yards," Philbin said, "but in tight situations we still played relatively well."
Actually, it hasn't just been tight situations. On numerous occasions the defense has made big plays to keep its team in games.
Start with cornerback Dimitri Patterson's two interceptions in the 23-10 season-opening victory at Cleveland. Or consider cornerback Nolan Carroll's goal line interception on the Browns' game-opening possession.
Recall cornerback Brent Grimes' fourth-quarter interception in the end zone in the 24-20 victory at Indianapolis and linebacker Philip Wheeler's fourth-quarter sack on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
In the 27-23 victory over Atlanta, safety Jimmy Wilson intercepted Matt Ryan's fourth-quarter pass.
In the fourth quarter of the 26-23 loss to Baltimore, defensive end Dion Jordan hit quarterback Joe Flacco's arm and safety Reshad Jones returned the interception 25 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 23.
There have been other big plays, too. For example, defensive end Derrick Shelby has two sack-fumbles, the latter of which led to a recovery by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who has two recovered fumbles for the season.
"We've been an aggressive defense," Coyle said. "We aren't satisfied with the way we've played through five games. I think I mentioned it last week, we've been inconsistent. There have been flashes of very good play, individual play, but collectively we haven't had a game where we came out and just flat played from start to finish the way we are capable of."
The Dolphins' nine takeaways through five games are way ahead of their pace from a year ago when they totaled 16 takeaways in 16 games.
But it's not enough. Coyle showed his defense the league-wide takeaway statistics on Tuesday. The three teams with the most takeaways -- Kansas City (18), Chicago (17) and Seattle (17) -- have a combined 15-3 record.
"We're at nine," linebacker Koa Misi said. "If you look at it like that we could do a lot better."
The same is true for sacks. The Dolphins' 13 sacks are tied for 24th in the league, which is slightly ahead of pace their 37 sacks pace of a year ago. However, this team needs more.
"Like we talked about at the beginning of the year, we want to lead the league in takeaways," Jones said. "I think we've come a long way, and we still have a ways to go."
Regardless, don't ever suggest to Coyle they're a bend-but-don't-break unit. He seems to view that term as a weakness.
"We want to get after people," he said. "We want to create turnovers. We want to be dictating the tempo of the game. That's what we plan to do from here on out."
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