The Miami Dolphins jumped out to a 31-14 lead over the San Francisco 49ers in a game that appeared to be a statement game for the South Florida franchise on their way to a six-game winning streak. By the end of the game, the 49ers had stormed back to 31-24 and came up just two yards short of tying the game as the clock expired. It was a nail-biting, heart-attack inducing, edge-of-your-seat ending to the game, and Miami, despite trying to find a way to lose it, came out with the win and pushed themselves into the AFC Playoff standings.
There was a lot of good that happened on Sunday, there were some bad, and there was a little ugly from the game. We take a look back at the game using those three categories:
- Ryan Tannehill, quarterback - Is there any doubt who was the star of the game? Tannehill picked up the team that had 60 percent of its offensive line starters missing and a non-existent running game, put them on his shoulders, and used his right arm to will the team to a big lead, and ultimately the win. He was 20-for-30 for 285 yards with 3 touchdowns giving him a 130.6 passer rating, the second highest of his career. Tannehill has been great over the past few weeks, finding ways to get the team into a position to win, even when nothing seems to be working correctly, and Sunday was a highlight of the six-game winning streak.
- Kiko Alonso, linebacker - If Tannehill is not the star of the game, it was Alonso. He tallied 12 tackles, with 0.5 tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, an interception, and a fumble recovery. He was in on the tackle that ended the game, stopping Colin Kaepernick six feet from tying the game. Alonso has turned into the middle linebacker Miami needed.
- Kenyan Drake, running back / returner - Drake showed off his kick return abilities again, breaking a 78-yard return as an answer to the 49ers scoring a touchdown to make it 17-14. It looked like Miami was about to extend the lead back out to ten, but the drive stalled. It does not change the fact that Drake showed his speed and ability to cut. He added another 22 yards on another kick return. Drake is becoming a weapon in the return game and, when paired with Grant back there, Miami could have a dynamic duo.
- DeVante Parker, wide receiver - Three receptions for 64 yards and two more toe-taps away from a touchdown and another 32 yard gain. Tannehill clearly is trusting Parker to go up and get the ball, and the second-year receiver is showing that he can be trusted. He left the game early with a back injury, which included him wearing a back brace in the locker room after the game, but it has been reported that the Dolphins do not think it was anything serious.
- Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle - There are not a lot of stats for Suh, but he really is a dominant force in the middle of the field. The Dolphins moved him at one point into an (almost) middle linebacker role, then had him take a few steps toward the line of scrimmage and just sort of sit right in the middle of the field, blocking the passing lanes, and spying Kaepernick. The guys seems to be able to do anything on the field.
- Cameron Wake, defensive end - At this point, the NFL should just go ahead and put a sack in the stats for Wake each game. He tallied another on this week, and he consistently forcing Kaepernick out of the pocket. Miami did not always do a good job in stopping Kaepernick from running, but Wake was doing his job in disrupting the passing plays.
- Michael Thomas, safety - Thomas gets the good here for one play. He absolutely blew up a potential touchdown catch with a hard hit in the back of the endzone. The 49ers would score on the next play, but Thomas did his job from the safety position and kept them from scoring on the first play. Bacarri Rambo has surpassed Thomas on the depth chart at safety, but Thomas continues to show that he is a very capable option back there.
- Dion Sims, tight end - A couple of years ago, Sims appeared on the verge of a breakout as a receiving option for the Dolphins. A concussion sidelined him for several weeks at the start of the 2015 season, and he never seemed to get back into the swing of things after that. He is often referred to as the Dolphins “blocking tight end,” but his pass catching is starting to come back now. He caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and is becoming the missing piece in the passing game for the Dolphins.
- Leonte Carroo, wide receiver - Yes, he only had one reception during the game, but he gets into the good because that catch was the rookies’ first career touchdown reception.
- Jakeem Grant, kick/punt returner - Punt returns are becoming a bigger and bigger issue for Grant. It seems like he has lost his confidence in fielding a punt cleanly, and he continues to have issues with them. The Dolphins need to work on getting him back into a comfort zone because he is a weapon with the ball in his hands. Jarvis Landry can cover the punt returns, but Grant brings an excitement with his speed.
- Miami running game - Jay Ajayi only picked up 45 yards on 18 carries (he did have a touchdown), and that was about the best the Miami ground game could do - other than Tannehill picking up 34 yards on six carries/scrambles. The offensive line injuries definitely were felt when the worst run-defense in the league holds the team to 95 rushing yards on 26 attempts. The running game was bad on Sunday, which Tannehill overcame with his passing.
- Dolphins defense - There were several good individual defensive efforts on Sunday, some of which are above. The defense as a whole, however, struggled during the game. This contest should have been locked up early, but instead it took a tackle as the final two seconds ran off the clock just two yards from a tying touchdown for San Francisco. The 49ers put up 475 yards of offense against Miami, with 282 coming through the air and 193 on the ground. Kaepernick was the biggest issue for Miami on the ground, picking up 113 yards on 10 carries - though he needed two more since he was the one tackled on that final play. Carlos Hyde picked up 65 yards on 13 carries. Through the air, Kaepernick was 29-for-46 for 296 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The defense were absolutely in bend-don’t-break mode for most of the game, with some unfortunate breaks, though, thankfully, not on the last drive.