The Dolphins did what they had to do in Sunday’s opener in Cleveland to head back to Miami 1-0.
Clearly, it wasn’t a perfect performance from Joe Philbin’s club. The offensive line struggled to protect Ryan Tannehill, and struggled doesn’t do their attempts at opening up holes for running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas justice.
But the Dolphins’ defensive line was as advertised and much, much more. Cameron Wake was absolutely unblockable, getting to Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden for 2.5 sacks, and running back Trent Richarson was held to a mere 47 yards on 3.6 yards per carry.
The offense only managed 275 total yards, but Tannehill made enough plays through the air to put the game away for Miami.
It was a much-needed win for a team that now enters a brutal four-game stretch, with trips to Indianapolis and New Orleans, and home games vs. Super Bowl-caliber teams in the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens on the slate.
Fab Five Fins
1. Cameron Wake, defensive end: There isn’t enough I can say about his performance this afternoon. When he wasn’t in Brandon Weeden’s face or bringing him down for a sack, he was getting draped by holds that were sparingly called. Wake is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, despite compeition from media darlings like J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith.
2. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: He threw a pick in the first half and his offense struggled for much of the game’s first three quarters. But Tannehill pretty much single-handedly moved the Dolphins down the field, with virtually no help form his offensive line or running game. 272 yards and a touchdown is a very good day at the office given the circumstances.
3. Randy Starks, defensive tackle: Didn’t get the start but proved why he might be the Dolphins’ best defender not named Cameron Wake. Starks recorded 1.5 sacks and several other interior pressures.
4. Brian Hartline, wide receiver: Picked up where he left off last season with nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Harltine should have another huge year, especially with defenses focusing so much on preventing big plays from Mike Wallace.
5. Dimitri Patterson, cornerback: Got the best of his former team with two interceptions in the first half. He left the game with a groin injury, though, so the Dolphins can only hope he’ll be ready to go for next week’s game in Indianapolis.