By Abraham Gutierrez
Led by running back Jay Ajayi—who had a career day—the Miami Dolphins stopped a two-game skid, upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers to the tune of 30-15 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The win improved Adam Gase’s record to 2-4 as the Fins head coach, while Mike Tomlin & Co. dropped to 4-2 on the year, thus ending their two-game win streak.
“No need to sugarcoat that, we got beat soundly today,” said Tomlin in his post-game press conference. “We didn’t take care of the football, we didn’t stop the run, and stopping the run is an emphatic point. 200 yards back it’s not good. We’ll absorb it and assess it like we always do. Disappointed in our performance today.”
Offensively, the Dolphins were unstoppable on their home turf, racking up a total of 474 yards against one of the best defenses in football. The Fins attack was spearheaded by Ajayi’s 204 rushing yards on 25 carries (2 TDs), and quarterback Ryan Tannehill eliminated costly mistakes, connecting on 24-of-32 pass attempts for 252 passing yards.
One of the key ingredients to Miami’s victory was its ability to keep the sticks moving. The Dolphins finished the game with 24 first downs and went 7-for-14 on the always-crucial third down situations. Through the air, Miami also got some key contributions from a pair of wide receivers. Jarvis Landry and MarQueis Gray made their presence felt, tallying 91 yards on 7 catches and 81 yards on three receptions, respectively.
On the defensive side of the football, it was the tale of two halves. Nevertheless, this team should be commended for putting on a gutsy performance, particularly going up against one of the premier quarterback-receiver duos in the National Football League in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Slowed by a knee injury suffered in the second quarter, “Big Ben” never looked like himself going forward.
The two-time Super Bowl champion closed out the afternoon with 189 yards on 19-for-34 passing, one touchdown and two interceptions, while Brown was a non-factor (4 receptions for 39 yards). Free safety Reshad Jones and strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus took turns picking off Big Ben, while Miami’s sack total belonged to defensive end Andre Branch (1.5 sacks) and Cameron Wake also joined the festivities with a half-sack.
By the time the clock hit triple-zeros, Miami’s defense allowed just 297 total yards (169 passing, 128 rushing yards), a stingy 11 first downs, and more importantly, dominated Pittsburgh on third-downs, shutting the visitors down to the tune of 3-for-11 in those crucial situations.
Special Teams: B-
Dolphins punter Matt Darr is quickly becoming one of the premier players at his position, particularly when it comes to placing the ball inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. With Miami’s offense rolling, the second-year man out of Tennessee finished the day with only two punts, averaging 38.5 yards per boot, with yet another kick carefully-placed inside the 20 and a long of 43 yards.
In contrast, Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks had a day to forget, and is in fact, fortunate that his team was able to find the end zone and not rely on his abilities to split the sticks. The sophomore finished the game 3-for-5 on field goal tries with a miss and a blocked attempt, while connecting on 3-for-3 extra point opportunities.
While the final score doesn’t tell the entire story, this game didn’t exactly get off to a positive start for the home team. In fact, there were instances in the first and second quarter where Miami seemed to shoot itself in the foot with silly penalties and unforced errors. However, Gase has to be commended for his ability to get his team back on track, get them to play as a cohesive unit and ultimately come away with a crucial 15-point win.
“That was good team football right there and that’s what we’re looking to do,” said the Dolphins’ first-year coach during his presser. “I’m sure there’s going to be some things we want to clean up, but that’s what we need to be more consistently.”
The (2-4) Miami Dolphins will try and string together the first win streak of the season next week against the (4-2) Buffalo Bills. This NFL Week 7 showdown is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET from Hard Rock Stadium and it will be broadcast live on CBS Sports. Opening lines have the Fins listed as three-point underdogs against Rex Ryan’s Bills and the OVER/UNDER tallies 46 points.