Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor stopped Mike Wallace as the team was coming out of the tunnel and told him to be ready.
The Dolphins were not only going to actually throw deep, but they would do so on the very first play.
Ryan Tannehill connected with Wallace on a 50-yard bomb to open the game Sunday, showing a renewed dedication to vertical passing. Tannehill, who entered Week 15 with just 35 attempts of 20 or more yards, took seven deep shots in the first half alone Sunday.
The best of the bunch: the 32-yard touchdown pass to Wallace on the first half’s penultimate play.
Wallace cradled the ball with his left hand and appeared to secure it before going out of bounds. The officials saw otherwise and ruled it incomplete, but a video review was conclusive enough to overturn the call.
“We’ve got to stretch the defense out,” said Wallace, who had his first 100-yard receiving game in a calendar year. “[The Patriots are] going to play with a lot of guys in the box, and it will be hard for us to run the football. We have to stretch the defense out. We knew that coming into the game. We tried to do it. We got a couple. Not enough.
“The Patriots are going to play their style. ... They came out and played man-to-man a lot until they went up in the game. And that’s when they went to Cover-2 a lot. For the most part, they played man-to-man in the first half.”
Wallace’s 104 receiving yards on five catches led the team. Jarvis Landry chipped in eight receptions for 99 yards. Ten different Dolphins had a catch Sunday.
But again, the Dolphins missed more chances than they cashed in on while throwing deep. Running back Damien Williams dropped a would-be touchdown. Receiver Brian Hartline lost a perfectly thrown ball in the sun.
And even the game-opening connection could have been better. Tannehill slightly underthrew Wallace, causing him to wait for the ball.
“We probably could have had a touchdown, but it is what it is,” Wallace said.
Special team error
By not going the distance on that first play, the Dolphins probably cost themselves a 14-point swing.
Miami stalled on its next three plays — including a head-scratching run on third-and-6 that went nowhere — and called in the field-goal unit.
It didn’t go well. Caleb Sturgis’ 41-yard attempt was blocked by Jamie Collins and returned by Kyle Arrington 62 yards for a touchdown.
“Looked like they came through the C-gap, if I’m not mistaken,” coach Joe Philbin later explained. “I don’t know if the kick could have been a little higher, maybe. ... They made a good play, and we’ve got to do a better job protecting the kicker.”
This and that
▪ Although, cornerback Jamar Taylor was active Sunday after missing the previous few weeks with a shoulder injury, the Dolphins used Walt Aikens as their fifth defensive back. Jimmy Wilson, who started at safety, slid over to nickel in that package and Aikens took Wilson’s spot.
▪ Dion Jordan, who has played defensive end since entering the league, was a standup outside linebacker on more than one occasion Sunday. The Dolphins at times asked him to cover tight end Rob Gronkowski.
▪ Linebacker Jason Trusnik recorded the first interception of his eight-year career Sunday.
▪ Defensive back Don Jones, who has played for both the Patriots and Dolphins this year, raced down on punt coverage in the first quarter and dropped Julian Edelman after a short return.
▪ The full list of Dolphins inactives: running back LaMichael James; linebackers Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Jonathan Freeny and Chris McCain; tackle Nate Garner; and guard Billy Turner.
▪ Four Dolphins dressed but didn’t play: Taylor; QB Matt Moore; DB T.J. Heath; and TE Gator Hoskins.