Days like Sunday make fans start to believe. Teammates, too.
After a tumultuous training camp, a winless preseason and an opening loss, Sunday came to this team like medicine.
“That feeling in the locker room with the guys celebrating a big win — that’s what you play for,” said Tannehill, smiling.
Sunday came to this franchise like medicine, too.
You saw the erosion of the Dolphins brand in the crowd for this game. In the folks not there. The attendance of 54,245 was the lowest since 1991 and meant almost 20,000 empty seats. For a home opener! There would have been a local-TV blackout if not for an NFL rules change.
You also saw the diminishing of the Dolphins brand in last week’s local TV rating of 13.5 for the game in Houston, by far the lowest of 32 clubs and roughly 30 percent below last season’s average.
Twelve seasons removed from the most recent playoff win will do that to a franchise. So will a 31-41 home record over the past nine seasons. So will years of perceived mismanagement.
The past couple of years the ownership tried to mask all of this disenchantment in bells and whistles, in orange carpets and celebrities on the Jumbotron shouting, “Fins up!” Thankfully the orange carpet and those annoying videos are gone this season.
The Dolphins finally seem to understand that winning and only winning will bring the fans back, and that’s why Sunday was so huge. It was about not only winning big, but encouraging hope of better days ahead.
The rookie Tannehill personifies Miami’s hope for a winning future, but now it seems he has more help than first thought. The results left you thinking Oakland is pretty bad – but also wondering if maybe the Dolphins haven’t been badly underestimated?
It wasn’t just Tannehill continuing to show great promise and Bush looking like an elite back. It was Brian Hartline (nine catches for 111 yards) arguing the notion this team is bereft of receivers. It was the offensive line dominating. It was the run defense all but erasing Oakland’s Darren McFadden. It was the pass defense rallying to make it a rough day for Carson Palmer.
This was an all-round team effort we have rarely seen here in a long time.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby called the Dolphins offense “inspiring” to watch. When was the last time you heard that?
“Fun,” Tannehill called the day. Indeed.
It was a heck of an entrée for Jets Week, next Sunday’s visit by division-rival New York. For good measure, division-topping New England also lost Sunday.
One game is far from an assurance that happy days are here again, but one day like this one allows a fan to dream, to believe a little more.
Those Dolfans chanting “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” as they exited the stadium Sunday — they had earned that feeling.