The Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers concluded the AFC side of the Wildcard bracket with a Sunday afternoon contest. Miami came into the game as the sixth-seed while the Steelers, the AFC North champions, had claimed the third-seeded position in the bracket.
The game started out with Pittsburgh running and throwing all over the Dolphins, with Antonio Brown doing most of the early damage with a 50-yard and a 62-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Le’Veon Bell then started doing just about whatever he wanted to do.
Miami kept in the game, somehow, coming up with two field goals stay within 14 points thanks to a missed extra point on the Steelers’ third touchdown of the day, this one coming from Bell. Miami moved the ball well late in the half and appeared to be in position to move within a touchdown after a Michael Thomas interception and some good throws from Matt Moore. However, a fumble killed Miami’s chances just before the end of the half.
The second half started just like the first half ended. Miami got the ball first, only to have Moore fumble. After holding the Steelers to a field goal, Moore threw an interception on the Dolphins next offensive play.
Miami never recovered and the Steelers are moving on in the Playoffs while the Dolphins are going home.
Today was ugly all around. The offense could not get going, or, if it did find a rhythm, there was a turnover coming. Matt Moore lost two fumbles and threw an interception. Add in the 2-yard run on 4th-and-4, and he gave away the ball too many times. The defense had no answer for the Steelers’ attack, both with Antonio Brown and with Le’Veon Bell.
Miami seemed to climb into the game a couple of times, but then they fucking imploded. At the end of the day, however, this was a team that was expected to be 4-12 or 6-10 this year, and instead was 10-6 and in the Playoffs. There are things that need to be fixed, and the team has to get healthy and deeper for next year, but they over-acheived this year, and now have a taste of winning football. Next year, hopefully, they can put it together again and make it back to the postseason, and potentially make a run deeper into the playoffs.
This season is all about taking those first steps toward fixing the franchise. Rather than a baby-step forward, Miami took a giant leap toward ending this mediocrity stretch. Backing it up next year will be key.