On a day that saw Miami Legends Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas enshrined into the Dolphins' ring of honor, rookie DE Olivier Vernon took his first steps to an illustrious career.
Miami held on to a 17-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams today and it was Vernon who made the game’s biggest plays.
His sack on Sam Bradford forced Jeff Fisher to send his rookie kicker Greg Zuerlien on the field for a 66 yard attempt. Zuerlien would miss the kick—sealing the Dolphins victory—but it was Vernon’s play in the first half that turned the game around.
The Rams moved the ball well in the first half. Heading into today’s matchup, the Dolphins were only allowing 61.4 yards rushing a game—they would surrender 70 in the first quarter alone—yet St. Louis only managed to score six points by halftime.
Leading 6-0 with 8:57 remaining in the first half, the Rams faced a 3rd-and-long on the Miami 26. It was Vernon’s sack that pushed the Rams back to the 34 yard line—forcing Zuerlien to attempt a 52 yard field goal.
He had not missed a kick his entire career, but sailed it wide right. Zuerlien would never recover from that miss and subsequently missed his final three field goal attempts.
Following the miss, Ryan Tannehill orchestrated a seven play drive—capped off with a beautiful pass to a wide-open Marlon Moore—that gave the Dolphins a 7-6 lead.
It was a lead they would never relinquish.
Tannehill continued to shine—proving he was worthy of the eighth pick in last year’s draft—playing another 60 minutes of mistake free football.
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Miami was unable to take advantage of the Rams’ pedestrian run defense and relied on Tannehill’s poise and efficiency to put up the points necessary to walk out of Sun Life Stadium with a victory.
The Dolphins only netted 19 yards rushing—with Bush only contributing 17 yards on 12 carries—and still, Miami did just enough to win their third game of the season.
On the day, Tannehill was 21-of-29 for 185 yards and TDs with zero INTs. His proficiency came without the contribution of his favorite target—Brian Hartline—who finished the day without a single reception.
Miami was outmatched in nearly every single statistical category, except the three that mattered the most—turnovers, red-zone efficiency and penalties.
The Rams out-gained the Dolphins by 270 yards, but committed the only turnover of the game—a kickoff return fumble from FB Brit Miller that led to a Dan Carpenter field goal in the second quarter.
St. Louis managed three trips into the red zone but only walked away with seven points and committed 12 costly penalties for a total of 94 yards. They continued to get in their own way.
Lost in all this is the remarkable contribution from Dolphins punter Brandon Fields.
Fields averaged 50.3 yards a punt—with a long of 63—and it was his 51 yard punt in the final two minutes that pinned the Rams inside the six.
An offensive hold from Josh Hull buried the Rams closer to their own goal line—starting their final drive on their own three. He ensured that the Rams never started a drive with great field position.
The Dolphins are .500 (3-3) for the second time this season. They avoided their third-straight loss before a bye and will now have two weeks to prepare for their matchup with the Jets on the 28th of October.
They will be looking to finish the job they could not complete in Week 3. A victory will put the Dolphins above .500 for the first time since 2010 and begin the playoff chatter in South Beach.