Upset Bid For Dolphins Falls Short Against Panthers

Posted Nov 24, 2013

Miami led for all but 43 seconds in tough 20-16 home loss.

Only a few minutes separated the Miami Dolphins from cooling off the NFL’s hottest team at Sun Life Stadium, but a late touchdown drive by the Carolina Panthers allowed them to escape with a 20-16 win.

Miami drops to 5-6 with the loss and travels to face the New York Jets next Sunday. Carolina improves to 8-3 by winning its seventh consecutive game and first ever over the Dolphins in five tries.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen with 43 seconds remaining thwarted the Dolphins’ upset bid and their bid to go one game over .500. It’s the ninth game this season that has come down to the fourth quarter for Miami.

“This was probably more frustrating than if they would have come here and just put 50 points on the board,” said Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, who finished with two solo tackles and one quarterback hit on Newton. “I mean you know for 56 minutes of the game you’re doing everything you can and you’re doing everything you need to do to win the game. Again, that last five or so minutes where the play needs to be made we kind of let it slip through our fingers. So it’s frustrating to know that the ability is there and guys are doing it and making it happen but in critical positions we dropped the ball.”

Carolina’s comeback victory also rendered Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace’s best outing of the season moot. Wallace caught five passes for 127 yards and a touchdown with 110 of those yards coming in the first half, including a 53-yard scoring reception when Miami took a 16-6 lead into the locker room.

Newton was harassed all afternoon by an active Dolphins defensive front and was sacked twice, once by Olivier Vernon and once by rookie defensive end Dion Jordan. He also threw what looked like a costly interception late in the first half, as Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll jumped the route and set up his offense deep in Panthers territory.

“I thought in the first half we did an excellent job, not only on pressure but getting him to the ground a couple of times and not letting him out of the pocket,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “I think we had him at a second and fifteen and he scrambled away. There were two or three times in the second half where he got away from us and got positive yardage and that’s something you don’t want to have happen when you’re playing him.”

It looked like the turnover was going to result in seven points and a 20-3 halftime lead for Miami but Tannehill’s pass to Rishard Matthews in the back of the end zone ended up incomplete when Matthews was drilled by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. A penalty flag was initially thrown for an illegal hit but it was picked up and the Dolphins had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis.

Newton drove Carolina 52 yards on eight plays in 1:01 at the end of the half to set up Graham Gano’s 46-yard field goal as time expired, giving his team a little momentum. He then engineered a 14-play, 83-yard drive to open the second half, capping it off with a 5-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 16-13.

The two teams kept trading punts after that until Newton was able to come up with the necessary plays on that final drive and take advantage of what looked like a tired Dolphins defense. Early on in the drive it appeared that Miami was going to close the deal, putting the Panthers in the position of having to convert on fourth-and-10 from their own 20, but Newton found wide receiver Steve Smith for 19 yards to keep the drive alive.

“We knew that we had another chance to be in a game like that, in a game-winning type of situation where it was going to come down to a last play or a last drive and that’s exactly what it was,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. “We had to stop them at the end and we just didn’t close. We didn’t finish and I think what you saw on the field was guys trying to make plays, both on our team and on theirs and they made enough at the end to win the game. They got the ball down the field and they won. They were on a roll and we were trying to knock them off and we just didn’t do enough to win the game.”
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