IN MY OPINION

Greg Cote: Miami Dolphins rise from the dead with win

 

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

This prime-time game that hauled the Dolphins chaotically to midseason Thursday night felt bigger than its immediate impact. It felt bigger than just finding a tourniquet for a four-game losing streak and reclaiming the idea that this is (should be/could be) an NFL playoff team.

It felt like desperation — every bit of that. Like everything was fragile. Or simmering and ready to boil.

It felt like Dolphins stadium might erupt into pent-up, we’re-sick-of-it booing if this game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals went wrong.

It felt like the hot seat would find coach Joe Philbin fast if the playoff chance kept receding, and that the dormant animus toward general manager Jeff Ireland was ready to rise up and bite.

Most ominously, it felt like fundamental, growing doubts about slumping young quarterback Ryan Tannehill could begin to take root if his turnovers (14 in the first seven games; nine interceptions and five lost fumbles) continued at close to a crisis level.

We were about to find out what desperation meant — and see about this team’s heart and spine — because this felt like a game Miami had damn well better win.

So it was that this dramatic 22-20 Dolphins’ Halloween night victory — in overtime, on a safety, no less — didn’t deliver any emotion more than, simply, relief.

It was only the third time in league history a safety ended a game in OT, and this one produced a collective exhale, like when you barely dodge something really bad.

A respite.

That feeling swept all over the stadium around midnight as Cameron Wake sacked Andy Dalton in the end zone, the play withstood an officials’ review, and Miami finally won again.

“This was a very big win,” the buttoned-down Philbin had to admit.

Holiday-festive fans showed up dressed as zombies, animals, superheroes and pirates. The cheerleaders were outfitted as skeletons. Hulk Hogan was here as well, as Hulk Hogan.

The zombie motif was almost too real. A Miami loss would have given this team and season the pall of the walking dead.

Instead, all that mattered was that nobody left the stadium dressed as a sad Dolfan.

Man, did this franchise need this win!

It didn’t make everything right, no.

But it made everything seem more manageable, less out of control.

It ended that four-game skid and leveled the record at 4-4 halfway through. With the schedule softening a bit now — winless Tampa Bay is next, then a pair of home games — it rekindled the playoff hopes that were so buoyant (remember?) after that 3-0 start.

This team didn’t just need this night, this performance — it needed it now.

This national-stage game on the NFL Network followed the most chaotic, stressful Dolphins week in memory, a week that left you wondering what else could possibly go wrong. (And knowing a loss Thursday would have been the answer to that.)

It wasn’t just the four-game skid.

It was blowing a late lead at home to division rival Buffalo.

It was being embarrassed by 24 unanswered second-half points in a loss at New England.

It was the apparent regression of Tannehill.

And it was the double-controversy rocking an already shaky offensive line and visiting the infamous “off-field distraction” to a team already reeling.

First, center Mike Pouncey got subpoenaed in the murder case involving former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, with the club’s reticence to comment only magnifying the issue.

Then embattled tackle Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team under emotional duress after ribbing by teammates was taken wrong.

There were ensuing reports of growing dissension in the locker room and even among the coaching staff as the off-field turmoil piled onto the losses.

This was the burden the Dolphins carried into Thursday night in the incongruous context of fans dressed for a holiday party.

It is hard to say Miami did not deserve the victory. Tannehill played turnover-free. Lamar Miller topped 100 yards rushing. And the Wake-led defense rose when absolutely needed.

Victory.

Relief.

A Halloween to remember for a team that so desperately needed to hear cheering again.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
The Heat's LeBron James is fouled by the Bobcats’ Gerald Henderson in the first quarter. The Miami Heat host the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 2 at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

    In my opinion

    Greg Cote: It doesn’t bode well when the King is angry

    Charlotte likes to call itself the Queen City. So let’s keep this simple:

  •  
Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade signals a big three pointer in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the Miami Heat's NBA Playoff matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on April 20, 2014.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Miami Heat needs Dwyane Wade of Game 1 to three-peat

    The Heat this season put together videos featuring every player that are shown on the home arena’s giant scoreboard screen during games. The one on Dwyane Wade happened to air Sunday during a timeout in the second half of the playoff victory over Charlotte that opened Miami’s postseason bid for a third consecutive NBA championship.

  •  
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Miami. The 76ers defeated the Heat 100-87.

    IN MY OPINION

    Greg Cote: Dynasty or dismantling for the Miami Heat?

    A Heat playoff run is the annual gift we slowly unwrap together, our two-month emotional thrill ride ever since LeBron James grandly announced he was “taking my talents to South Beach” that summer night in 2010. Well, buckle up again, South Florida. Prepare for exhilarating highs and work-productivity lows. Prepare for late nights walking drained from the downtown bayside arena. Prepare for hearts to soar or plunge on whether a basketball swishes through a nylon net or bonks off a painted rim.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category