Give the Dolphins this: They are resilient.
This season, hanging by a string on multiple occasions Sunday, still offers intrigue today because these guys have a short memory and don’t really give up regardless of what the score or the standings say.
Yes, the Dolphins are flawed and still not quite ready for any appreciable postseason push. But they are not going away. They have refused to do that after a winless preseason and a three-game losing skid. They refuse to quit when kickoff returns threaten to dash momentum and when interceptions seemingly end rallies.
Losses might mount but the Dolphins follow those with some improbable wins against teams with legitimate playoff hopes — like Cincinnati and, on Sunday, against Seattle.
The Dolphins are like a zombie in some respects.
They’re ugly. They’re not always perfectly synched. But they simply do not die.
Dolphins 24, Seattle 21 is proof of that.
“I told the guys they never buckled,” Joe Philbin said. “They never buckled. It could have been easy to say, ‘Woe is me.’ … But the guys believed in one another. They just kept playing.”
The Dolphins won Sunday because quarterback Ryan Tannehill followed the same narrative that his entire season has authored through three quarters. He was sometimes good, sometime bad. But in the fourth quarter, when no one was really expecting it because it hadn’t happened all year, Tannehill came up with heroics.
The same rookie that last game out against Buffalo failed to move the team on two late fourth-quarter drives that might have won the game, pulled off the feat not once but three times.
With Miami twice trailing by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Tannehill led touchdown drives of 82 and 80 yards.
And when the game was tied with 92 seconds to play, Tannehill led the winning field-goal drive. He completed 7 of 8 passes in the fourth quarter. He threw a touchdown. And he did this while forgetting a first-quarter interception that didn’t lead to any points and a fourth-quarter pick that was nullified by a penalty.
“He grew up in front of our eyes,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said.
That wasn’t how it started, because Tannehill had that early interception. But because the defense didn’t give up any points off the turnover, receiver Brian Hartline delivered a message to his quarterback.
“It didn’t happen,” Hartline said. “Let it go. Keep playing.”
That’s what the Dolphins have done this year and certainly did Sunday.
They overcame a 14-7 lead to tie it midway through the fourth quarter. Then Seattle return man Leon Washington remembered his New York Jets days and returned a kickoff 98 yards for a go-ahead score.
“To let a drive or a play deter us is probably not going to happen,” Hartline said. “Losing football games when we want to win football games is a bigger downer. If we can survive that like we have, we can survive a single play.”
The Dolphins defense has been barely surviving in recent weeks. The Bills (120 rushing yards) and Titans (177 rushing yards) each made Miami’s run defense look like it was collapsing. The Seahawks, with Marshawn Lynch averaging 100 yards per game, seemed like a bad day waiting to happen.
But Lynch gained only 46 yards on 19 carries. His 2.4-yard-per-carry average was his worst this season.
“We overcome adversity,” is how Randy Starks describes it. “Today, everybody made plays.”
Charles Clay, silent most of the season, caught six passes to nearly double his season output.
Davone Bess had his most productive day as a professional with 129 receiving yards.
The rushing attack — looking for a 100-yard day since September — got 189 yards for the second-best production of the season.
And the kicker who missed a couple of game winners earlier this season, connected on the 43-yard game winner as time expired.
“It was a great confidence builder today,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “Great for the offense and the defense. No game is going to be perfect. Everyone’s going to mess up. But it’s how you respond when things go bad.
“I think we did a great job of keeping each other’s spirits up and telling each other: ‘We’re alright. Calm down. Just relax and make the next play.’”
The Dolphins have done that often this season.
Give them that.