How much fun is this?
For most of three quarters, the Dolphins looked like they were a sure thing to lose their first game of the season. The running game was stuffed. The penalties, the injuries, the missed tackles, they were all piling up. The Raiders had just put together a drive that consumed almost 10 minutes of the third quarter to take a 17-7 lead.
And then, these Dolphins continued to do what they have done so splendidly over the first three weeks of the season.
They found a way. Man, did they find a way.
Yes, the Miami Dolphins are 3-0 right now and looking every bit the part, turning that 10-point deficit into a resounding 28-20 victory over the Raiders with a series of huge fourth quarter plays that were so creative, so flawlessly executed and so downright exhilarating.
Nothing is a sure thing in this league. All three straight victories do is put this team in a good, solid position with the most difficult part of their schedule in front of them. But how can you not take notice of how they have gotten to this point, one of only two undefeated teams left in the AFC? How can you not admire the resiliency, the mindset and the way they have overcome so much, winning games in all sorts of wonderfully wacky ways?
Sunday, at least so far, was undoubtedly the capper.
The game-winner came on a 52-yard pass from wide receiver – yes, wide receiver – Albert Wilson to fellow wide receiver Jakeem Grant with 7:18 left. Frank Gore had taken a handoff from Ryan Tannehill then pitched the ball to Wilson who found a wide-open Grant. How deep is Adam Gase's bag of tricks? We're rapidly finding out.
"Those guys did a really good job on that play," understated Gase.
A few minutes later, after Xavien Howard pulled down his second interception of the game to stop a Raiders drive, Wilson was at it again, going into motion, taking a mini flip from Tannehill, finding a nice hole on the left side and sprinting 74 yards for the score. At one point, as he was running just inside the 20 yard line, Wilson gladly accepted a high-five from Grant. Yes, they were that alone, except for a sell-out crowd going absolutely bonkers.
Like I said, how much fun is this? And, while we're at it, how important a free agent addition was Wilson? The guy redefines versatile.
It was Grant, though, who began the comeback with an 18-yard touchdown catch on a similar little flip from Tannehill off a jet sweep that is counted as a forward pass, but can easily be construed as a run. Doesn't matter, it worked beautifully. Worked every time.
To truly appreciate what this team accomplished and the magnitude of this comeback you've got to first understand how terrible things looked when they were down 17-7 after a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run with 2:55 left in the third quarter. The defensive line was depleted by an injury to William Hayes and Akeem Spence's ejection. The running backs had totaled 15 yards on 11 carries. The penalties were stopping drives and erasing big defensive plays. The Dolphins were getting dominated in time of possession. It was a concoction of how not to win a football game.
Then everything changed with that first Jakeem Grant touchdown and suddenly, with that crowd erupting, with the Raiders seemingly wilting under the scorching South Florida sun, the Dolphins could do no wrong.
"I'm proud of those guys and the way that they played," Tannehill said of Wilson and Grant, but he could have, for that matter, been talking about the entire team.
He certainly could have been talking about himself.
As good as Tannehill was in the first two games, he was even better in this one, hitting 17 of 23 passes for 289 yards, his quarterback rating of 155.3 just short of perfect (158.3). While two of his three touchdown passes were little flips to Grant and Wilson, his first one was a thing of beauty, a 34-yard pass to Kenny Still that fit into the tightest of windows in the back corner of the end zone. I thought the 75-yard pass to Stills in the season opener was the best touch pass of Tannehill's career. This one may have been even better.
"We just kept battling and made some big plays when it mattered most," Tannehill said.
That's becoming the storyline of this season, the storyline of this team. Find a way. Doesn't matter how you do it. Just find a way. It is far too early in the season to begin wondering what all this means, how this 3-0 start will translate over the course of 16 games. That will come with time. We'll certainly begin getting more answers next Sunday in New England. We always do.
But for now, how can you not hold on to this moment, how can you not savor what we saw on this wild September Sunday from players like Tannehill, Wilson and Drake. How can you not appreciate a team that can win games so many different ways, a team that can play so poorly for so long, as it did against the Raiders, and still find enough of a finishing burst to own the day. And own it impressively.
"We're going to enjoy this for about 24 hours," said Gase.
And enjoy it they should.