This Halloween edition of Thursday Night Football featured the two teams going in opposite directions; the losers of four straight, the Miami Dolphins, and the 6-2 Cincinnati Bengals. Dolphins fans feel as though they may have been tricked into thinking their team could make the playoffs, but they reached into their pillowcases this evening and pulled out a treat: a .500 record and a victory over the Bengals.
There were two very important factors for the Dolphins to not only keep their playoff hopes alive, but also prevent themselves from losing five straight games.
The first thing that Miami had to do was find a way to give Ryan Tannehill some time to make plays. Primarily, they needed to establish some kind of running game in an effort to keep the Bengals’ defense honest. If the Dolphins kept the ball out of Tannehill’s hands, then in theory the defense won’t be able to sack him.
To take that a step further, the Dolphins had to figure out how to make a line work that didn’t in the first six of seven games out of the year — a line with Tyson Clabo in at right tackle.
Jonathan Martin had reportedly gone AWOL earlier in the week after a prank at the Dolphins’ facility. The offensive line had already given up the most sacks in the league prior to adding Bryant McKinnie at the left side and now without Martin, the Dolphins have no choice but to reinsert Clabo into the lineup.
The result early led to some sacks, and things have grown more concerning after left guard Richie Incognito picked up a neck injury. Somehow, the Dolphins managed to run the ball both right at the Bengals and to the outside. Both Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas played well and were a big part of the reason why the Bengals weren’t given many opportunities to get to Tannehill.
The second part is that the Dolphins’ defense had to prevent A.J. Green and Marvin Jones from picking up big chunks of yards. Not only that, but it the Dolphins’ defense needed to force turnovers in a effort to give Miami as short of a field as possible to help out the offense that seems to stall out especially late in games.
Of the four turnovers the Dolphins forced, none was more spectacular than Brent Grimes’s 92-yard touchdown just past the midway point of the third quarter. And of course, though it wasn’t a turnover, Cameron Wake‘s sack for a walk-off safety in overtime was the play of the game as it gave Miami the win.
Moving forward for Miami, if the defense can turn their forced turnovers into points like the Grimes interception for a touchdown, they will help take the pressure off of the offense. Without the defensive touchdown, the Dolphins don’t even take the game to overtime and no one gets to witness Wake’s walk-off safety — only the third time in the history of the NFL a game in overtime has ended such a way. What a treat.