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Games come and go. They have a tendency to all blend together. Unless there is a special one. Like Sunday in Pittsburgh. The memory of that one will not go away anytime soon. This was a statement win for the Dolphins, a real measuring stick toward credibility. So before we move on to New England, let’s savor it all just a little bit more.
• Charles Clay deserves the headlines. He was a difference-maker and now looks like a real long-term find. His 40-yard catch and run was special. His second touchdown, the game-winner, was impressive. But one play, a play that didn’t result in a touchdown or a huge momentum swing, remains most vivid to me.
It was third-and-eight early in the fourth quarter. Ryan Tannehill finds Clay on a short pass. All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu was between Clay and a first down. In a match-up like this one against a player like Polamalu, the offensive player usually doesn’t have a chance. But it was Clay who made the play, Clay who broke the tackle, Clay who got the first down. Watch that play. Watch it again. I know he broke two tackles on his game-winning score, but this third-and-8 play showed us everything you need to know about Charles Clay. One tough hombre
• Ryan Tannehill keeps coming up big. I know he can be exasperating with some questionable throws like the pick six to Polamalu. But look at his entire body of work, look at what he has done so far in December, and you see the fog clearing, you see a young quarterback rapidly refining the nuances of his game. He deserves plenty of credit for keeping his cool against the Steelers and making plays when he had to. The numbers say Tannehill has improved this season – he has six more TD passes than interceptions for the first time in his career. In this case, the numbers are right on.
• One of the great storylines of this season remains the recent play of this offensive line. Yes, the sacks keep coming. But considering what this line has been through this season, considering the multitude of personnel changes, how can you not applaud its performance against both the Jets and Steelers? The Dolphins have rushed for 306 yards over the past two games. The penalties have been held to a minimum. If this team makes the playoffs, look no further than this offensive line as a large reason why.
• I want to see more of Tannehill running on the read option. I want to see the Dolphins keep doing it until teams figure out how to stop it.
• The more times I watch Brian Hartline’s tip-toe sideline touchdown catch against Pittsburgh, the more remarkable the play becomes. I mean to make that catch in the freezing cold, at such a pressure-packed moment, and to drag your feet just right, is something that can’t be taught. “It didn’t surprise me,” said Joe Philbin of the catch. “He does that on the practice field.”
• Cameron Wake races past Steelers lineman Marcus Gilbert for a second quarter sack and forced fumble that led to the Dolphins first score. Wake just keeps making plays. I know he’s been overshadowed this season by the double-digit sack total of Olivier Vernon, but Wake is still the biggest difference-maker on this defense.
• I was one of those who believed that Daniel Thomas would not be 100 percent healthy again this season. Then he goes out and tears up the Steelers defense. With Lamar Miller currently sidelined with a concussion, the Dolphins desperately need Thomas to build off of Sunday’s performance. Circle that as a key to the final three games.
• Mike Wallace a non-factor in Pittsburgh? Don’t believe it. On Clay’s first touchdown catch, he was wide open largely because Wallace was getting double-covered over the middle. Sometimes an impact isn’t always obvious by just looking at the stat sheet.
• Jimmy Wilson bursts up the middle to deflect a punt late in the second quarter. The play didn’t result in points, but it was nice to see the special teams do something, well, really special.
• Joe Philbin remains perfect for the season on red flag challenges. Seems to have that little toss down just right.
• And now here come the Patriots this week and the Bills and the Jets the final two weeks. It is all set up perfectly for the Dolphins. Two of the final three at home, so much that can still be accomplished. Interesting how back-to-back road wins over the Jets and Steelers can alter the perspective of an entire season.
On Wednesday, AC in the AM answers fans questions.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.