The Miami Dolphins, in fact, scored 31 points against the Chicago Bear. But in a wild game of big swings and bigger answers, of fun-house entertainment with a fun ending for South Florida fans, the Dolphins beat Bears in overtime, 31-28.
Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1. Plays of the game — just in overtime: 1) On third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake bounced off Chicago defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, seemed to have a lane into the end zone and, with it, a likely win. Hicks did just enough to cause Drake to lose the ball. The Bears recovered; 2) Cody Parkey’s 53-yard field goal attempt to win the game in overtime sails wide right. This came with a back story: Parkey was signed by Chicago from the Dolphins to a four-year, $15 million deal this offseason. 3) Parkey’s replacement, rookie Jason Sanders, kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left for the winner. In a game of big plays, this became the deciding one.
2. Brock Osweiler did far better than you hoped, right? The numbers say as much: 28-of-44 passing for a career-high 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Who saw that against the great Bears defense? It started for Osweiler on the second series of the game with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 5-yard pass to Nick O’Leary. And it continued right to the end, when his short pass to Albert Wilson resulted in a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game at 28-28 with a few minutes to play. Sure, there was a big mistake thrown in at the end of the second half with Chicago just having tied it at 7-7. Osweiler threw a sideline route to Wilson that Chicago cornerback Kyle Fuller stepped in front of, intercepted and returned to 35 yards to the Miami 12-yard line. But you fold that into the larger day and shrug it off as just part of a NFL afternoon. Here’s the larger point: Osweiler didn’t just keep them in it. He made plays. He directed the offense. He did, in short, no worse than any Sunday’s hope for Ryan Tannehill over the past seven years.
3. The Dolphins defense had three takeaways on Sunday. That gives them 14 for the year (11 interceptions, three fumble recoveries). They had 15 takeaways all last year. A few veteran defenders keep showing their worth — and explain why this defense is playing so well: A) Reshad Jones keeps making big plays, even evidently with a reportedly partial tear in the labrum in his right shoulder. On Sunday, on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter, Jones stopped Chicago running back Tarik Cohen for no gain by filling the kind of hole and making the kind of hit he’s done for a while. B) When Kiko Alonso brought in a fumble at the goal line to end a Chicago threat in the first half, it kept alive the narrative of Alonso’s year and this defense’s turnovers. Alonso entered the year second in the league in tackles. He also caused a fumble late in the fourth quarter Xavien Howard recovered and gave the offense a chance to win the game from the Bears’ 45-yard line (that chance failed); C) T.J. McDonald intercepted Bears QB Mitch Trubisky in the end zone early in the fourth quarter with Chicago ready to put away the game.
4. Kahlil Mack? Did anyone see him? He was in on two tackles on Sunday. That’s it. No sacks. No tackles. No strip-sacks and fumble recoveries like he had done four times this year. Nothing close to the destructive play Mack had done since coming over from Oakland before this season. Give full credit to right tackle Ja’Wuan James (and left tackle Laremy Tunsil when Mack switched there briefly). Give credit to a scheme that helped them. He was such a non-factor the question is whether Mack was hurt. The one thing the Dolphins couldn’t let happen Sunday was Mack single-handedly beating them. He didn’t.
5. One of the questions entering Sunday was about this supposedly re-built team “culture.” They didn’t compete at New England. They fell apart in the fourth quarter at Cincinnati. Where was this culture, as I asked in a column entering Sunday’s game? Entering Sunday without their starting quarterback only raised the stakes in this question. Down a touchdown with three minutes to go only raised it more. And they kept answering. You don’t expect to have to praise pro athletes for playing hard. So this isn’t a praise. It is an observation, though, that when a lot of things were stacking against them they kept responding in a way you’d hope.
6. Mitch Trubisky looked lost at times in the first half, but found what he needed as the game went on: Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer. Wherever McTyer line up, Trubisky was throwing. The Dolphins’ disappointing play at cornerback in preseason, coupled with Bobby McCain’s injury, has led to this. Among the notable plays against McTyer: A 47-yard pass to Taylor Gabriel in the second quarter; A 54-yard pass to Gabriel in the third quarter. Just after that second deep pass to Gabriel, McTyer was replaced by Cordrea Tankersley. Trubisky completed 22-of-31 passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
7. DeVante Parker returned from a season of more injury on Sunday — and returned in a manner we’ve come to expect. He had no catches and only one target. That came when Brock Osweiler badly underthrew a ball just before half. Parker didn’t make a play on it and the result was an easy interception by Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller. This has been a regular question about Parker, as I wrote in a column at New England last season. The simple idea is if a receiver can’t catch a pass try to assure the defender doesn’t intercept it. At least make it difficult. Even when Parker is on the field, he’s not making the kind of plays fourth-year receivers need to make.
8. How about Frank Gore? At 35, he carried 15 times for 101 yards. Also, when the Dolphins picked up Nick O’Learyoff the street after Buffalo cut him, he started Sunday and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Osweiler to start the scoring. That started a good day by O’Leary, too. This is a good-news-bad-news thing, as some will take it. That O’Leary came in and produced so quickly is a credit to him and to the Dolphins front office for grabbing him. Then again, he started over second-round pick Mike Gesicki and fourth-rounder Durham Smythe. That’s the bad news of some sort. Here’s my thought: The idea is to get players, no matter how they come. The Dolphins lost two tight ends to injury A.J. Derby and MarQueis Gray. O’Leary came in right away and produced. That’s what matters. Maybe that buys Gesicki and Smythe more time. Maybe they both don’t make it. But O’Leary looked ready to produce more at tight end than they’ve had the last several years. Again, that’s what matters.
10. Next week: Detroit Lions at Dolphins. The Dolphins’ run through the NFC North continues with a team that’s unpredictable. And a team that, like Chicago, is coming off a bye week. The 2-3 Lions have lost to the middling Jets, Cowboys and the 49ers this year. But they’ve defeated great quarterbacks against New England and Green Bay.