Team Grades: Ndamukong Suh Leads Charge As Dolphins Stun Eagles, 20-19
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With their backs against the wall, the (4-5) Miami Dolphins went into Lincoln Financial Field and led by a gutsy defensive effort – and a few lucky breaks – stunned the (4-5) Philadelphia Eagles by the narrowest of margins, 20-19. The victory not only snaps Miami's two-game skid, but it also improves Dan Campbell's record as Fins interim head coach to 3-2 on the year.
"That was a heck of a win, those guys fought all the way to the very end," Coach Campbell said in his post-game press conference's opening remarks. "It wasn't always pretty, but, I'll tell you what, they bounced back. I'm proud of them."
Offensively, this team didn't exactly set the world on fire, as Miami closed the game with only 15 first downs and an anemic 289 yards of total offense – 99 rushing yards and 190 passing yards. They also held on to the ball for 28 minutes and 53 seconds, went 5-for-15 on third down situations, but executed when it mattered most, just enough to hold off the Sam Bradford-less Eagles in the fourth quarter.
Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill played a decent game, connecting on 21-of-36 pass attempts for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns to earn a respectable quarterback rating of 94.3. However, there's much room for improvement, especially by the offensive line, which allowed four sacks, including a first-quarter safety that could have put a damper on things.
The Fins' rushing attack was led by rookie running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 48 yards on six carries, including a breakout run of 24 yards. Meanwhile, first-string halfback Lamar Miller was second on the team with 43 yards on 16 carries, and also pitched in with six receptions for 50 yards and a score.
Defensively, Ndamukong Suh chose a great time to have his best as a member of the Miami Dolphins. The former Detroit Lion has been on a tear as of late, and made his presence felt by tallying eight tackles and, for a second straight week, recorded a sack. Safety Reshad Jones also had another quality game, tallying nine tackles on the afternoon, as well as a timely pick in the end zone that ended Philly's hopes of coming away with points.
More importantly, the Miami defense held serve when it mattered most, picking off Mark Sanchez in the end zone, and limiting a Philly offense that was beginning to show its stride entering play to a mere field goal in the second half. In the end, the Eagles offense managed to muster 29 first downs, 436 yards of total offense (83 rushing yards, 353 passing yards), and converted on 7-for-18 on third downs.
"I just think it shows our grit and grind as a team, and at the end of the day, we just gotta understand we have to continue to fight," Suh said after the game. "There's going to be lots of adversities all throughout the games, in the past and things to come in the future. [We have to be] able to combat those things and have good situational football and execute when we have the opportunities to."
Special Teams: A+
After another slow start – offensively and defensively – early indications were that this could be another forgettable road trip for Miami. However, this team got a much-needed shot in the arm from its special teams unit, as everyone would agree that linebacker Zach Vigil's blocked punt changed the momentum of the ballgame.
"The biggest changer earlier in this game was the blocked punt," Campbell added. "That was a huge play for us and you can feel the momentum swing back in our favor a bit. I think it gave us a little breath of life from the ability to continue to fight."
Trailing the Eagles, 16-6, in the second quarter, the rookie free agent out of Utah State came flying down the middle and stuffed Donnie Jones' attempt and gave Miami great field position. With the ball inside Philly's 20-yard line, Tannehill & Co. capitalized with its first touchdown of the game.
After getting blown out in back-to-back games, Campbell and the Dolphins could have easily opted to pack it up and start thinking about next year's NFL Draft. Instead they chose to go on the road and refused to quit, despite another slow start, and regardless of the fact that they were facing one of the highest scoring teams in the league.
After falling behind 3-16 in the first quarter, the Miami defense stepped up, enabling the Fins to go on a 17-3 run that sealed the victory. After the game, Campbell was asked what was said in the Dolphins locker room prior to kicking off the third quarter of play.
"I told them that 'we have a little taste of what they're doing now. Defensively we know what they're tempo is, we know how they're trying to get to us, we understand what their gameplan is and go stop it,'" he added. "We understood what we needed to do."
What's In Store For Dolphins In Week 11?
Looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the (4-5) Miami Dolphins will return home to welcome a (2-7) Dallas Cowboys team that's lost seven in a row entering play. This NFL Week 11 clash will take place at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday (Nov. 22) at 1 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on FOX.
Be sure to check out our FinsOn4 Live Dolphins Blog where we will be posting season-long coverage, updates, photos, video, commentary and more throughout the entire 2015 season.
Abe Gutierrez's (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) 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), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com and other online publications.
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