The Miami Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill were faced with perhaps their toughest test of the season Sunday against Seattle. They passed with class and style.
Kicker Dan Carpenter banged a 43-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give Miami a hard-fought 24-21 victory over Seattle. The kick, which was never in doubt from the time it left Carpenter's foot, capped a dramatic seven-play, 65-yard drive, and ended a three-game losing streak by the Dolphins (5-6) to keep their longshot AFC playoff hopes alive.
"I thought it was a good character win by our guys, coming back in the fourth quarter a couple of times," coach Joe Philbin said.
Of course, Miami's 17-point fourth quarter, which included two touchdowns, and its 10 points in the game's final 5:13, were just as impressive as the game-winning field goal. The Dolphins' offense had produced just one touchdown in its previous 10 quarters.
Tannehill, who struggled mightily the previous two games, was excellent in the clutch. He was 3-for-5 passing (including two clock-killing spikes) for 51 yards on the game-winning drive.
"I think Ryan grew up on that whole series," cornerback Sean Smith said. "He's a rookie but on that whole driv e he was so calm and poised out there. You saw guys diving at his legs and he's not even worried about it. He's making all the right reads and all the throws are right on target."
Wide receiver Davone Bess, who finished with seven receptions for a season-best 129 yards, was clutch, too. He had two receptions for 44 yards on the game-winning drive against what might be the NFL's best secondary. Three of Seattle's four defensive backs played in the Pro Bowl last season.
Bess said the Dolphins were driven by something more than one victory.
"Our mindset is still trying to get to 'The Show,'" he said referring to the playoffs.
The final drive might have been symbolic of that desire. Aside from the heroics from Tannehill and Bess, Tannehill scrambled for 15 yards, and hit tight end/fullback Charles Clay once for seven yards. After running back Daniel Thomas gained four yards the rest was up to Carpenter.
"It felt good," said Carpenter, who celebrated his 27th birthday Sunday. "And when I looked up and saw it down the middle, I was thrilled."
This game was almost a blueprint for how Miami wants to win. The Dolphins ran the ball effectively, rushing for 189 yards, their second-best total of the season. Miami also stopped the run, limiting the Seahawks to 96 yards rushing and holding physical running back Marshawn Lynch, who entered as the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,005 yards, to just 46 yards on 19 carries.
And in the battle of rookie quarterbacks, Tannehill, the No. 8 pick, won against Seattle's Russell Wilson, the third-round pick.
Wilson, who had been terrible on the road, ended 21-for-27 passing for 224 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His 125.9 passer rating was impressive, but so were his 38 yards rushing on five carries.
"He's very elusive, has a strong arm and is very accurate," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "He played a great game today, too."
He just wasn't as good as Tannehill down the stretch.
Seattle (6-5) took a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Miami tied the game at 14 on Thomas' 3-yard touchdown run but Seattle went ahead, 21-14, seconds later when Leon Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. The Dolphins drove 80 yards in six plays to tie the game at 21 when Tannehill hit tight end/fullback Charles Clay on a 29-yard touchdown pass. After the Dolphins' defense forced a punt, Tannehill, Bess, Carpenter and the rest of the offense took over.
Apparently, this victory did wonders for the Dolphins' confidence -- and, perhaps, their sense of reality.
"We're tough," linebacker Kevin Burnett said. "You have to play dang near flawless to beat us."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times