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Miami Dolphins clear huge hurdle in victory over Patriots
Wow! What else can you say? After seven straight losses spanning four seasons, after so many close calls, so many fourth quarter frustrations, the Miami Dolphins finally get to enjoy a victory over the New England Patriots. How sweet was that! How important was that! How special was that! Could you feel the electricity at Sun Life Stadium? Could you hear the fans chanting “Let’s Go Dolphins” over and over in the bowels of the stadium as they filed out? Could you see the huge anchor being lifted off the shoulders of these players and coaches? Was that Ryan Tannehill matching pass-for-pass with Tom Brady in a wild, wacky fourth quarter? Was that Tannehill actually out-playing Brady? Was that Tannehill growing up, in so many ways, before our eyes? Someday, I’ve got a feeling the second-year quarterback may look back at this game as a real turning point in his career. Indeed, it may very well have been. Dolphins 24, Patriots 20. Think about it. Swallow it. Savor it. Hold onto it for as long as you want. Nobody can take this moment away. Three straight victories in the heart of December. This football team, these players, are making a powerful statement at exactly the right time. No doubt, this was the signature victory this football team had been lacking, the biggest victory in Joe Philbin’s two seasons as head coach, a come-from-behind win that said so much about the make-up of these players and about the prospects for the rest of this season. Asked how he was going to celebrate, Philbin simply responded: “I might jump in my pool. I’ve been in it once since I’ve been here.” For low-key Joe Phiblin, that’s about as close as you’re going to get to doing cartwheels. “This is what you live for,” said veteran defensive tackle Jared Odrick. “This is what you play for.” Play offs? No, the Dolphins aren’t in. But they are so much closer than they were and now they’ll take an 8-6 record into the final two games against the Bills and Jets knowing they have in their grasp an opportunity to do something special, a chance to play in January. How fitting that the Dolphins sealed this win with a fourth down interception by a guy named Michael Thomas, who was just signed off the 49ers practice squad earlier this week. That’s been the story of this team. Dustin Keller goes down, Charles Clay steps up. The offensive line loses two starters and other players respond. On Sunday alone, the Dolphins lose starting cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll to injuries so rookie Will Davis and back-up Jimmy Wilson face Tom Brady’s fourth quarter comeback assault – and survive. Great storylines everywhere. Charles Clay catches one pass the entire day, but he gets six on a fourth-and-five on the game-winning drive and, without him fighting his heart out for those final few yards, there is no celebration, there is no victory. Rishard Matthews, probably the fourth option in this passing attack, catches a 24-yard pass, while diving out of bounds, also on that game-winning drive. And then, after Tannehill hit Marcus Thigpen for a 14-yard score with 1:15 left, it was all on the Dolphins defense to hold on, all on the back-up cornerbacks, all on somebody to step up and make a play against one of the greatest comeback quarterbacks of our time. So on fourth down, with just seven seconds left, Thomas steps in front of a Brady bullet and squeezes the victory. The place erupts! There is so much life in Sun Life. A few minutes later, Thomas is sitting by his locker with bright lights shining in his face and questions coming at him like Brady spirals. He got here Tuesday. He doesn’t know many names yet. The defensive terminology is like a foreign language. But it doesn’t matter. When you are a hero, when you make the game-saving interception, everything else can wait. There were tears in his eyes as he spoke. “A crazy week,” Thomas said. “And a very special day.” Special for this entire football team. Special because they won a game they had to have against a team they had to beat. Yes, this was a huge step. And only as this season concludes will we find out how big it really was. ARTICLE BY ANDY COHEN
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