BY DAVE HYDE
SUN SENTINEL/ MCT
CLEVELAND – They got the win. They didn’t get answers. And the biggest one was the first out of the locker room Sunday, leaving celebrating teammates behind to walk down a stadium concourse with his face set in stone.
“Ask coach,” Mike Wallace said, the words coming with steam on them. “It’s not my game plan.”
Did he not like the game plan? “Ask coach,” he said after the Dolphins’ 23-10 win.
Did he expect the ball thrown to him more? “Ask coach,” he said.
And so it starts
The season. The drama. And the question, even beyond Wallace’s temperament after a win, of whether the Dolphins filled enough holes this offseason to make more than a hopeful stab at the playoffs.
Their strengths of years past remain their strengths as this first Sunday showed. Cameron Wake led a defense that had three interceptions, six sacks and held Cleveland to a telling 1 of 14 on third-down conversions.
But the Dolphins’ weaknesses still remain their weaknesses, too. The offensive line that struggled? The running game that averaged less than a yard per carry? Wasn’t this supposed to be fixed through another offseason of moves?
Then there was the home-run hitter, the $60 million buy this offseason, who had one catch for 15 yards. Again, a win is win. But, again, if Wallace is this unhappy with a win, what will he be like after a loss?
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, walking down the stadium hallway to the team bus. “Ask coach.”
Don’t say it’s just one game. Don’t say it’s a winning start. For anyone to think this Dolphins’ season moves beyond the previous years, you need to see some differences from years past on this offense.
The only difference you saw Sunday from those haunted seasons of the recent past was Ryan Tannehill threw this offense out of trouble in the fourth quarter. That’s not something to sniff at. It’s big. It’s tangible.
Tannehill took over at the 15-yard line early in the fourth quarter of a game up for grabs.
And he had a message in the huddle that said he’s grown up.
“This is a big-time drive for us,” he said. “We’ve got to put points on the board and finish off this game.”
Great from good
These possessions separate the great from the good from the quarterbacks who get replaced. Tannehill had been good much of the day. But on this drive he was at his best.
Zip. Twenty-four yards to Brandon Gibson. Zoom. Sixteen yards to Brian Hartline.
Down the field Tannehill took this offense, completing 6-of-7 passes for 78 yards on a game-sealing drive that ended with Daniel Thomas scoring from 2 yards.
“We finally got in a comfort zone and took advantage of what they were giving us,” said Tannehill, who completed 24-of-38 passes for 272 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The Dolphins ranked 27th in scoring last year. They got rid of tackle Jake Long, receiver Davone Bess and running back Reggie Bush, who on Sunday had 191 yards of offense for Detroit.
Bush wouldn’t have got that Sunday with the Dolphins. But Lamar Miller had 10 rushes for three yards before going out with apparent hamstring issues. The rushing offense had 20 yards total.
How much will they miss Bush? And how to get Wallace the ball?
For starters, they have to look at him. In the first half, Wallace wasn’t thrown to. That was a halftime discussion, because two passes were thrown to him on the first second-half possession. He had two deep passes thrown to him that didn’t connect.
“He’s going to have a lot of passes thrown to him, believe me,” Tannehill said.
Wallace left the locker, upset in victory, as a lot of Dolphins should have been on offense on some level. They got the win they wanted. But they didn’t get the answers they need for this season to succeed.