Half a dozen players were knocked out of the game and never returned, and another player was so sick before kickoff he was administered four IVs and still wasn’t able to suit up. The quarterbacks absorbed more sacks, hits and hurries than any human body should ever endure — just ask Sam Bradford, something of an expert on injuries, who sustained both a concussion and shoulder injury.
This football game between the Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles was more a matter of survival than a contest of blocking and tackling.
Everyone on both rosters not named Matt Moore played because aside from the injuries, both offenses were playing so fast, although not necessarily so well, that they combined for exhausting 154 plays.
And when it was over and everyone caught their breath and assessed the damage, it was Dolphins 20 and Eagles 19.
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The Dolphins survived better.
That makes sense because the Dolphins are quite familiar with survival now. The Dolphins are all about survival now.
This team that dug itself an early season 1-3 hole that began looking something like a grave after two more losses the past two weeks, entered this game in full-on survival mode.
Having not won … no, wait. Having not led a game since Oct. 25, the Dolphins started Sunday’s game knowing that another loss would probably mean the season was lost as well.
So you wonder about having to survive?
The Dolphins have been thisclose to being irrelevant since their consecutive division losses to New England and Buffalo seemingly locked them into the AFC East cellar.
One more setback and this column would probably not be about clinging to a season but rather who the next coach should be or what position they should look at most closely in the next draft.
But against that backdrop of grim finality, these Dolphins refused to have their obituary written. They fought and mostly fought back because they trailed 16-3 after only one quarter.
And in the final three quarters, they squirmed and moved and kicked and clawed even as pundits and the opponent tried to shove them and their season into a body bag.
Not this week, folks.
The flat lines jumped.
“It’s huge because who wants to be 3-6?” Brice McCain, one of three Miami players who left the game injured and didn’t return, said afterward. “To be 4-5 is being treated as just another win because we’re taking it step by step.
“But I think this win was very big because we’re tired of losing. We’re just tired of losing as a team.”
Luckily, the Dolphins aren’t tired of fighting.
They had to fight when cornerback Brent Grimes, perhaps one of the team’s top five players, spent all of Saturday night throwing up because of something he ate. By pregame warmups it was clear he wasn’t up to playing.
So that meant rookie Bobby McCain had to play more snaps than he had all season. When Brice McCain went down, that meant Zack Bowman and Tony Lippett had to play in coverage more than they had played all season.
Indeed, at one point in the second half the Dolphins offense, gasping for breath as the Eagles ran play after play in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo attack, had backups Terrance Fede, C.J. Mosley, Jordan Phillips, Neville Hewitt and Zack Vigil in the game along with six starters.
“Some of those guys got in a tough situation,” interim coach Dan Campbell said. “The bulk of the games you’re going to play in as a rookie, you probably wouldn’t pick it to be Philly because of the up-tempo and getting lined up. But you know what? They went in there and competed.
It wasn’t perfect, but they went in there and fought and gave us a chance.”
The Dolphins defense was led by Ndamukong Suh, who had his best game with his new team. He led the charge with seven tackles, a sack and several quarterback hurries but more importantly he set the attitude for a defense that collected four sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and knocked Bradford out of the game in time to let Mark Sanchez be, well, be Mark Sanchez.
(More on that in a second.)
Chris McCain was the one whose hit knocked Bradford from the game.
“It wasn’t nothing personal or anything like that against Sam, but at the end of the day, you have to kill all quarterbacks,” McCain said. “[Expletive] it! You got to go get them.”
The Dolphins got a big play from Jarvis Landry, who snatched a batted pass out of the air for an improbable touchdown reception.
They got a big play from safety Reshad Jones, who sealed the win with an interception of Sanchez, who you know did that a lot as the Jets quarterback years ago.
“Your impact players,” Campbell said, “you need them to step up and make impact plays and ours did.”
So upcoming games remain meaningful. The postseason dream, the interim coach’s viability, the team’s relevancy continue to matter.
All survive another week.