By Abraham Gutierrez 

With high expectations, the Miami Dolphins opened the 2015 NFL season with a 17-10 win over the Washington Redskins that’s unfairly generating lots of criticism. One of the qualities that separate the contenders from the pretenders is the fact that the former always seems to find a way to beat the teams it’s supposed to beat.

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That’s exactly what Miami did in the opener, as this team not only refused to quit when things weren’t going so well, but also, they made the plays when it mattered most. Did Miami solidify itself as a Super Bowl contender with this win? Of course not, and it’s clear that Joe Philbin and his staff have a ways to go before that conversation even takes place.

Luckily, there are 15 games remaining in the regular season, and thanks to a favorable schedule, the Fins should be able to go back to the drawing board and learn from their Week 1 mistakes. With that said, it’s time to issue the NFL Week 1 Team Grades for the Miami Dolphins’ performance versus the Washington Redskins.

Offense: C

It was a nightmarish start for Bill Lazor’s unit, as the Fins couldn’t get anything going against the Redskins “D” until the 27-second mark just before the half. Washington scored 10 unanswered points until Ryan Tannehill finally connected on a three-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews to make it 10-7. And while Miami would go on to play a much more efficiently after the break, statistically, things just weren’t pretty.

The Dolphins finished with 256 yards of offense compared to the Redskins’ total of 349, were killed in the time of possession battle, 22:06 to 37:54, and ran just 55 plays to their opponents’ 69. One of the lone areas where Miami outplayed Washington was at the quarterback position, where Tannehill’s never-say-die attitude prevailed.

Quarterback: B-

It was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for the fourth-year man out of Texas A&M in the opener. Nevertheless, Tannehill stuck with it, despite missing his mark more times than not on obvious passing situations. In the end, the Lubbock, Texas, native completed 65 percent of his passes and finished with a quarterback rating of 93.5, even though the O-line struggled against the Skins’ resistance.

Officially, Tannehill went 22-for-34 for 226 yards (6.6 avg.) and a score, but was sacked three times for a loss of 44 yards. During a crucial part of the game, Fins fans got a glimpse of how great the chemistry between Tannehill and Jordan Cameron could be going forward, as the 2013 Pro Bowler finished with a team-high 73 yards on 4 receptions, including a crucial 27-yard diving grab.

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Defense: C+

Even though it was a forgettable showing for Kevin Coyle’s defense, their bend-but-don’t-break approach kept Miami afloat in this game. It was a typical Week 1 sighting in the early going, as Ndamukong Suh and others were seen sucking air on the sidelines through the first two quarters, as they simply had no answer for the Skins rushing attack.

Nevertheless, they deserve credit for sticking with it, giving up field goals rather than touchdowns when Washington kept marching down the field unscathed. One of the bright spots of this unit’s effort was the fact that Miami won the always-crucial turnover battle, 2-1. Three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes got on the board early by picking off Kirk Cousins, while seventh-year corner out of Utah, Brice McCain, also got into the festivities with a scintillating interception.

Special Teams A+

As rare as it is, special teams was the deciding factor in Miami’s ugly win over Washington in Week 1. As a matter of fact, the gameball goes to kick returner, Jarvis Landry, who had a whale of a game and an all-around performance. Aside from his offensive contributions as a wide out (8 receptions, 53 yards), the sophomore out of LSU provided the go-ahead score, breaking a 69-yard punt return to the house in the final stanza. 

Coaching C+

Certainly, Joe Philbin also deserves some credit for the Dolphins not quitting when things weren’t going their way. It’s clear that the outcome was anything but ideal, as Miami was clearly playing an inferior team. Nevertheless, Philbin was his usual self, patient and composed, and trusted his players would make the right plays when the opportunities presented themselves. Taking momentum into the locker room was a huge part of this win, as Miami was able to clean things up and played much better football in the second half.  

“I think the big thing was that drive before the first half,” Philbin said. “We really hadn’t done anything on offense in the first 27 or 28 minutes of the first half. I thought he really had good composure and made some throws on that two-minute drive.”

Up next for the (1-0) Miami Dolphins is a trip up north, as they travel to EverBank Field to battle their intrastate rivals, (0-1) Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2. The Jags are coming off a Week 1 loss at the hands of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, 20-9. 

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Abe Gutierrez’s passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers) and CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com. and other online publications.