The Miami Dolphins beat the...lightning delay....Tennessee Titans on Sunday...lightning delay...to move to 1-0 on the season. The start and stop of the game, which officially was timed as 7 hours, 8 minutes long, turned a normal Week 1 season opener into the longest game played in the NFL since at least the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. There was a 1 hour, 57 minute delay in the first half, which was only outdone by the 2 hour, 2 minute delay in the second.
While the incredible delay was the main story for the game, the Dolphins actually looked pretty impressive throughout most of the game. There were times where they looked like a team playing their first game of the year or were coming back from a random two-hour break in the middle of play, but overall, it was fairly impressive.
Ryan Tannehill returned to a regular season game for the first time since December 2016, and he looked sharp for most of the game. He finished the game 20-for-28 for 230 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, giving him an 89.9 passer rating. He had some absolutely gorgeous throws, including a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.
That said, his two interceptions were both ugly. The first interception came on what should have been a jump ball to tight end Mike Gesicki, but was badly underthrown, with Malcolm Butler coming away with the pick. “It was on me. Completely on me,” Tannehill said of the pick after the game. “We had a one-on-one matchup there and I have to find a way to get him a better football.”
The second interception came on an overthrow, where Tannehill was looking deep toward Jakeem Grant, but the two players appeared to not be on the same page, with either Grant cutting the route or Tannehill throwing to the wrong spot. Kenny Vaccaro came away with that pick.
“I thought he was good,” head coach Adam Gase said of Tannehill after the game. “We had it rolling there for a little bit. We’ll clean up some of the turnovers and maybe some of the mistakes. He didn’t make too many. It was good to see him back out there. He knocked around a little bit, but did a good job of bouncing right back up.”
Tannehill was sacked once and had a scary moment where he was hit in his left knee as he released a pass. Tannehill fell to the turf, then got up and limped as he ran off the field, grimacing when he got to the sideline. However, it appeared the brace on his surgically repaired knee did its job, as he did not miss a snap.
Miami’s run game may have been the most impressive part of the offense, with Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore both getting the start in a two-back set. Drake carried the ball 14 times for 48 yards, while Gore added 9 carries for 61 yards. They finished with a combined average of 4.7 yards-per-carry, though there was a large chunk of the game where they were around 8- or 9-yards-per-carry. The Titans defense started to respond in the second half, so Miami shied away from the run and turned more to Tannehill’s right arm, but Miami’s running backs were strong throughout the game, and the offensive line was impressive in their run blocking.
Jakeem Grant led the team with five receptions, picking up 38 yards, while Kenny Stills had the biggest day with four receptions for 106 yards with two touchdowns. “Kenny does a great job for us,” Tannehill said. “He is versatile, we can move him around all over the place, he knows exactly what to do. He helps get the other guys lined up. He’s been in this offense for going on three years now, so he’s the veteran guy of the group as far as with the offense, and he is able to kind of lead that room and get them in the right spots. There’s the intangible part of it, and then also physically he’s very talented, fast, smooth, good hands, able to get down field. He did a great job on the first [touchdown] of catching it, getting the edge, turning up, and finding the end zone. The second one, [Tennessee] played quarters for us, and he was able to run the post, run by the corner, made a good strong catch through contact and was able to finish in the end zone.”
The Dolphins did exactly what they said they wanted to do, spreading the ball between multiple receivers throughout the game, rather than rely primarily on one player, with Danny Amendola picking up four receptions for 26 yards, Albert Wilson and Kenyan Drake each having three receptions for 31 and 18 yards, respectively, and Mike Gesicki recording his first NFL reception on an 11 yard gain.
Grant also added a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown.
On defense, the Dolphins had some solid play throughout most of the day. The Titans were able to rush for 116 yards on a 4.0 yards per carry average while passing for 220 yards, but they averaged just 5.8 yards per pass compared to 7.7 yards for the Dolphins. Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert also combine for three interceptions, with Reshad Jones recording two of those and Kiko Alonso coming up with the other. T.J. McDonald led the team with eight tackles, followed by Jones with seven, including 1.5 tackles for a loss. Alonso, Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker, and Minkah Fitzpatrick all recorded six tackles.
The secondary was not as bad as was feared before the game, with Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Fitzpatrick, Jones, and McDonald being active throughout the game. Jones and McCain each broke up two passes, while Fitzpatrick recorded one pass breakup. Things were not perfect, and there were some moments where there was obvious confusion among the group or some coverage was off, but overall, they played well enough in their first game.
“He’s definitely a tremendous asset,” defensive end Cameron Wake said of Fitzpatrick after the contest. “We said to the guys that were going to play, “rookies” ended when training camp ended. We expect you to play at a high level, and we expect you to play like a veteran football player, and he’s going out there, and he’s making plays every time he’s on the field. He’s getting better every day. I told him his first NFL game had to be the longest one in NFL history; but we got a W, so I think it was all worth it.”
There are things for the Dolphins to clean up, and they will have to start getting it working now as the head into their first AFC East contest of the year, traveling to visit the New York Jets on Sunday, but they were impressive on Sunday for seven-plus hours.