AC in the AM: So Many Step Up In Riveting Comeback

Posted Oct 16, 2017

This was the team we expected to see, we wanted to see and we needed to see.

After trailing 17-0 at the half, the Miami Dolphins put together one of their most remarkable comebacks in years, pulling out a 20-17 victory over the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons and, in the process, changing the complexion of their entire season.

Stunning. Impressive. Improbable. Pick any of them. Pick all of them. If this team, now 3-2, goes on to do something special this season, you can point to the second Sunday of October as the catalyst.

This was when the offense awakened, the defense further validated itself against one of the most explosive attacks in the league and the Dolphins in general showed a resiliency that you just have to sit back and admire.

“We just kept fighting,” said coach Adam Gase.

Could anyone have possibly seen this coming? One big play after another. One big score after another. One big stop after another. From frustration to elation. How quickly everything changed. Perspective? Those 20 points in the second half were more than the Dolphins had scored in any game this season.

And when it was over, when safety Reshad Jones danced off the field with a game-clinching interception with just 39 seconds left, the team’s first interception all season, only then did the magnitude of this victory take hold. Only then could an entire football team exhale. Only then could we truly appreciate what these players and coaches had just accomplished.

“We just all raised our level of play,” said Jones. “This was a true test, a huge victory.”

Where do you start? Do you start with Jay Cutler finally playing so well, converting some huge third downs, firing touchdown passes to Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry? This was Jay Cutler at his best, the one we need to continue to see the rest of the season.

Or do you start with Jay Ajayi who ran as hard as I’ve ever seen him run, who pounded and produced and punished until he finished with 130 yards on 26 carries? How many tackles did he break? How strong was the message he kept sending?

Or maybe it’s the defense that you start with, a defense that shut out Matt Ryan and Co. in the second half but that alone doesn’t even do justice to the way it played, how it harassed Ryan, how it stuffed the running game, how it produced one important moment after another until Jones ended all doubts with that late interception just as it looked like overtime was on the menu.

Or maybe we need to start with Adam Gase, who had the guts to go for it on a huge fourth down in the fourth quarter, who never stopped believing in Cutler and who put in an offensive wrinkle on Landry’s touchdown catch that left him wide open, a wrinkle that saw Landry start in motion and then reverse fields. As bad as things got with this offense – and things certainly looked bleak at halftime -- Gase never wavered, never flinched, always certain that things would eventually turn. And turn they did against the Falcons.

See, there is no easy place to start after a victory like this one and that’s exactly the way you want it. So many stepped up. So many produced. The bottom line rings so loud in our minds it’s truthfully hard to remember all the plays that helped get them there.

Like that third-and-nine in the fourth quarter when Jarvis Landry caught the pass a few yards short of a first down, but just kept fighting and muscling his way for those final few yards, bringing a couple of defenders with him. All that catch did was set up the game-winning field goal by Cody Parkey. All it did was remind us just how tough Landry is.

Like that opening drive of the third quarter when Cutler led the Dolphins on a 15-play, 75-yard gem, converting yet another fourth down along the way, finishing it off on a third-and-12 with Cutler stepping up in the pocket in time to get Stills open in the back of the end zone. That got the Dolphins going. That got them believing.

Like the deflection by rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley that bounced into the arms of Jones on that fourth quarter interception. A rookie cornerback starting his third game making a play like that? Impressive stuff.

Asked about those fourth down gambles, Gase simply explained, “What did we have to lose? Might as well be aggressive.”

That was the mindset all day. Whether it was William Hayes stuffing a running play for a 4-yard loss or Senorise Perry with an important special teams tackle late in the fourth quarter or Ajayi beginning that game-winning field goal drive with bursts of 13 and 18 yards, this team simply played with a passion and purpose that we had not seen enough of in the first four games.

But this day was different. In so many ways, in so many instances, this was a team that came together in one unforgettable second half, pulling off the team’s biggest road comeback in 23 years and, perhaps most importantly, finding its offense in the process.

Suddenly, everything looks a little bit different now.

“We can’t be satisfied with this,” said Cutler. “We’ve got to move on.”

Which is so much easier to do after a victory like this one.

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