Written by Luis Sung | Twitter: @FLSportDebater
On a hot and steamy Miami afternoon, the Dolphins faced off against their most powerful rivals the New England Patriots, a team that for the past decade has pretty much owned the AFC East. Today was a stunner to say the least, but it was something that Dolphins fans will surely remember for a very long time.
The Patriots hadn't lost a week one game since 2003, and they had no intentions of letting that streak go. The Dolphins however managed to hang tough and stop them for a three and out on their opening drive, and that was when things got interesting.
Undrafted free agent Chris McCain got past the punt team blockers and managed to block the punt, giving the Dolphins possession in excellent field position and set up a touchdown pass to running back Lamar Miller, which gave an indication that the Dolphins were on their way to a major upset.
Then Tom Brady decided to remind everyone why he was considered an elite quarterback and led the Patriots down the field which set up a Shane Vereen two-yard touchdown run, and then followed it up with a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
What made this even more painful was that throughout the first half, the Dolphins made foolish errors that came back to bite them as the Patriots capitalized on them. A fumble by Mike Wallace, a bad underthrow by Ryan Tannehill which resulted in an interception by Alfonzo Dennard, and then a fumble by running back Lamar Miller shut down any momentum the Dolphins could build.
Then suddenly, the Dolphins came out in the second half and looked like a totally different football team. They began feeding the ball to former Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno, and he ran like a man possessed. He quickly accumulated 134 yards on 24 runs with a touchdown over the course of the second half and was one of the biggest reasons the Dolphins managed to score 23 unanswered points in the second half.
On the other side of the ball, Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, Olivier Vernon, and even undrafted free agent Chris McCain wreaked havoc against the Patriots weakened offensive line, causing Tom Brady, one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, to completely unravel as several of his passes missed the target as the pressure kept coming from all directions.
Something that may have been a contributing factor but has been somewhat ignored is the participation on the part of the Miami Dolphins fanbase. The sellout crowd made sure the visiting Patriots knew they were there and they roared as loudly as they could when the Dolphins started making their comeback. It got so loud at one point, that Ryan Tannehill had to ask the crowd to quiet down so he could call out the snap count. Everyone is well aware of the "12th Man" in Seattle, and their effect on their team is widely known. Today the Dolphins had their own 12th man, and it's possible that their cheers helped the Dolphins succeed as it fired them up.
Tannehill and Wallace had mixed results, as they were able to connect on seven passes for 81 yards, but there were a few instances where either Wallace or Tannehill made a big mistake that ruined a potential big play, and the Dolphins will need to work on that.
The biggest thing to take away from this, I feel, is that the Dolphins aren't even at their best yet, and they still managed to beat a restored Patriots team who had several of their core players on it that it didn't have last year. Bad mistakes in the first half, injured and suspended players who will eventually be back gives the impression that there's still a lot of room for improvement. There's an old saying: "In order to be the best, you've got to beat the best." The Dolphins, today, beat the team that was being advertised as one of the best teams in the NFL for 2014, and it's quite possible that if they keep this up, they will start earning respect.
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