It wasn't always pretty, but the Miami Dolphins left Ohio yesterday with a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The win puts the Dolphins at 1-0 on the season, and extends Cleveland's streak of Week 1 losses to nine straight years.
The Dolphins were only able to score two field goals in a first half that they dominated, including three interceptions and a time of possession of 17-1/2 minutes to 12-1/2. The Browns put their only first half points on the board following an interceptions of a Ryan Tannehill pass that was tipped. The interception is the first for Tannehill this year, having not thrown any in the preseason. The Browns would go 59 yards after the pick in 11 plays, finding the endzone on a Jordan Cameron reception from Brandon Weeden.
Miami came out aggressive in the second half, attacking the Browns on both offense and defense. Miami would find the endzone twice in the half, first on a third quarter, 34-yard pass from Tannehill to Brian Hartline, then on a fourth quarter, one-yard run from Daniel Thomas.
Caleb Sturgis completed his three-for-three day with a 36 yard field goal late in the fourth period. He connected from 45-yards and 49-yards in the first half. The rookie scored 11 total points on the day.
The Dolphins defense clearly was the class of the game Sunday, recording the three interceptions, six sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 10 passes defensed. Cameron Wake recorded 2.5 sacks, with Randy Starks coming away with 1.5 and both Derrick Shelby and Dion Jordan tallying one each. Nolan Carroll made the first interception on the day, snagging a deep ball from Weeden at the Miami one yard line. DImitri Patterson then backed that up with two interceptions of his own.
Linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dennell Ellerbe and safety Reshad Jones all lead the team with six tackles apiece.
The weak part of the game was clearly the Dolphins offensive line, which struggled to protect Tannehill throughout the game, and could absolutely not move the Browns defensive line to open up running lanes. The Dolphins averaged an embarrassing 0.9 yards per carry on the day. The Browns have a very impressive front seven, designed to swallow up ball carriers, and that's exactly what they did yesterday.
The offensive line allowed the Browns to sack Tannehill four times, along with seven quarterback hits. While it clearly was not the pressure Weeden felt from Cameron Wake, et al, during the game, the line has to shore up the protection of Tannehill. Every offensive lineman seemed to have trouble at different times during the game, leading to the pressure.
However, they seemed to go through spans where the pass protection got better, and the second half was a lot better than the first. The line simply could be going through the growing pains of a new line, trying to work together, early in the season. Whatever the case, they have to find the answer fast - both in pass protection and in opening up rushing lanes.
The Dolphins came away with the win, which is clearly the most important part of the game. The team now turns its focus to the Indianapolis Colts, traveling north to face another 2012 Draft Class quarterback, this time in first overall pick Andrew Luck. That game is next Sunday at 1pm ET on CBS.