It took longer than anyone wanted, but the Miami Dolphins found a running game with the duo of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas on Sunday. Playing in London against the Oakland Raiders, the first of the NFL's three games in the United Kingdom this year, the Dolphins picked up 157 yards on the ground, with 99 of them coming from the combined efforts of Miller and Thomas.
In 2013, Miller and Thomas were supposed to be the team's running back tandem, able to open up space for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and add a huge dynamic to the offense. Instead, the running game disappeared nearly every week, and the Dolphins simply could not find a way to break either running back out of the quagmire. The season was so bad, the Dolphins signed free agent running back Knowshon Moreno in the offseason, then released Daniel Thomas during the preseason.
Moreno was expected to be the team's workhorse, with Miller, despite being listed as the "starter" working primarily as the accompaniment. Then Moreno suffered a dislocated elbow, and Miami re-signed the much maligned Thomas.
Now wearing number 30, instead of the 33 he wore since the Dolphins drafted him in the second round in 2011, Thomas made his presence felt against the Raiders, and proved the perfect complement to a Miller led rushing attack.
Miller finished the game with 12 carries for 64 yards, a 5.3 yards per carry average, and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for three yards. Thomas added five carries for 35 yards, a 7.0 yards per attempt average, along with one reception for 25 yards. Thomas was also asked to serve in pass protection throughout the game, a strength of his.
Miller did have one mistake - a fumble near the goal line in the third quarter - but the Dolphins were able to rectify even that situation on their way to a 38-14 victory. After Miami lost the fumble just inches before Miller would have scored, Brent Grimes recorded the first interception of the year for the Dolphins - and the first of three in the game - returning the ball to the three-yard line. Two Miller runs later, he was in the endzone, scoring the touchdown he just missed six plays earlier.
"I think I did pretty good," Lamar Miller told the media after the game. "Obviously I fumbled the ball in a critical situation, and you can't have that. The offensive line did a good job. I just tried to use my speed and tried to break tackles to get positive yards."
Miller and Thomas both got positive yards - and got them in chunks - on Sunday. It was a year later than expected, but it was good to see Miami have success on the ground for a change. And, like it was designed to do last year, the running game was able to open up the passing game for Miami. Tannehill put up 278 yard passing and two touchdowns, along with one interception, against the Raiders, going 23-for-31 on the day, and recording a 109.3 passer rating. He also added 35 yards on five rushes.
How long Moreno will be out of action is not yet clear, but if the Dolphins can finally get solid production out of the Miller / Thomas tandem, they can let Moreno fully recover, without feeling the need to rush him back into action. A Miami running game was missing last year; hopefully it has been found now.