The Miami Dolphins took care of business on the road in Cleveland as they beat the Browns 23-10 in the 2013 regular season opener.
Although Miami's start to the game was disappointing, they scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal the comeback victory. Considering the team's slow start out of the gate, there is definitely room for improvement moving forward especially out of the offensive line and rushing attack. However, the fact that the Dolphins emerged with the win is more significant than any stat to come out of this game.
The aspects of the team that struggled will be addressed during the week, instead, let's take a look at the impressive performances that proved crucial for the Dolphins to start the season in the win column:
1) Dolphins defense
We knew this defense had potential to be an elite unit in 2013 but they proved it in Week 1. As a unit they recorded six sacks, with Cameron Wake recording 2.5, Randy Starks tallying 1.5 and Derrick Shelby adding one of his own. Rookie Dion Jordan recorded his first career NFL sack even though there was a facemask penalty on the play. Kevin Coyle's blitzes were effective and generated consistent pressure on Brandon Weeden throughout the course of the game, something that was nonexistent last season.
Coming into this game the Dolphins secondary was thought to be a weakness, however that wasn't the case in Cleveland. After Joe Philbin stressed the importance of winning the turnover battle, his defense did just that and came up with three interceptions. Nolan Carroll recorded the first of the game, making an acrobatic catch on the goal line. In his first game against his former team, Dimitri Patterson picked off Weeden twice while Miami's defense also forced the Browns to turn the ball over on downs.
2) Ryan Tannehill
Anyone who looks at the stat line won't make much of Tannehill's 24-for-38 passing for 272 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 82.3 quarterback rating. However, he led the team to a comeback victory in the second half where the Dolphins outcored the Browns 17-3. Considering the struggles of the offensive line, the inability of the running game to get going and the fact that his receivers dropped several catchable passes, Tannehill's performance was actually quite impressive. For the most part, he made good decisions and made several difficult throws in order to keep the chains moving. Perhaps his most impressive pass of the day was a perfectly placed ball to Brian Hartline down the sideline that resulted in a 34 yard touchdown. If Tannehill continues to perform like he did today, the Dolphins will be in good shape this season.
3) Brandon Gibson
Ryan Tannehill lost a saftely valve when Dustin Keller went down with a season ending knee injury but he may have found a new one in Brandon Gibson. Gibson appeared to be Tannehill's go-to-target as the pair connected seven times for 77 yards. Despite dropping what would have been a first down recpetion early in the first quarter, Gibson settled in nicely and proved that he could gain the tough yards after the catch and register first downs.
1) Brian Hartline
Hartline led the Dolphins in receiving with nine catches for 114 yards including the 34 yard touchdown. After developing chemistry with Tannehill last season on route to 1000 yards receiving for Hartline, the two picked up right where they left off. Despite the offseason additions, Hartline proved that he is still a crucial part of this offense.
2) Caleb Sturgis
Sturgis drilled a 45 yard attempt for his first NFL regular season field goal and finished 3-for-3 while he repeatedly forced a touch back on his kickoffs. The rookie has been impressive thus far and is living up to his fifth round draft status.
Miami did what they needed to do in order to be recognized as serious contenders for an AFC playoff spot ahead of next week's matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Enjoy the win Dolphins fans, it feels good to be 1-0.