SEATTLE – There are few moral victories in the NFL. But what the Miami Dolphins accomplished in their regular-season opener is a rare exception.
The Dolphins lost to the Seattle Seahawks 12-10 at CenturyLink Field. That’s no surprise, especially because Miami was the league’s largest underdog (10.5) against the spread in Week 1. But there were plenty of times Sunday when you weren’t sure which team is rebuilding (Miami) and which team is a Super Bowl contender (Seattle).
Miami proved it will be a tough out week-to-week in the first season under head coach Adam Gase. The Dolphins had a good plan against Seattle on both sides of the ball to keep the game close until the fourth quarter and executed it well. That is already solid progress over much of the time under former coach Joe Philbin. The Seahawks trailed 10-6 until 31 seconds remained, when receiver Doug Baldwin caught a 2-yard touchdown reception.
The Dolphins’ defense mostly frustrated Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson by putting the responsibility on their talented defensive line. Miami was able to consistently apply pressure with their front four, and that made the difference. Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Jordan Phillips and Jason Jones all got a piece of Wilson for full or partial sacks.
The offense didn’t score many points, but certainly missed out on big opportunities that could have been the difference. Miami receiver Kenny Stills dropped a wide-open deep throw from Tannehill in the first half that would have been an easy touchdown. Gase also got aggressive in the first quarter by running the ball on fourth-and-inches and failed — Miami was in field goal position and could have taken the points. Add in a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter and that’s 13 points the Dolphins left on the field in a close game.
But there are more positives than negatives to be taken from this game for the Dolphins despite the loss. As their young roster gets more experience, they will eventually learn how to win these kinds of games against good teams.
Sunday’s game at Seattle was arguably the toughest on Miami’s schedule, and the Dolphins nearly aced a monumental test. The schedule will only get easier for Miami — and that’s a good thing moving forward.