NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - INSIDE SLANT
The Miami Dolphins have proven again that home field is no advantage for the Cleveland Browns in season openers.
The Dolphins scored two touchdowns in the second half Sunday in FirstEnergy Stadium to win the season opener, 23-10, and spoil the debut of Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski. It was the 14th time in 15 years the Browns were beaten in the first game and the 13th time since 1999 they lost the season opener at home.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill put the Dolphins on top, 13-7, with a 34-yard pass play to Brian Hartline down the left sideline midway through the third period. After the Browns cut the lead to 13-10 on a 39-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff, the Dolphins went up by 10 as Daniel Thomas vaulted into the end zone from the 1 with 6:48 to play.
Hartline, picking up where he left off last season, finished with nine catches for 115 yards. Big-money acquisition Mike Wallace caught one pass for 15 yards. Wallace left the Steelers for Miami in a $60 million deal signed in March.
"I was just trying to do my part," Hartline said. "When I had the opportunity to make a big play I was able to do it."
Miami sealed the victory with 5:36 left when Cameron Wake sacked Brandon Weeden on fourth down at the Browns 25. Weeden was sacked six times. Wake had 2.5 of them.
"We felt good about the matchups going into the ballgame," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "The guys played hard up front. (Wake) loves football. He's obviously a skilled player."
The Browns eked out a 7-6 halftime lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Jordan Cameron with 28 seconds left in the second quarter despite Weeden throwing three interceptions in the first half.
Weeden was intercepted at the Miami 1 on the Browns first possession. He also had interceptions on passes that bounced off the hands of Browns receivers -- one was bobbled by Greg Little and other was a drop by Cameron.
"We didn't play well enough and missed some opportunities," Weeden said. "It isn't the way we drew it up. That's a good front. They get after the passer. But our offensive line is good. I wouldn't trade those guys for anybody."
All the Dolphins could get from the picks was two field goals by rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis.
Penalties hampered the Browns at critical junctures. An offsides penalty on third-and-4 on Browns' linebacker Paul Kruger triggered Sturgis' first field goal, a 45-yarder, and an illegal use of hands penalty on right guard Oniel Cousins erased an 18-yard pass play to former Dolphins' slot receiver Davone Bess. A holding penalty on Cousins erased a touchdown pass in the final minutes of the game.
"We didn't do enough to win," Cousins said. "I'm going to continue to get better as a player and clean up the little things like the penalties. I have to put the last play behind me."
Cousins is starting because Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston are injured.
Weeden's second interception was picked by former Browns cornerback Dimitri Patterson on a diving catch at the Browns 27. Sturgis put the dolphins ahead, 6-0, with a 49-yard field goal.
Patterson had two interceptions against his former team.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - NOTES, QUOTES
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a first-round pick drafted ahead of Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden in the 2012 draft, is 3-6 on the road. ...Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis, 9 of 9 on field goal tries in preseason, was three-for-three Sunday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When our defense plays like that, we have to score points off those turnovers." -- Dolphins center Mike Pouncey.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Wide receiver Brian Hartline looks like he'll be a focus of the Dolphins offense again. He caught 74 passes last year and caught nine Sunday.
But the disconnect between quarterback Ryan Tannehill and newcomer wide receiver Mike Wallace remains. Wallace caught one pass for 15 yards and responding to questions after the game about his role told reporters to "Ask coach."
--Tannehill can win on the road. He was 2-6 as a starter on the road last year and is 1-0 with a new supporting cast. Cleveland's defense might be underrated, and Tannehill delivered when he was needed most.