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This is starting to get fun. Two games. Two road wins. The Dolphins are making a nice and very important early season statement.
Sunday’s victory over Indianapolis was a clear measuring stick and the Dolphins measured up well. Could they build off the win at Cleveland? Could they beat a better team in the Colts and a far better quarterback in Andrew Luck? The answer was resounding: Yes they could.
Where do you start? With Mike Wallace coming up big after a tough opener in Cleveland? With the running game producing important yards and two touchdowns? With Ryan Tannehill out-playing Luck? With the defense owning the fourth quarter? Yes, this is a feel good moment for the Miami Dolphins.
Now, don’t get ahead of yourselves. The Dolphins have not separated themselves from anybody with only their second 2-0 start in the last decade. But with a brutal three-game stretch in front of them, beginning Sunday against Atlanta, could you have come up with a better scenario than this?
Indeed, with Sunday’s 24-20 victory, they now have clear evidence that their goals are not far-fetched, that the offseason moves have translated into significant improvement and that their second-year quarterback is growing up before our eyes.
How important was it for Wallace to have this kind of game? It was essential. You don’t spend the kind of money the Dolphins did for a speedy decoy. You create an offense around him. You get him the ball many different ways. You feed off of his energy. And then you sit back and watch him have the type of game he had against the Colts: 9 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Yes, that was a broad smile Wallace was wearing as he sat on the bench late in the fourth quarter. What a difference a week makes. From confused and distraught to productive and confident. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
How important was it for the running game to come through? It was huge. Not only for Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, but for the entire team. You don’t want to try to survive with a one-dimensional offense. Sooner or later the passing game would suffer.
What we saw against the Colts was a small step in the right direction. But still an important step. Miller rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown after getting 3 yards on 10 carries against Cleveland. Think his confidence needed a boost?
The Dolphins needed 8 yards to ice the game late in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody in the stadium knew we were going to run the ball,” said coach Joe Philbin.
So they give the ball to Miller, the offensive line opens a nice crease on the right side, and the result was just enough to get the first down, just enough to take the ball out of Luck’s hands for the rest of the day. That’s how you bounce back from rock bottom. That’s how you create balance.
How important was Tannehill out-playing Luck? Well, it was important for the outcome because Tannehill didn’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter and Luck did. But the real importance, from where I see it, is the big picture.
Luck was the No. 1 overall pick. Luck had the better rookie season. Luck was getting all the love. But now Tannehill is showing that he belongs as well, that he is clearly better than he was when these two last met and that his future could very well hold equal promise.
Tannehill won’t say it. Joe Philbin won’t say it. But don’t be mistaken: This was a significant game in Tannehill’s young career and one that has to give him a real sense of confidence moving forward.
But this victory wasn’t about one player or one moment. It was about rookie placekicker Caleb Sturgis nailing everything he tried; about cornerback Brent Grimes coming up with a game-saving interception; about linebacker Philip Wheeler pressuring Luck into a fourth down incompletion; about Charles Clay bringing productivity to the tight end position and about zero penalties.
You don’t get to 2-0 without earning it. You don’t win two on the road without a locker room filled with reasons. The season is about to hit its most difficult stretch and, based on what we have seen far, the Dolphins appear ready for the challenge.
On Tuesday, AC in the AM looks back at the win over Indy and ahead to the home opener against Atlanta.
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.
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