The Dolphins broke through in a couple of ways Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, though it did not help produce a victory at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Dolphins scored their first two third-quarter touchdowns of the season, including the first touchdown of tight end Mike Gesicki’s NFL career, in their 41-24 loss.
It was a valiant comeback effort by the Dolphins, who trailed 28-0 until the final play of the first half.
Jason Sanders kicked a 36-yard field goal and two extra points to account for the rest of the Dolphins’ scoring.
Penalties hurt the Dolphins, particularly on defense. After being penalized six or fewer times the previous nine games, they were penalized eight times for a season-high 94 yards.
Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes for Cleveland, including two to former Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry. The other went to Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb had touchdown runs.
The Dolphins’ first third-quarter touchdown of the season came after cornerback Ryan Lewis intercepted a Mayfield pass that was thrown behind Beckham, who tipped it up in the air.
The touchdown drive was kept alive by two third-down conversions, one on a 3-yard run by Kalen Ballage out of the Wildcat formation and the other on a 22-yard completion to DeVante Parker. It was capped by Fitzpatrick’s 11-yard TD pass to Gesicki.
After a missed field goal attempt by Cleveland, the Dolphins marched 64 yards for their second touchdown, that one coming on Fitzpatrick’s 8-yard scramble on third-and-goal.
Cleveland answered with two fourth-quarter field goals to make it 34-17, while the Dolphins offense couldn’t produce any more points until that late TD pass to Hurns.
Linebacker Jerome Baker, playing in his hometown of Cleveland, had a fourth-quarter interception and long return nullified when safety Steven Parker was penalized for lowering his head to initiate contact with intended receiver Demetrius Harris.
Chubb’s touchdown run, which made it 41-14, came two plays after the nullified Baker interception.
The game, though, was lost in the first half.
The first play from scrimmage set an ominous tone for the Dolphins, as Mayfield threw a screen pass to Nick Chubb, who turned upfield for a 32-yard gain.
A third-down defensive pass interference penalty kept alive the opening drive, and it ended with Mayfield throwing an 8-yard TD pass to Landry.
After another third-down penalty gave Cleveland another first down, Mayfield threw his second touchdown pass, that one to Beckham for 35 yards.
Facing a fourth-and-7 from their 42-yard line early in the second quarter, the Dolphins called for a fake punt. Up-back Patrick Laird took the snap and ran up the middle, but was stopped after a 3-yard gain.
After the turnover on downs, a defensive pass interference penalty gave the Browns a first-and-goal at the 5 and Mayfield then connected with Landry to make it 21-0 after the extra point.
The Dolphins responded with an impressive drive, but it ended when Fitzpatrick’s perfectly thrown pass from third-and-3 from the Cleveland 33 when through Wilson’s hands, bounced off his helmet and into the hands of linebacker Joe Schobert for an interception.
Cleveland then drove 73 yards for another touchdown. A key play on the drive came when officials reviewed an incomplete pass on a second-and-10 from the Miami 22 and overturned the ruling to call defensive pass interference on the Dolphins. That gave the Browns a first-and-goal at the 6, and Hunt scored on the next play.
Sanders’ 36-yard field goal at the end of the half capped an impressive 63-yard drive in the final 1:01. The drive featured completions of 12 and 16 yards from Fitzpatrick to Albert Wilson, plus a key 22-yard hook-up between Fitzpatrick and Parker right before Sanders’ kick.
The Dolphins hustled to the line of scrimmage after Parker was tackled and Fitzpatrick was able to spike the ball with one second left.
The Dolphins also lost cornerback Ken Crawley in the first half and wide receiver Wilson in the second half to injuries.
The Dolphins return to Hard Rock Stadium next Sunday to face the Philadelphia Eagles.