MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Cameron Wake’s overtime safety did more than win a game for the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.
It very well prevented the Dolphins from drifting through the season’s second half with a feeling of despair.
Instead of capping an especially tough week by extending a losing streak to five games, the Dolphins (4-4) earned a 22-20 overtime victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. The officials ruled Wake sacked Andy Dalton in the end zone with 6:38 left in the extra period to end it.
“It’s never a dull moment,” defensive end Wake said in an early morning press conference. “There’s always something going on, and that’s what makes football such a great game. You have to literally put blinders on, whether it’s the heat, whether you’re tired … none of those things matter. All that matters is doing your job to the best of your ability, making the play whatever it is.”
Wake’s third sack secured a victory that brought smiles to a locker room that had been full of blank stares in recent days. There was Sunday’s second-half collapse in a loss at New England, where slot receiver Brandon Gibson was lost for the season.
After the game, center Mike Pouncey was handed a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in connection with the Aaron Hernandez investigation. Early in the week, tackle Jonathan Martin left the team because he reportedly was tired of being bullied.
The win moved all that to the side for at least a night.
“It feels great, man,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said of the win. “We can sleep easy now until next week. It came down to the wire, and we finally finished.”
The Dolphins led 10-3 after a first half in which they ran for 142 yards. Lamar Miller had 89 of his 105 rushing yards in the first 30 minutes behind a line that included right tackle Tyson Clabo.
Clabo, a starter who was benched for last week’s game, took Martin’s place against Cincinnati.
“It felt awesome,” Clabo said of returning to the field. “We had energy all game, even when things weren’t going our way, there was still positive energy the whole time. We just knew somehow or another we were going to pull it out.”
They pulled it out partly because the Dolphins benefited from four Cincinnati turnovers, including three Dalton interceptions.
Cornerback Brent Grimes had a 94-yard pick-six midway through the third quarter when Cincinnati was driving for a tying touchdown.
“It feels real good,” Grimes said. “I don’t feel good right now. I’ve never been this tired, cramps in both calves. It was just a fighting game. It was long, that third quarter was long, but we just fought and it showed a lot of character for our defense.
“We needed this win, big time.”
In overtime, receiver Mike Wallace appeared headed for a long game-winning reception until he was tripped up by cornerback Terence Newman for pass interference. The Dolphins punted four plays later, but that pinned back the Bengals and set up Wake’s decisive sack.
“I was a little bit upset, I really wanted to score a touchdown,” Wallace said. “I never scored in overtime.
“It was a big play for our team. It flipped the field with that play. Without that, I don’t think we would have gotten the safety.”
The victory meant the Dolphins can rest a few days before playing at currently winless Tampa Bay on Monday night next week.
“Wins kind of cure a lot of different things, lifts everybody’s spirits,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “It was good to see everybody came in here focused and with the attitude to finish because last week we didn’t finish the second half.”