The Miami Dolphins: A Tale of Two Halves

The Miami Dolphins spotted the Atlanta Falcons 17 points in a lackluster first half that looked like the Dolphins were ready to implode. Mike Pouncey ominously headed toward the tunnel just before intermission with a concussion. Jay Cutler refused to set his feet, dancing around imaginary rushers before unloading short or off-target. These Dolphins were the first team in 13 years not to score a touchdown in the first quarter of 5 consecutive games to start the season.

The chants of, “we want Moore,” could be heard all the way from Miami. Subjected all week to every cocaine snorting meme imaginable, the only people who still believed were in that locker room at halftime. A 15-play, 75-yard, 8 minute drive to start the third quarter sparked the comeback. Jay Cutler finally found his legs, maneuvering up and out of the pocket, then firing to Kenny Stills in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. The Dolphins had scored! The Dolphins had a pulse and it seemed that’s all they needed.

The defense, which had played well despite giving up 17 first half points, smelled blood in the water and promptly forced a three an out. Then divine invention set the stage…

Atlanta punter Matt Bosher shanked a 26-yard kick giving the Dolphins possession on their own 49. Two Falcons penalties: a 26-yard pass interference penalty on a deep pass to Jakeem Grant and a late hit on Jay Cutler, that negated a Deion Jones interception, changed the momentum of the game. Cutler floated a pass to Jarvis Landry for an easy seven-yard touchdown. “I was wide open,” Landry said. “No one can guard me. Great play design from coach.” The score was 17-14 Atlanta, but the magic was with Miami.

On Atlanta’s next possession, a Falcons holding penalty followed by a Cam Wake sack brought punter Matt Bosher back on the field. The snap seemed to bounce off the up man or perhaps it was a mishandled fake, but either way, Bosher never got the punt off and Miami took over on its own 48. Gase seized the moment, calling for a nine-yard pass to Landry on 4th and 2 before Cody Parkey nailed a 49-yard field goal with 8:39 left, to tie the game.

Newly acquired William Hayes dropped Tevin Coleman for two yards, and then a loss of eight on consecutive runs. Matty Ice had that far away “how did we give up a 28-3 lead” look in his eyes as Dolphin defenders pummeled him on nearly every play. After a Falcons punt, Jay Ajayi ripped off two 18-yard runs, Cutler hit Landry for 10 yards on a third and nine, and Parkey hit a 38-yard field goal with 2:30 to go for a 20-17 Miami lead. After 20 unanswered second half points the Dolphins would not be denied!

The Falcons drove from their own 13 to the Dolphins 26, it looked like the game was heading for overtime or a last minute Atlanta victory when Rashad Jones did his thing. Rookie Cordrea Tankersley had great coverage on tight end Austin Hooper, when he reached in, deflecting a well thrown pass. Jones “kind of cheated a little bit backside and I kept my eyes on the ball” grabbing it at the Dolphins 6 for an interception to win the game.

The victory was one to savoir for the Miami Dolphins. Postponing their first game and giving up their bye week to Hurricane Irma, going in consecutive weeks to LA, NY and London, then dealing with a coach’s snorting fiasco, brought out the true character of this team. These guys don’t quit, they don’t make excuses and they should never be counted out of a ballgame.

Jay Ajayi rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries. Jay Cutler, threw for just 151 yards but was victimized by five more drops (three by Landry, two by Ajayi). Cutler looked gun shy and confused in the first half, but something clicked after intermission and he orchestrated four scoring drives in the final 28 minutes. His 76.7 rating was not as bad as the numbers would imply, but it was a tale of two halves.

The Miami defense dominated the second half, allowing just 106 yards.

With the Jets coming to town, Miami, left for dead several weeks ago, is 3-2. The second half performance against Atlanta is the type of comeback that changes a season. Jay Cutler is streaky, but clearly we have not seen him reach his peak and that bodes well for Miami. The loss of Pouncey somehow focused the offensive line and perhaps the off practice days for Pouncey are hindering, more than helping

This Miami defense is going to lose the Dolphins another defensive coordinator, after the season, if this performance continues. The DL is the best collection of players for the Dolphins in many years and perhaps one of the best in the NFL. Maualuga and Timmons have solidified a weak linebacker corps and the two young corners are playing lights out. The thought of TJ McDonald returning at safety in a few weeks may be giving OC’s nightmares.

As Miami finds its offensive stride, this team has nowhere to go but up!