Miami 30, Cleveland 24
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, September 25, 2016
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
MIAMI -- Perhaps it wasn't quite total redemption. But Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi will take whatever he can get these days.
Just two weeks after not even making the trip to Seattle for Miami's season-opener against the Seahawks, Ajayi wound up scoring the game-winning touchdown from 11 yards out with 8:26 left overtime on Sunday afternoon as the Dolphins knocked off the Cleveland Browns 30-24 in newly-renovated Hard Rock Stadium.
It was a win that turned out to be much tougher than the Dolphins bargained for as they squandered a 24-13 fourth quarter lead but picked up their first win of the season, avoiding their first 0-3 start since 2011.
Ajayi found his way into Miami head coach Adam Gase's doghouse when he expressed his unhappiness when learning that he would not start over Arian Foster. But none of that seemed to matter on Sunday when Ajayi was in the end zone celebrating his winning score.
"We did it, we pulled it off, a deep sigh of relief," said Ajayi, who certainly was no workhorse, carrying the ball just seven times for 28 yards, when asked what went through his mind when he crossed the goal line. "We definitely didn't want to be in that situation, of course (having to go to overtime) but that's just how the game ended up in my hands and I just wanted to make sure I got in the end zone."
Ajayi's score was set up one play earlier when quarterback Ryan Tannehill found Jarvis Landry for a 32-yard pass play to the 11. Tannehill finished his day 23 for 35 for 269 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We knew that their corner would be aggressive because he had been aggressive all day and just used what he had been doing to our advantage," said Landry. "I put a double move on him and Ryan and I hooked up and Jay (Ajayi) made history. The win today was huge, a definite morale booster and what this team needed. I've watched these guys around here bleed and cry and to see them celebrate the way they did was just great to see."
It looked like there would be no celebrating in the Miami locker room as the Browns appeared primed to win it in regulation. When linebacker Corey Lemonier shot through and sacked Tannehill, stripped the ball and fell on it at the Miami 29 with just 22 seconds left, Cleveland was primed for its first win of the season after an 0-2 start.
But new placekicker Cody Parkey, just signed the day before, missed wide left from 46 yards out, his third miss of the day, on the final play of regulation.
"Yes, but I don't have a great answer for you right now until I go back and take a look at the film," said Gase when asked about his team's struggles on both sides of the ball during the game and the blown fourth quarter lead. "I'll get to correcting the mistakes that we're making and adjusting to get ready for Cincinnati."
The Dolphins trailed 13-10 at the half but rallied behind Tannehill's arm. They took the lead when they went 68 yards in just four plays, Tannehill connecting with Landry, who juked a pair of Browns defenders on his way to the end zone, for a 42-yard catch-and-run score to go up 17-13 with 5:12 left in the third. Miami extended its lead to 24-13 just 43 seconds into the fourth quarter when Tannehill found Damien Williams on a 10-yard scoring pass.
Cleveland trimmed Miami's lead to 24-21 with 10:12 left when wildcat quarterback Terrelle Pryor skirted around the left side from three yards out. The touchdown came just two plays after Miami defensive end Cameron Wake had sacked and stripped Kessler of the ball and Jelani Jenkins returned the loose ball to midfield. But the play was nullified when Wake was called for offsides. Cody Kessler found Gary Barnidge for the two-point conversion.
Miami got on the scoreboard first when Tannehill found DeVante Parker over the middle for a 26-yard scoring pass with 10:16 left in the first quarter. Trailing 7-3, the Browns took a 10-7 lead with 6:47 left in the first half when Briean Boddy-Calhoun picked off a Tannehill pass and returned it 27 yards for a score.
"It felt good to come back home but this was a tough loss today," said Cleveland running back Duke Johnson who played his high school and college ball in South Florida and finished the day with 65 yards on nine carries. "We had plenty of opportunities, especially there at the end but it didn't happen for us and we'll just have to move on from here."
NOTES: Miami RB Kenyan Drake started in place of Arian Foster, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Week 2 game against New England. ... It was homecoming day for Browns RB Duke Johnson, who played his high school football just a few miles from Hard Rock Stadium and college ball at the University of Miami. ... Officials removed Browns QB Cody Kessler from the game at one point to go through a concussion protocol. Kessler was cleared and allowed to return to the game.
Top Game Performances
Team Stats Summary
Miami will play their next game on the road against Cincinnati. The Dolphins have a W/L % of .000 after a win and .333 after a loss.
Cleveland will play their next game on the road against Washington. The Browns have a W/L % of .000 after a win and .000 after a loss.