The Dolphins won a football game on Sunday without three-fifths of their starting offensive line.
That is probably not sustainable.
In fact, Sunday’s 31-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers may have had as much to do with their 1-10 opponent as it did with how well the line blocked, especially in the run game.
And while that may be true, just don’t look for apologies from the 300-pound men in the trenches who push, shove and otherwise move similarly huge and powerful human beings for a living.
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“We got the job done,” said Sam Young, who filled in for the Dolphins at left tackle. “We will check out the nuances [on video] over the next couple of days.”
The Dolphins sorely missed their three starting linemen: left tackle Branden Albert (wrist injury), left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) and center Mike Pouncey (hip).
Tunsil is expected to return next Sunday when the Dolphins play at the Baltimore Ravens. Albert could also return, but Pouncey seems like the longshot of the three.
In the meantime, the substitutes — Young, left guard Kraig Urbik and center Anthony Steen — stepped in and did a respectable job, jelling with right guard Jermon Bushrod and right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked twice but was comfortable enough in the pocket to complete 20 of 30 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. He was not intercepted, and at least some of his success can be attributed to the time the offensive line gave him to step up in the pocket and throw.
“I’m really proud of all five of those guys, the way they battled up front,” Tannehill said. “They did a great job of giving me time and running lanes.
“When there was someone near the edge, they covered up enough where I could move around and get outside the pocket.”
Miami’s running game, however, was not nearly as successful, and perhaps that is where the substitutes showed their deficiencies.
Jay Ajayi, who has had a breakout season with two games over 200 yards, was held to 45 yards on 18 carries. It was his lowest rushing total since the fifth game of the season.
“We knew it was going to be tough in the run game,” Tannehill said. “But they [the offensive line] battled.”
Bushrod said that —overall — it was a winning effort.
“I feel good about it,” he said. “I know the work we’ve put in. … Steen knows what it takes, and the same goes for Young and Urbik.”
Young said he saw some good things out of the run game, including an 18-yard gain by Ajayi, adding that there are normal “ebbs and flows” within a game.
But, he said, he was pleased with how the backups stepped up and that it was enough to build on going forward.
“There is a mentality on our team and specifically on the offensive line, and that is ‘next man up.’ We have a job to do, and we are trying to keep it rolling [with a six-game win streak].”