A healthy Charles Clay could finally mean a fully functional Dolphins offense.
That appeared to be the case Sunday, when Clay had by far his best game of the season.
Clay showed no effects of a knee injury that appeared to limit his ability to get downfield, catching four passes for a team-high 58 yards.
And most importantly, he got back in the end zone, shedding a defender and getting wide open for a 13-yard hookup with Ryan Tannehill.
“It was gratifying for the simple fact that we scored,” Clay said. “It wasn’t because I scored or anything like that. But to go down on that drive like we did, move the ball like we did, and get the score, that was the most gratifying thing.”
For the first time this season, Clay resembled the player that caught a team-high six touchdown passes a year ago. He entered the game averaging 8.6 yards per reception. Sunday, he averaged 14.5.
About the only Dolphin to struggle Sunday was kicker Caleb Sturgis.
He missed half of his field goal attempts — pushing a 50-yarder right late in the first half and having a 37-yarder blocked in the second.
Although he’s performed better overall than his up-and-down rookie year, Sturgis has connected on just three of five attempts from at least 40 yards this season.
“You never want to miss field goals or have them blocked,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We’ll look at the tape, got to practice it more. I think there was certainly opportunities to score in the game, for sure.”
Playing it safe
With Jimmy Wilson sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Dolphins went with three safeties instead of three corners in their nickel formation.
Michael Thomas got the start over Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, and finished with a tackle. He was part of a secondary that limited Chicago to just 172 passing yards and 4.6 yards per attempt.
“We wanted to have different combinations based on what the down-and-distances were and situation, so we used a couple of different guys,” Philbin said.
“We had Jamar outside and Cortland [Finnegan] inside. We did some mixing and matching there.”
Philbin broke tradition Sunday: he elected to receive the opening kick instead of deferring.
Although the Dolphins went three-and-out on their first possession, they scored a touchdown on their second, and led for the rest of the game.
“We deferred the last couple and quite frankly, I think we had given up a touchdown on the first possession" against Green Bay, Philbin said. “We looked at the tape, we felt like we had an opportunity to get off to a fast start on offense against this football team. Plus part of it was just mindset, we wanted to get the ball and get going.”
This and that
▪ Full list of Dolphins inactives: Wilson; wide receiver Brandon Gibson; guard Shelley Smith; offensive tackle Jason Fox; defensive tackle Anthony Johnson; offensive guard Billy Turner; tight end Harold Hoskins.
▪ The win was the Dolphins' 102nd inter-conference victory since the 1970 merger. Miami has won 62.6 percent of their inter-conference games, which is the best in the NFL.
▪ Derrick Shelby, back after a one-game suspension, had one of the team's three sacks Sunday. Shelby now has three sacks on the season, a career high.
▪ The Dolphins now have scored on the opening possession of the second half five times in six games this season.