High Powered Offense Lifts Dolphins To 24-20 Win

Posted Sep 15, 2013

Miami improves to 2-0 for first time since 2010 with victory over Colts.

First it was the offense for the Miami Dolphins picking up where it left off last week in Cleveland and jumping on top of the host Indianapolis Colts early. Then the defense took over in the second half and preserved an impressive 24-20 victory on the road.

The last time Miami opened the season with back-to-back road wins was in 2010 at the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings and it’s the just the second time in 10 years the team has started a season 2-0. It was a breakout game for high-priced free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace and third-year tight end Charles Clay, while second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill evened his career record at 1-1 against Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

“That was a lot of fun and anytime you can come on the road and win that’s a big accomplishment,” said Tannehill, who has now started 18 consecutive games since being drafted by the Dolphins eighth overall last year. “Our entire team needed to play well and I think you saw some good things from the offense and the defense really stepped up and made a big play at the end to seal the game for us.”

Tannehill completed 23-of-34 passes for 319 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, finding Wallace nine times for 115 yards and an 18-yard score on the first drive of the game. He also found Clay five times for 109 yards and Clay also scored the first rushing touchdown of his career from a yard out late in the third quarter for what proved to be the winning points.

“They did a good job blocking up front and it opened up,” Clay said. “That takes me back to my collegiate days and I didn’t know how to react. Everyone was asking me did you keep the ball and I don’t even know what I did with the ball.”

Defensively, the Dolphins were getting taken advantage of by Luck in the first half to the tune of 248 passing yards but shut him down over the final 30 minutes and sacked him twice. Another free agent, cornerback Brent Grimes, came up with the biggest play of the game late in the fourth quarter when he intercepted Luck’s pass in the end zone intended for veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne for a touchback.

Former Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler sacked Luck on 4th-and-10 with a little over a minute left in the game and Indianapolis out of timeouts and then running back Lamar Miller converted a 3rd-and-8 with a 9-yard run to seal the deal. That sent the vocal home crowd away with their heads hanging and the Dolphins to their team plane feeling even more confident headed into next week’s home opener against Atlanta.

“They had been 8-1 since Coach (Chuck) Pagano and his staff had come here to Indianapolis and they play very well at home,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “I told the players it was going to be a close game. We told them we have to play great at the end of the half and we have to play great in the fourth quarter at the end of the game. Obviously, we stopped them on fourth down at the end and I told my team at the end of the game in the locker room, everybody in the stadium new we were running the ball and 3rd-and-8 and we found a way to get the first down.”

Miller finished the game with a career-high 69 yards on a career-high 14 carries and scored the team’s second touchdown on a 10-yard run. He led a rushing attack that bounced back from a dismal performance at Cleveland to rack up 101 net yards, or five times the amount the Dolphins mustered against the Browns (20 yards on 23 carries).

Even the special teams contributed again, with rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis drilling a 54-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to tie the game and give Miami a little momentum at intermission. He had to kick it twice because Pagano called a timeout right as the ball was being snapped the first time but it didn’t matter as the fifth-round draft pick was true both times.

For Grimes, his interception made up for an earlier play in the first half when despite having tight coverage on the speedy T.Y. Hilton he gave up a 47-yard pass play that set up a Colts touchdown. Hilton leaped and reached around Grimes’ head to make the circus catch so Grimes wanted some redemption.

“He threw it up and I was competing for the ball,” said Grimes, who made the Pro Bowl with Atlanta in 2010 and now has 14 career interceptions. “I made sure the second time I jumped early but I just made a play and that’s what it was, competing and making a play.”

After Tannehill and the offense ate up some clock and moved the ball out near midfield, the Colts defense tightened up and forced another Brandon Fields. He launched this one high and forced Hilton to make a fair catch at his own 14, leaving Luck barely over four minutes to try and go 86 yards for the winning score.

Luck provided some nightmarish reminders of last season’s game, won by Indy, 23-20, by escaping the pass rush again and scrambling for critical first downs. He managed to move the Colts all the way down to the Miami 18 before the Dolphins defense stiffened, forcing back-to-back-to-back incompletions and setting up the fourth-down play that Wheeler had been dreaming about.

“I think they might have been a little confused, I hope they were,” Wheeler said. “We were just happy to make a play and I got a little pressure on him before but I feel like as a team we just came out and we did some good things.”

Things don’t get any easier for the defense next week at Sun Life Stadium when they welcome the Atlanta Falcons and their dangerous offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan will be throwing the ball to wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, so this counts as good preparation.

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