Koa Misi thought it was good. So did many of the 68,342 souls who packed Miami’s home stadium Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins’ public-address crew was so sure Caleb Sturgis had sent the game into overtime that it played, however briefly, the team fight song to celebrate.
But Sturgis knew the painful truth as soon as his foot connected on the 57-yard, game-salvaging field-goal attempt:
“I mis-hit it,” the rookie kicker said.
The rare error pushed the kick left – resulting in the first miss of his young NFL career – and allowed the Ravens to escape Sun Life Stadium with a 26-23 victory.
Make no mistake, however. The Dolphins enter their bye on a two-game skid not because of how they executed that final play, but how they performed in the game’s previous 29 minutes.
Despite leading the defending Super Bowl champs by a touchdown at intermission, the Dolphins (3-2) in the second half managed just three offensive points and allowed Baltimore (3-2) to score on four of six possessions.
The defense, playing without pass-rusher Cam Wake (knee), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe – who sustained a shoulder injury during the game – couldn’t make a stop.
The team’s rickety offensive line allowed six more sacks Sunday, the last of which to Elvis Dumervil made Sturgis’ last-ditch attempt longer than it should have been.
Assuming he survives the year, Ryan Tannehill is on pace to get sacked an incredible 77 times this season, which would be the most abuse an NFL quarterback has ever taken. The record for sacks taken is 76, held by David Carr.
“The starting point in the passing game is protection,” said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who has said that a lot lately. “It’s hard to function when you’re going backwards.”
Added tackle Jonathan Martin, who surrendered two of Terrell Suggs’ three sacks: “We just have to play better. ... It’s a concerning trend so far and something that we need to get corrected now.”
Even still – despite surrendering 238 second-half yards, managing 10 total first downs and converting on only 3 of 16 third downs – the Dolphins still had the ball late with a chance to win.
• Mike Wallace had a bounce-back game, catching 7 balls for a team-high 105 yards. The Ravens, however, neutralized the speedy wideout in the second half by playing a soft Cover-2.
• The Dolphins were plus-2 in the turnover battle (teams win 80 percent of the time with such a margin), which they converted into 10 points.
• And Sturgis was perfect before his miss, connecting from 37, 25 and 48 yards.
Plus, Tannehill and Reshad Jones made incredible individual plays.
Jones picked off Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, whose arm was hit on the throw by Dion Jordan, and returned the interception 25 yards for a touchdown, tying the score with 8:03 remaining.
And with the Dolphins down to their last chance, Tannehill rolled out and connected with Brandon Gibson for 46 yards on fourth-and-10, extending his team’s final drive. But even then, the protection wasn’t right.
“That was a pocket pass and I escaped,” admitted Tannehill, who went 21 of 40 for 307 yards with a touchdown (9 yards to Charles Clay) and didn’t turn the ball over for the first time this year.
Added Gibson, who went deep when the play broke down: “I made sure I was where I needed to be.”
Philbin wanted his team to get to Baltimore’s 40 to give Sturgis any type of shot of sending the game to overtime. The completion to Gibson put Miami at the 34 with a minute remaining.
But two incompletions and Dumervil’s sack turned a difficult kick into a near-impossible one.
That was something Sturgis knew – even if Misi and much of the stadium did not.