Sit quietly Sunday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. and you could hear half of South Florida grumbling a version of “Yeah, more of the same from Ryan Tannehill-to-Mike Wallace.”
Two chances for long touchdown throws produced only an interception. Wallace fumbled his second reception. Another potential touchdown got knocked up in the air, and Wallace appeared to spend a breath too long reacting in frustration before he realized a wild catch could still be made. Too late — incomplete.
The Dolphins quarterback and his main deep threat never did connect on the kind of sexy bombs observers waited all last season to see consistently. But they did get together on two plays that showed the want-to and physicality that encapsulated the Dolphins’ dominant second half of a 33-20 win.
Wallace ended with seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown despite tweaking his hamstring in the second half.
Had the Dolphins lost, more of the postgame conversation would have been about the 37-yard play-action pass that Ryan Tannehill underthrew into an interception by a badly beaten Alfonzo Dennard. Or about the out-and-up from the Patriots’ 33 on which Wallace left Darrelle Revis an exit behind and caught Tannehill’s pass but failed to keep his second foot inbounds.
Wallace admitted the Dolphins left points on the field and blamed ball-security errors for his fumble.
But in a Dolphins win, the defining Wallace moments are that 14-yard touchdown that tied the score at 20-20; and the finish to a 17-yard catch on third-and-4 that set up the Dolphins other second-half touchdown.
Wallace’s touchdown came on second-and-3. Last season, at times, Wallace got accused of failing to compete hard enough for passes that arrived with he and a defensive back in position to come away with the ball. This time, he definitely outmaneuvered Revis for the ball.
“I had a post, but Revis played it well,” Wallace said. “I tried to go out and come back in.
“But he’s a smart player. He sat on it. I saw Ryan threw the ball up. I just had to make a play on it. I picked the ball off and came down with it.”
Revis said, “Yeah I actually knocked the pass down and thought it popped up like the post he ran earlier in the first half — I don’t know, I have to see the film. My teammates were telling me it hit his knee and popped back into his hands. You don’t want those happen — sometimes they happen — but the only thing you can do is, I don’t know. Sometimes the plays happen and you have to tip your hat off to Mike for keeping focus and coming up with it some weird way.”
The later play came on third-and-4 from the 21 with the Dolphins up 23-20. A field goal would still leave New England a touchdown away from taking the lead. Wallace caught the pass crossing right to left. He eschewed the sideline option and dipped his shoulder. Getting run over by Wallace got Dennard credit for the tackle.
“I told you last week I gained a couple of pounds and it would pay off,” Wallace said.
“I tweaked my hamstring early in the game, so I was kind of on half a leg. So it was hard to build up the power that I wanted to, but it was good enough.”
And it was definitely intentional contact.
“My guys needed that,” Wallace said. “I knew I had the first down. Going out of bounds would’ve been too easy. I had to set the tone for the team and let them know this is how it’s going to be all year.”