On the first Sunday of the season, the Dolphins seemed far from Super.
But they were a touchdown better than the Redskins. And that was good enough — at least for the only guy whose opinion matters.
In the moments after the Dolphins’ ugly 17-10 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday in Week 1 of a consequential season for Miami’s football franchise, the guy paying the bills was unapologetically giddy.
“I’m happy with a win,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in the locker room. “It’s great. Any win, you don’t say happy or unhappy. You’re happy. You just take it. A road game. ... I think they got together and played a hell of a second half.”
So no, there was no hand-wringing about how poorly Miami looked during much of Sunday’s season opener.
No discussion about how:
▪ Washington outgained Miami by nearly 100 yards.
▪ The Dolphins controlled the ball for just 22 minutes, 6 seconds.
▪ The new run defense looked an awful lot like their old run defense (the Redskins had 161 yards on the ground).
▪ Quarterback Ryan Tannehill misfired on two would-be touchdown passes.
▪ And Miami managed just 10 points on three red-zone drives.
That was all rendered moot because:
A. The Redskins are unspeakably bad.
And B. Jarvis Landry is remarkably good.
Landry’s big play
Landry gave the Dolphins their first and only lead of the new season early in the fourth quarter with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown that was easily the play of the afternoon.
The blocking by Zack Bowman and Walt Aikens was so good, Landry only needed to make one move — badly fooling punter Tress Way — the entire way to the end zone.
It was Landry’s only return of any kind of the day. The second-year wideout also led all players with eight catches (for 53 yards) and added one carry for 14 more.
“I think with our team it’s only a matter of time,” Landry said.
Said Ross: “There was a little bit of jubilation, you might say. And relief. It was terrific. He’s really developing. A great ball player. That’s a football player.”
All that was left after Landry’s heroics: For the defense to make the lead hold up.
And the way the Dolphins played on that side of the ball Sunday, it was no sure thing.
This was supposed to be the grand unveiling of Ndamukong Suh in a Dolphins uniform. Instead, it was up to Brice McCain and Terrence Fede to make the game-changing plays.
First McCain: His juggling interception of Kirk Cousins at the Dolphins’ 2-yard line killed off the Redskins’ penultimate opportunity.
Then Fede: His pressure on Cousins on fourth-and-7 from Miami’s 20 on Washington’s final drive forced a game-ending incompletion.
“I thought our guys made enough plays in the second half to win,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
That applies to both the Dolphins’ defense and their quarterback.
Through the first 28 minutes of the game, Tannehill had completed just 5 of 9 passes for 30 yards.
Over the last 32, he was 17 of 25 for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Not surprisingly, his efficiency improved as the pace quickened. He was masterful on a two-minute drive late in the first half, capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews that provided Miami’s first points.
It also cut the Redskins’ lead at halftime to 10-7 and kept the game close enough for Landry to provide the difference.
“We still expect better out of ourselves,” Tannehill said.
Ross surely does, too. But for now, he’ll take it.