The Miami Dolphins chose the perfect time to record their first road victory of the 2016 NFL season as their 31-24 win over the San Diego Chargers extended their ongoing winning streak to a season-high four games. The victory improves the Fins to 5-4 and they now sit alone in second place in the AFC East, but have a long way to go before catching the division-leading (7-1) New England Patriots.
It’s hard to believe that, offensively, Miami was severely outplayed by the Chargers, yet still found a way to win the ballgame. As a unit, the Fins’ offense tallied 17 first downs (11 on passes, 5 on rushes and 1 on penalty), 337 yards of total offense (231 passing, 106 rushing) and went 4-for-9 on third downs.
With running back Jay Ajayi (19 carries, 79 yards) struggling to get going, quarterback Ryan Tannehill seized the moment and had one of the best games of his professional career. Earning a cool QBR of 130.6, the former Texas A&M standout connected on 17-of-25 pass attempts (71 percent) for 240 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Other offensive standouts include wide receivers DeVante Parker (five catches, 103 yards), Jarvis Landry (six catches, 53 yards), Kenny Stills (two catches, 47 yards, TD) and running back Damien Williams also got in on the action with a receiving touchdown on his lone 18-yard grab to go with his 2-yard rushing score.
Last, but certainly not least, it’s also worth noting the play of Miami’s ever-improving offensive line. Miami’s wall not only bought Tannehill time to survey the field, but also surrendered a single sack all afternoon long.
Miami’s bend-but-don’t-break defense made plays when it mattered most, highlighted by middle linebacker Kiko Alonso’s 60-yard pick-six, which ended up being the go-ahead score. Knotted up at 24-24 with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Philip Rivers and the Chargers were marching down the field and seemed poised to put themselves in a position to win the game with a late score.
However, the fourth-year man out of Oregon had other ideas, as Alonso picked off Rivers and took it to the house to put Miami in front, 31-24 with 1:01 left on the game clock.
With Xavien Howard out, Tony Lippett made the most of the opportunity as he came away with a pair of interceptions to put an end to crucial Chargers drives, as well as Byron Maxwell (INT), who continues to improve week in and week out.
As a unit, Miami’s defense yielded 27 first downs (19 on passes, 3 on runs and 5 on penalties), 379 total yards (309 passing, 70 rushing), and allowed the Bolts to convert on 7-of-12 third-down opportunities. Nevertheless, they won the turnover battle 4-1 and sacked Rivers three times for a total loss of 17 yards. Defensive end, Cameron Wake led the way with 2 sacks, while defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Andre Branch contributed with a half-sack each.
Special Teams: B
After winning the game last week on a kick return, the Fins’ special teams unit almost cost Miami the game. With the Dolphins holding on to a four-point lead, punt returner Jakeem Grant (2 kick returns for 54 yards, 3 punt returns for 3 yards) fumbled the football inside the Fins’ five yard line and the Chargers recovered.
Aside from that hiccup, Miami’s special teams were pretty solid throughout the afternoon. Punter Matt Darr was instrumental in the field-position battle, as he finished with five punts for an average of 51.6 yards per boot, including one placed inside the Bolts’ 20-yard line. Kicker Andrew Franks was also perfect, converting on his lone (27-yard) field goal opportunity and went 4-for-4 in extra point attempts.
With the first half of the season in the rear-view mirror, everyone in South Florida is starting to believe that head coach Adam Gase might be exactly what this franchise has been looking for. The former Bears offensive coordinator has this team playing some of the best football Miami fans have seen in years, and the team’s 1-4 start now seems like a distant memory.
Leading up to this week’s game against the Chargers, Gase and his staff prepared this team properly and put them in a position to succeed on game day. This was a back-and-fourth clash between two teams that refused to lose. In the end, the Dolphins imposed their will and showcased some great play-calling to record the team’s first road win of the 2016 NFL campaign.
Up Next: Los Angeles Rams (Week 11) at Coliseum
Next up, the (5-4) Miami Dolphins continue their California swing by taking on the (4-5) Los Angeles Rams in Week 11. According to NFL oddsmakers, the Fins will have to defy the odds in order to extend their win streak to five games. Opening point spreads have the Dolphins (+1) listed as one-point underdogs against a Rams (-1) team that will have the smallest of margins in their favor.
Opening kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Post Author: Abraham Gutierrez.