Dolphins not perfect, but handle Browns in opener
Mike Wallace's speediest route may have been the one from Miami's locker room to the bus.
Following the Dolphins' 23-10 win Sunday over the Browns, an upset Wallace didn't want to discuss his forgettable debut with his new team. The lightning-fast wide receiver, who signed a five-year, $30-million free-agent contract with Miami in March after spending four seasons as Pittsburgh's over-the-top threat, was visibly upset after catching just one pass for 15 yards.
''Ask coach,'' was all Wallace offered when poked for comment.
Wallace was only targeted on three passes - none in the first half - by second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed 16 passes to Brian Hartline (9) and Brandon Gibson (7) in the win. Wallace was signed to help Tannehill, and he'll have 15 more games to live up to his contract, assuming, that is, the Dolphins make him a bigger part of the game plan than they did against the Browns.
The Dolphins won despite gaining just 20 yards rushing. Coach Joe Philbin acknowledged that formula won't work often.
''That's not a good way to live in the NFL, you've gotta have balance,'' Philbin said.
Wallace seemed to put his personal interests ahead of the team, but Tannehill said the speedster helped as decoy.
''They were clouding up on Mike, which was singling up Hartline on the back side, so it's kind of one of those things,'' said Tannehill, who played wide receiver at Texas A&M before switching to quarterback. ''It's frustrating for Mike but then it opens up the other side for Hartline.''
Wallace's situation is worth monitoring, and so will the days ahead for the Browns, who dropped to 1-14 in season openers since 1999 and disappointed a crowd brimming with optimism.
Here are five things to know from watching the Dolphins bash the Browns:
1. TANNEHILL'S TALENT: Miami's young QB displayed polish and poise.
He finished 24 of 38 for 272 yards and one touchdown, a beautifully thrown 34-yarder to Hartline in the third quarter. Tannehill waited for Hartline to make a second move on cornerback Buster Skrine before hitting him in stride down the left sideline.
But Tannehill shined most on Miami's game-clinching, 85-yard TD drive in the fourth. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 78 yards to set up Daniel Thomas' 1-yard plunge.
''Any quarterback's job is to get the ball in the end zone,'' Tannehill said. ''It felt really good, we got into a rhythm.''
2. WEEDEN'S WOES: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden got treated roughly by Miami's defense and some Cleveland fans.
He threw three interceptions - two on deflections off receiver's hands - and was sacked six times. Weeden was officially hit 16 times by Miami's defense, which teed off on Browns second-year right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and fill-in right guard Oneil Cousins, who was called for two holding penalties, a false start and a hands-to-the-face infraction.
Weeden went 26 of 53 for 289 yards, respectable numbers. But he forced a few passes and heard scattered boos from Browns backers in the final minutes.
3. WAKE-UP CALL: Miami's Cameron Wake spent his afternoon in Cleveland's backfield.
He recorded 2 1/2 sacks, hurried Weeden several times and was arguably the best player on the field. Wake's pressure forced the Browns to keep a running back near Weeden for protection, but that didn't even work.
Wake is the leader of a strong, deep defensive line that includes rookie Dion Jordan, who registered his first career sack in the final two minutes.
''We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things pretty well,'' Wake said. ''We have guys who can stand up, that can drop, rush the middle, rush the outside.''
4. MISERY LOVES COMPANY: Rob Chudzinski's debut as Cleveland's coach went the same way as it has for his six predecessors.
The Browns have not won in an opener for any of their first-year coaches since Bud Carson in 1989. Bill Belichick (1991), Chris Palmer (1991), Butch Davis (2001), Romeo Crennel (2005), Eric Mangini (2007) and Pat Shurmur (2011) all lost their first games with Cleveland.
The performance may have been an eye opener to Chudzinski and his staff, who have one of the NFL's youngest teams.
''There were points in the game where I thought we were going to get over the hump but we weren't able to do it,'' he said.
5. HOMETOWN HERO: Hartline is from just down the road in Canton, but he made Cleveland look like his backyard.
The former Ohio State wideout took advantage of the Browns' decision to focus on Wallace and finished with nine catches for 114 yards. In addition to his 34-yard TD, Hartline caught three passes on Miami's final TD drive.
''I was just trying to do my part,'' Hartline said. ''We started kind of slowly as an offense. We could have definitely gotten off to a better start. We kind of let the plays come to us, so I was there when the team needed us to move the chains. I had the opportunity to make a big play and I was able to do it.''
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