Miami’s 3-0 start has buzz building

Miami Dolphins tight end Dion Sims (80) congratulates Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (33) after Thomas scored a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami Dolphins tight end Dion Sims (80) congratulates Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (33) after Thomas scored a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — As the Miami Dolphins prepare for a rare prime-time appearance next Monday night in New Orleans, the extra day between games will be welcome.

It gives the Dolphins a few additional hours to enjoy being 3-0, more time for an injury-depleted defense to mend and another practice to address serious problems with pass protection.

The surprising Dolphins took another step toward ending their streak of four consecutive losing seasons by rallying past Atlanta 27-23 on Sunday.

“We’re making the most of the present, and hopefully we can snowball that into the future,” said long snapper John Denney, whose nine years with Miami give him locker room seniority.

The Dolphins have won their first three games 12 other times, and none of those teams finished with a losing record. Nine of them made the playoffs, and Miami’s quick start has stirred speculation about a run to the postseason.

Such optimism is a big change in South Florida because the Dolphins haven’t been 3-0 since 2002, and they’ve reached the playoffs only once since 2001. That’s why they haven’t played in prime time much lately.

But buzz about the Dolphins is building, and to sustain it they’ll need to address issues on both sides of the ball. Injuries have left uncertain the status of four defensive starters, including Pro Bowl end Cameron Wake, and shaky blocking threatens the health of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been sacked 14 times.

Wake was sidelined Sunday after he hurt his left knee in the first quarter. Tests determined he avoided serious injury, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll be available against the Saints.

“We’re going to wait and see how the week progresses,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Monday. “We have a long week here ahead of us, and I think we’ll make that determination at the end of the week.”

Linebacker Koa Misi left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, and defensive tackle Paul Soliai (knee) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) sat out. Still, the defense was at its best down the stretch, a testament to Miami’s depth.

“You never want anybody to go down, but you know it’s bound to happen in this game,” cornerback Brent Grimes said. “You have to have people step up.”

Wake’s injury means the Dolphins may be forced to accelerate the development of top pick Dion Jordan, who came off the bench in the first three games. The No. 3 pick from Oregon saw his most extensive action Sunday, including when Miami forced consecutive three-and-outs in the second half.

“We’re seeing more and more of Dion, and he’s getting better,” Coyle said.