NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - INSIDE SLANT
The Miami Dolphins continue to show they might be different from the disappointing teams of recent years. On Sunday they went to snowy Pittsburgh and defeated the Steelers, 34-28, in a game that was inches from being one of the most amazing finishes in NFL history.
Running back Daniel Thomas rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Charles Clay had seven receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had three touchdowns and one interception. Defensive end Cam Wake had a sack-fumble, and the loose ball was recovered by defensive tackle Randy Starks. Safety Jimmy Wilson deflected a punt. And the Dolphins, who watched their 17-7 third-quarter lead dissolve into a 28-24 fourth-quarter deficit, showed some resolve.
The bottom line is this: Miami is 2-0 in December, and the Dolphins have won back-to-back December road games for the first time since 2008, which was also the last time they made a playoffs appearance. In 2009 and 2010, the Dolphins were 7-6 and lost their final three games each season.
This team thinks it's different.
"We're contenders," safety Reshad Jones said.
The Dolphins rushed for a season-best 181 yards against the Steelers as they continued making the game easier for themselves. Miami was 4-for-6 in the red zone, and a respectable 6-for-14 (43 percent) on third-down conversions while registering its highest point total of the season.
"It was definitely a big win for us," said Thomas, who was playing as the primary ball carrier in the second half after starter Lamar Miller sustained a concussion in the third quarter. "We have a do-or-die mentality and we need to keep doing that next week."
Things almost crumbled at the end, however. The Steelers snapped the ball at their own 26-yard line on the game's final play. Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown barely stepped out of bounds at the Dolphins' 12-yard line before streaking into the end zone on a play that saw the Steelers make five laterals. It would have been one of the most bizarre and improbable victories in NFL history, going 74 yards on five laterals, including one that saw an offensive lineman handling the ball.
"I thought I had it clean," Brown said.
Instead, the Dolphins, a team that has disappointed in December in recent years, stayed alive in the AFC playoff race.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - NOTES, QUOTES
--Big plays were a constant in Sunday's 34-28 victory over Pittsburgh, and that needs to be a staple for the Dolphins. RB Daniel Thomas had a 55-yard run in the fourth quarter. QB Ryan Tannehill had a 48-yard run. TE Charles Clay had a 12-yard TD reception in which he fought off two tacklers to bull his way into the end zone. DE Cam Wake had a sack-fumble. S Jimmy Wilson deflected a punt. WR Brian Hartline scored on a 4-yard TD reception in which he skillfully got both feet inbounds.
To coach Joe Philbin, the winning formula was simple.
"We made some plays," he said.
--The Dolphins scored a fourth-quarter TD for the first time in seven games against Pittsburgh. The last time they did that was a 25-yard INT return for a TD by S Reshad Jones against Baltimore.
The Dolphins scored a fourth-quarter offensive TD for the first time in nine games against Pittsburgh. The last time they did that was TE Dion Sims' 1-yard TD reception with 38 seconds left in a 27-23 victory over Atlanta.