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Drive Of The Game

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Rookies Fitzpatrick, Ballage Shine In Loss To Vikings

The Dolphins got big plays from two of their rookies Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to help produce a victory at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.

First-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick returned an interception 50 yards and fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage had a 75-yard run to account for the Dolphins touchdowns in their 41-17 loss against the Minnesota Vikings.

Fitzpatrick’s pick-six came in the second quarter and cut the Dolphins deficit to 21-7. Combined with third-round pick Jerome Baker’s interception return against the New York Jets on Nov. 4, it made the Dolphins first team in the NFL since the 2015 Green Bay Packers with two rookies with a pick-six in one season.

Ballage’s run made the score 21-17 in the third quarter and was the second-longest run ever by a Dolphins rookie, behind only a 77-yard run by Leroy Harris in 1977. Ballage finished the game with 123 rushing yards, his first NFL 100-yard game.

The Dolphins made it a game after they fell behind 21-0, but they couldn’t get any closer after Ballage’s touchdown.

The Minnesota pass rush took over after that point, and the Vikings finished the game with nine sacks.

The Vikings got two touchdown runs from Dalvin Cook and two touchdown passes from Kirk Cousins, to Stefon Diggs and Aldrick Robinson. Latavius Murray also had a rushing touchdown.

Dan Bailey kicked two field goals for the Vikings, and Jason Sanders kicked one for the Dolphins.

Running back Frank Gore left the game late in the first quarter after sustaining an ankle injury and did not return. He made his 122nd consecutive start against the Vikings, by far the longest active streak in the NFL among running backs. The longest-running streak is 17, by Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey and Tampa Bay’s Peyton Barber.

Long-snapper John Denney became the second player to appear in a Dolphins game at the age of 40 or older. He turned 40 on Wednesday.

The Dolphins started slowly and found themselves with their first 21-0 first-quarter deficit since 2005.

Fitzpatrick got the Dolphins going with his pick-six, which came on a third-and-15 from the Dolphins 47 when he read an intended screen pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, jumped in front of him and made the easy catch-and-run to the end zone.

The Dolphins cut the lead to 21-10 with a field goal late in the first half after a 61-yard run that featured a third-down conversion by Ballage when he ran 3 yards after taking a shotgun snap in the Wildcat formation.

Ballage cut the deficit to seven points on the first snap of the second half, but things only went downhill after that for the Dolphins.

Minnesota scored the final 20 points, with Cousins’ 40-yard touchdown pass to Robinson, Cook’s 21-yard run, and two field goals by Bailey.

It was similar to the way the game started.

After the Dolphins won the toss and deferred, the Vikings needed only six plays to take a 7-0 lead. After Cook gained 27 yards on a screen pass and 26 on a run, Cousins ended the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Diggs.

Cook ended the second drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, one play after Cousins hit tight end Tyler Conklin for a 20-yard completion.

After a Dolphins three-and-out, the lead grew to 21-0 when Murray capped a 70-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run.

The Dolphins made a game of it after Fitzpatrick’s pick-six, but never were able to catch up.

The Dolphins (7-7) return to Hard Rock Stadium next Sunday to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in their home finale.

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