Armando Salguero

A look inside the Dolphins’ locker room during a delay and eventual victory in season opener

Reshad Jones talks about his two interceptions against the Titans

Miami Dolphins Safety Rashad Jones speaks to the media in the locker room after the Dolphins defeated the Tennessee Titans 27-20
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Miami Dolphins Safety Rashad Jones speaks to the media in the locker room after the Dolphins defeated the Tennessee Titans 27-20

It’s six hours after the Miami Dolphins began their season and they’re in their locker room. The weather outside is allegedly frightful because the NFL has determined lightning in the area is a danger for everyone at Hard Rock Stadium although that’s, you know, the sun shining down on the field.

This is the second lightning delay of the game. The first one came in the second quarter and went after one hour and 57 minutes. Players ate during that first delay.

“We ran out of snacks in the locker room,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “Lots of peanut butter and jelly (sandwiches) and turkey sandwiches gone. Lots of carbs, so we will do some conditioning tomorrow.”

The first delay lasts a long time but the team is in a constant state of readiness to resume play because the threatening weather is supposed to pass any second.

Of course, it doesn’t. But it was supposed to.

This second delay is a little different.

Once the second delay begins, in the third quarter, the team is told it will be a while before they play again. The delay eventually lasts 2 hours and 2 minutes.

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill talks about what the team did during the delays in the longest game in NFL history.

“The first time it was kind of like … okay, this is halftime, and just they kept pushing it back 15 minutes, so you were always on edge the whole time,” Wake said. “Now, the second one was like, ‘Alright, you guys are going to be in here for an hour and a half.’ It was just like, do I take my pads off, do I lay down, do I stand up, do I get on the bike?

“There’s really no way to know, so everybody was doing a lot of different things.”

Coaches are off one their own “talking ball,” according to head coach Adam Gase. They’re “game planning,” still because there’s still over a quarter of football to play and this one is by no means won with Miami clinging to a 7-3 lead.

Players are strewn all about the locker room now. And their activities are as varied as their shapes and sizes.

Some are studying plays on their tablets. Some are on the floor resting. Some are listening to music through head phones. Some are on a bicycle, trying to stay warm.

A couple of guys have their pads off. Their jerseys off. Even their socks off.

Some guys are eating -- again. This time they dive into the barbeque meals that were meant for postgame feasting. A couple of guys watch other games on the red zone channel.

Ryan Tannehill is sleeping. That speaks to how calm Tannehill is in his return to the field for the first time since 2016 because the last pass the quarterback threw before this lightning delay was an interception of a ball he intended for tight end Mike Gesicki in the end zone.

It was a bad pass. But there’s nothing that can be done about that now.

So nap time.

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill connected with WR receiver Kenny Stills for two touchdowns.

Around 6:30 in the evening the signal is relayed -- from the NFL’s Game Day Operation Center (that’s the official name) to the game officials and then to the respective teams -- it is time to get back on the field by 6:40.

The game will resume at 6:55 p.m.

“The second one was more wild,” Tannehill said. “You’re sitting there and then you get the signal.”

Yeah, there was urgency. It probably cannot be described as bedlam.

But there was a lot of commotion in that Dolphins locker room late Sunday evening.

“I thought guys did a good job of transitioning from when they came in,” Gase said. “They knew they had some time. Just being able to take their shoulder pads off. Just getting up once in a while and move around. The guys were hanging out and stayed engaged. They were talking about the game but there was a lot of time to burn.”

When the entire delay thing is over, the Dolphins and Titans are headed to the NFL’s longest game since the 1970 league merger. It goes a full 7 hours and eight minutes.

Oh, and the Dolphins are headed toward a satisfying 27-20 team victory.

And that’s exactly what it was. Satisfying. And a team win.

Because this one showed you the best and worst of Tannehill but it offered a victory in a game the most important player on the team didn’t light it up. Tannehill was 20 of 28 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“I thought I left a lot out there,” Tannehill said. “There were plays I’d like to have back. There was a lot of time where I got to think about those plays I’d like to have back.”

The entire Earth says an NFL team cannot win when the quarterback is inconsistent. The Dolphins don’t care what the Earth says. They say they have enough talent to overcome some rough patches by the QB.

Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) speaks to the media in the locker room about the longest NFL game in history after the Miami Dolphins defeat the Tennessee Titans 27-20 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“I wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be,” Tannehill continued. “To come away from today, this long day and grind of a game, it feels good to get a win.”

So what has to happen for the Dolphins to beat a 2017 playoff team without a great afternoon from Tannehill?

Well, there was the great afternoon from Reshad Jones, who had two interceptions.

There was a good work from the running backs, Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore, who were limited to 23 carries but still gained 109 yards.

There was the lightning bolt moment (I couldn’t resist) from Jakeem Grant when he returned a kickoff 102 yards to break a 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter.

There was the abundance of team speed that seems to promise big plays. Kenny Stills broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown. There was a short pass to Albert Wilson that he turned into a 21-yard gain. And, of course, there was the kickoff by Grant.

It also helped, it must be noted in fairness, that Tennessee starting quarterback Marcus Mariota got knocked out of the game in the second half. No, the Miami defense didn’t sack any Tennessee quarterback.

But the Miami front hit Mariota time and again and the effects of one hit by William Hayes eventually caused the quarterback to leave the game.

At that point it became Blaine Gabbert’s game for the Titans. Which translates to ... at that point it became Miami’s game.

“We won, and we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to improve on,” Gase said. “We know that, but that was the team that was in the playoffs last year, and that’s — we knew they were going to be a tough opponent, even though we’re at home.

“We played like it was the first game of the year. We had some mistakes that we’re going to go back and say this can’t happen anymore, and we’ll improve from here.”

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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