The Miami Dolphins rallied and averted disaster in a 34-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
A big toe out of bounds at the 12-yard-line by Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver Antonio Brown ended Sunday's contest as the Miami Dolphins survived a final play that involved a completed pass and five laterals for a 34-28 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The victory was the first for the Dolphins over the Steelers in 15 years and first in Pittsburgh since 1990.
The Dolphins moved back over .500 for the first time since early October with the win and now sit at 7-6. Miami was able to remain tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the final wild card spot in the AFC as well. The Dolphins have also equaled their win total from a season ago.
Miami remains in the thick of things in the AFC playoff race and have their toughest remaining challenge upcoming on Sunday as the Dolphins host the New England Patriots. Miami will look for a third straight victory after falling to 5-6. But looking back on an emotional come-from-behind victory on Sunday, here were the good, the bad and the ugly for the Miami Dolphins:
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed for 200 yards and eclipsed his yardage total from his rookie season in Sunday's victory. Tannehill also tied a career-high with three touchdown passes and recorded a career-long run of 48 yards early on in the contest. Tannehill's three touchdown throws made him the first Miami quarterback to pass for 20 touchdowns in a season since Jay Fiedler in 2001.
As a team, the Dolphins rushed for a season-high 181 yards on a 7.5 yards-per-carry average. Daniel Thomas made an unlikely return from an ankle injury that was thought to be season-ending to finish with a season-high 105 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Thomas hit the 100-yard mark for just the second time in his career and broke a career-long 55-yard run which set up the winning score for Miami. The 55-yard dash was also the longest rush of the season for the Dolphins.
Tight end Charles Clay led the Dolphins with a game-high seven catches for a team-high 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns including the game-winner in which Clay broke a pair of tackles on his way to the end zone with 2:53 to play. Clay's score marked Miami's first fourth quarter touchdown since October 6th and first offensive touchdown in the final quarter since the last day of September. Clay leads Miami with six touchdown receptions and seven total touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, the Miami Dolphins recorded three sacks including a team-best 11th of the season by Olivier Vernon. Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai also notched sacks for Miami. Wake's sack early on resulted in a fumble by Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger which set up the first of Miami's four touchdowns. It also kept the streak alive for the Dolphins of forcing a turnover in every game this season.
Although it did not lead to points, the Dolphins also blocked their first punt of the season late in the first half. Miami did a great job covering punts by Brandon Fields, who averaged better than 46 yards-per-punt despite unfavorable weather conditions.
The Dolphins were able to convert four of their six trips in the red zone into touchdowns and finished the day with a season-high 34 points. Miami was also better than usual on third down converting six of 14 attempts.
In his highly anticipated return to Pittsburgh, wide receiver Mike Wallace managed just two catches for 19 yards for the Dolphins. The Miami offensive line while solid in pass protection for most of the day, allowed three more sacks on Tannehill. Tannehill has now been sacked a NFL-high 48 times.
While the Miami defense managed to force a fumble early, the Dolphins' secondary went without an interception for the first time since September 30th. Miami also allowed Pittsburgh, who had come in as one of the worst teams in the league on third down, to go 8-for-17 on third down conversion attempts. The 349 yards passing for Roethlisberger was the most given up by the Dolphins since New Orleans' Drew Brees passed for 413 yards in a 38-17 Saints' win back in Week 4.
After grabbing a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter, Miami allowed Pittsburgh to score two touchdowns in a 53-second span to take a 21-17 lead. Troy Polamalu's 19-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Steelers the lead and marked the fourth time in six games that the Dolphins let a double-digit second half lead evaporate. It also marked Tannehill's fifth straight game with an interception.
The Miami Dolphins nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on the final play of the game. Miami had Pittsburgh backed up to its own 26-yard-line and allowed Roethlisberger to complete a pass before five laterals had Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown in the end zone. Brown was ruled just out of bounds inside the Miami 15-yard-line ending the game, but had it not been for a misstep, the Dolphins would have went home losers after an outstanding fourth quarter rally.