Dolphins Season Ends With 30-12 Playoff Loss

Posted Jan 8, 2017

The Dolphins quickly fell behind 14-0 and could never recover in a 30-12 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round playoff game at Heinz Field.

The Dolphins’ magical 2016 season came to a disappointing end Sunday.

The Dolphins quickly fell behind 14-0 and could never recover in a 30-12 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round playoff game at Heinz Field.

Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell each scored two touchdowns for the Steelers, who racked up 219 yards of offense in the first quarter alone. Brown ended Pittsburgh’s first two possessions with touchdown catches of 50 and 69 yards. Bell set a Steelers postseason record with 169 rushing yards.

Damien Williams scored the Dolphins’ only touchdown on a 4-yard reception with 5:57 left in regulation. Andrew Franks kicked two first-half field goals.

The Dolphins committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters, the last of which led to Bell’s second touchdown after cornerback Tony Lippett tried to time a jump over the center to block a field goal attempt but instead was offside to give Pittsburgh a first down.

Matt Moore, making his fourth consecutive start in place of injured Ryan Tannehill, completed 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards and one touchdown, but he lost two fumbles and threw an interception. Moore also was sacked five times after being sacked only once in his three starts in the regular season.

He left the game for one play in the second quarter after taking a big hit from linebacker Bud Dupree that drew a roughing-the-passer penalty but returned to finish the game.

After burning the Steelers for 204 rushing yards in the Dolphins’ 30-15 victory at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 16, Jay Ajayi was held to only 33 yards on 16 rushing attempts Sunday before leaving the game with a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter.

Despite the slow start, the Dolphins had chances to get back in the game.

They had a great opportunity to cut into their 20-6 deficit near the end of the first half after a 37-yard completion from Moore to DeVante Parker gave them a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line.

But on first down, linebacker James Harrison knocked the ball loose after getting to the quarterback from behind and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt recovered the fumble for Pittsburgh.

The Dolphins also got the ball to start the second half and reached the Pittsburgh 37-yard line, but Moore fumbled when he was sacked by safety Mike Mitchell and the Steelers again recovered.

The drive at the end of the first half began after Thomas intercepted a Roethlisberger pass at the Dolphins 11-yard line that went off the hands of Brown.

It was the second big play of the half for Thomas, who earlier gained 3 yards on a fake punt to convert a fourth-and-1 situation from the Miami 41-yard line. Thomas’ run was the big play in a drive that ended with Franks’ 47-yard field goal.

Rookie cornerback Xavien Howard had an interception late in the fourth quarter, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had the Dolphins’ only sack.

Franks’ first field goal was a 38-yard kick on the Dolphins’ second possession that came after a 36-yard completion from Moore to wide receiver Kenny Stills.

The Dolphins, however, trailed 14-0 at that time after Roethlisberger’s two touchdown passes to Brown.

Pittsburgh answered Franks’ field goal with a third touchdown drive, this one a 10-play, 83-yard drive that featured nothing but runs by Bell. He scored on a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line after the Steelers successfully challenged the ruling on the field that he had been stopped short of the goal line by linebacker Kiko Alonso. Two plays earlier, Bell broke loose for a 25-yard gain to the 1-yard line after the initial ruling of a touchdown was overturned after the automatic review of all scoring plays.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was back in the lineup after missing the last two games of the regular season and four of the past five because of a knee injury, but the Dolphins were without cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle injury).