Friday, November 1, 2013

Big-play defense earns Dolphins much-needed win


The Miami Dolphins ended their losing skid in thrilling fashion Thursday night, recording a game-ending safety on a sack by Cameron Wake to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime, 22-20.

The win ends an adversity-filled short week for Miami, but for about 59 minutes, the Dolphins appeared to be playing out the same exact script from their heart-breaking loss to the New England Patriots just four days earlier.

First, just as they had in New England, the Dolphins stormed out to a 17-3 third quarter advantage only to relinquish that lead in the fourth thanks in part to questionable offensive play-calling and an inability to sustain drives.

An overworked defense gave up a number of big third-down conversions late, and Bengals kicker Mike Nugent hit a 54-yard field goal to put his team ahead 20-17 with 1:24 left in the game.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense took the field with perhaps, considering the week's events and the pressures of continued losing, more than just the game on the line. The second-year quarterback calmly drove his team into field goal range, and kicker Caleb Sturgis sent the game into overtime.

In the extra period, it was a defense that was on the field for all but 5 minutes and 50 seconds of the second half that sealed the win. First, it stymied a Bengals' drive right outside of field goal range then later delivered the winning defensive score on the sack of Cincinnati passer Andy Dalton.

"[Wake]'s an impact player. We saw what he could do. [That was] the biggest play of the game there at the end," Tannehill said after the game, according the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley. "This is a huge win for us... We kind of righted the ship."

Miami's defense was able to force four Dalton turnovers, including a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Brent Grimes that pushed the Dolphins' initial lead to 14 points. The unit gave up plenty of yards to the high-powered Cincinnati offense, but overcame the exhaustion caused by a sizable time-of-possession difference to make key plays to lead the team to victory.

Offensively, the Dolphins' re-dedication to running the ball continued as tailback Lamar Miller set a career high in rushing yards for the second consecutive week with 105. Tannehill completed 20-of-28 passes for 208 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.

The dramatic win brings Miami back to the .500 mark at 4-4 and breathes a measure of life into its postseason hopes.

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