Dolphins Close Preseason With 24-21 Win

Posted Aug 29, 2013

Late touchdown throw from Devlin to McNutt gives Dolphins the victory.

Quarterback Pat Devlin thought his night of work was over when he was replaced midway through the fourth quarter. Instead, he was called back into action and led the Dolphins to a come-from-behind victory over the New Orleans Saints in the preseason finale Thursday night.

Devlin, who was on the sideline for only one play to watch Aaron Corp get injured on a sack, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt and then added a two-point conversion on a run to give the Dolphins a 24-21 victory at Sun Life Stadium.

The sudden change in Devlin’s role didn’t faze him at all.

“Absolutely not,” Devlin said. “I was still warm and ready to go. We’re players and we love to play.”

The game-winning score with 3:02 left came on a fourth-and-4 from the Dolphins 44-yard line.

McNutt got behind a New Orleans defensive back in one-on-one coverage and sprinted under Devlin’s perfectly thrown ball.

“I came in and ran basically a go route from the slot and Devlin threw a great ball,” McNutt said. “I looked back, didn’t see it at first and all of a sudden saw it. I stuck out my hands and God blessed me with the catch.”

The Dolphins secured the victory with a defensive stand after New Orleans drove inside the Miami 10-yard line in the final minute. Cornerback De’Andre Presley sealed the victory with an interception at the 6-yard line.

“I thought that was a good finish to the ballgame,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “I told the team a lot of games in this league are decided in the fourth quarter, inside of five minutes, so it was nice to see our guys step up and make some plays. We made a play on offense on fourth down, and we had a takeaway on defense when the game was on the line. So that’s how you’ve got to finish games. It’s nice to come back after losing the lead in the fourth quarter.”

It was a doubly satisfying interception for Presley after a mental mistake he made earlier in the fourth quarter.

With the Dolphins leading 16-7, Presley was right on top of a loose ball in the Miami end zone after a fumble by Saints running back Khiry Robinson but tried to grab the ball and start running instead of simply falling on it. After he failed to handle the ball cleanly, offensive lineman Tom Lelito recovered the fumble for a New Orleans touchdown.

Presley wasn’t about to let the interception slip through his fingers.

“It was the same exact play they ran before and the whole time I’m reading the quarterback’s eyes and he tried to throw it out high,” Presley said. “My initial thought was just go up and make a tackle and live to fight another down. But I saw that the ball was way out in front or behind the running back, so I just went for the ball.”

Devlin got the start with both quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore given the night off, along with almost every Dolphins player listed first on the depth chart. The only two exceptions were guard John Jerry and fullback Evan Rodriguez.

Devlin ended the game with 22 completions in 38 attempts for 259 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while McNutt finished with 99 yards receiving on four receptions.

Rookie tight end Dion Sims was the offensive star for the Dolphins in the first half, catching four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.

“When my name was called, I just went out and produced,” Sims said. “I did the best that I could to execute.”

Caleb Sturgis added three field goals, completing the preseason at 9-for-9 on field goal attempts, to stake the Dolphins to a 16-7 lead before New Orleans scored twice in a span of 2:54 early in the fourth quarter to take a 21-16 lead.

New Orleans also rested most of their starters, but starting wide receiver Marques Colston and starting running back Pierre Thomas both saw action, as did backup running back Mark Ingram, starting fullback Jed Collins and starting defensive end Akiem Hicks.

It was Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner, who gave New Orleans a 7-0 lead with a touchdown run to cap the Saints’ opening drive of the game. But the Dolphins got the better of him the rest of the first half.

The Dolphins defense stripped him of the ball on a running play, and Tristan Okpalaugo’s fumble recovery set up Sturgis’ first field goal. Linebacker Jason Trusnik and safety Keelan Johnson also had fumble recoveries for the Dolphins.

Early in the second quarter, rookie defensive tackle A.J. Francis broke through the line of scrimmage to force Ingram sideways before rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor dropped him for an 8-yard loss.

“When you’ve got a guy out there like that, it just lets you know that if you can make a play on him you can play on anybody,” Francis said. “I mean, he’s not an easy back to take down, as he proved. If he’s out there and you can make a play on him, there’s a lot of backs that you can make that play on. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make that play, so I’ve got to step it up.”

Safety Kelcie McCray had a solid first half, even though he dropped a potential interception on an overthrown pass by New Orleans quarterback Ryan Griffin. McCray broke up a pass on the Saints’ first drive, but his best play came when he made a one-on-one tackle of Thomas on a swing pass to stop him short of a first down on a third-and-4.

The Dolphins responded to New Orleans’ first touchdown with an impressive nine-play, 78-yard drive that was capped by Sims’ 8-yard touchdown after he caught a pass from Devlin in the flat.

Devlin completed 4 of 5 passes — all to different receivers — on the drive, which was helped by three New Orleans penalties.

The Dolphins had several other chances in the first half after getting first downs at the New Orleans 14, 8 and 8 on three different drives. But those three drives produced only one field goal, with the Dolphins turning the ball over on downs on another and Devlin throwing an interception at the goal line on the other.

New Orleans got inside the Miami 40-yard line twice in the third quarter, but one drive ended in a missed 55-yard field goal attempt and an incompletion on a fourth-and-3.

The Saints began their fourth-quarter comeback with the Lelito touchdown. A 53-yard completion set up New Orleans’ next touchdown, a 2-yard pass from Griffin to fullback Austin Johnson.

It set the stage for a finish that was about as dramatic as you can get for a preseason finale.

“It was nice to come out of the game with a win,” said offensive lineman Nate Garner, who started at left tackle after missing the previous two games. “Obviously we have to work on a bunch of stuff.”


• Head Coach Joe Philbin on whether the team is ready for the regular season: “Yes. I thought we had an excellent training camp. We covered a lot of ground, a lot of different situations. Today was great for us. Again, to be down and have to make a play on fourth down and have to defend a drive to win the game … all those things, you try to simulate that in practice, and you do it, but this is better obviously.”

• DT Paul Soliai: “We finished with a good note. We won the game. Young guys are on the field. They did their job, and they did finish the game strong.”

• K Caleb Sturgis on his 3-for-3 performance on field goals: “It was a good night. Everything felt really good. The snap and holds always perfect. The guys make it easy on me.”

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