First Frank Gore rewrote the record books.
Then he did something even better: He won a rivalry game for his hometown team.
So yeah, Year 14 has started out pretty darn nicely for the star from Coral Gables, thank you very much.
On the afternoon Gore passed Curtis Martin and moved into fourth place on the all-time rushing list, he converted a third-and-19 with a catch and run to help the Dolphins run out the clock and escape MetLife Stadium with a 20-12 victory.
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Gore needed 15 yards to eclipse Martin. He finished with 25 on nine carries Sunday — in the building Martin’s Jets call home.
“It means a lot,” Gore said. “I’ve been doubted my whole life, especially coming out of college with the injuries I had. People said I would be in the league for two or three years and then I would be done. I’ve been blessed to keep going and also have success.”
Added Gore, who now has 14,112 rushing yards on 3,244 carries: “To be able to mentioned with the guys like Emmitt [Smith], Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin and my man LaDainian Tomlinson — that’s a guy I looked up to once I got in the league, I loved LaDainian Tomlinson’s style — it’s a blessing.”
The world probably heard the first draft of Gore’s Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday. He’s a shoe-in to get in, perhaps in his first year of eligibility. And Gore’s story of triumph over adversity is the stuff of storybooks.
He was a homegrown star who decided to attend the University of Miami, in part to be close to his then-ailing (and now-late) mother Liz — whose picture was on a pendant hanging from a chain around his neck in his post-game news conference Sunday.
His career nearly ended before it started. Gore suffered not one, but two major knee injuries in college, and many thought, as he reminded us Sunday, he would not have much of a pro career.
They were so very wrong.
All of these years later, Gore is not just still playing, but making game-winning plays.
He did it again Sunday.
The Dolphins’ offense sputtered the entire second half, and looked destined to give Jets quarterback Sam Darnold one last chance to tie the game.
The Dolphins faced third-and-19 with 3:36 left. A Dolphins punt didn’t seem likely, but inevitable.
Gore was supposed to stay in and block, but his man never came on a blitz, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Gore slipped out of the backfield, took a dump-off pass from Tannehill and raced to the sticks. And to hear Tannehill tell it, he improvised on the fly.
“If he goes out free, then he’s supposed to be on the other side,” said Tannehill, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. “But he went across.”
Kenny Stills was the primary receiver on that play.
But Tannehill said he “didn’t feel like he was getting open due to the contact near the line of scrimmage. [I] had a decent pocket there and was able to move around there a little bit. Frank made one heck of a catch there down low. I was off-balance and the ball really just went down on me. Frank did an amazing job of scooping that thing.”
Because he did, the Dolphins were able to kneel out the clock and improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2013.
They did so despite getting outgained by roughly 100 yards. Despite having just 47 yards of second-half offense before that final clock-killing drive.
But also they won the game’s most important stat: the turnover battle.
The Dolphins picked Darnold twice and recovered a fumble.
That wasn’t the only help they got.
The Jets, in typical Jets fashion, both missed an extra point and somehow managed not to score late in the first half despite having the ball inside the Dolphins’ 15. Darnold overthrew a wide open Quincy Enunwa in the end zone, and then connected with Chris Herndon across the middle. But the Dolphins Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain combined to tackle Herndon short of the end zone, and time expired.
Those eight points were the difference in the game — a game Gore will remember forever. He was awarded the game ball — both for his place in history, and his role in Miami’s big win.
“It’s an honor to be on the field with him,” said Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson. “He’s a great guy. He belongs and deserves everything that’s coming to him.”