MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — You’d have thought it was Game 6 of the 1977 World Series the way the fans were chanting “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.”
That was the game Reggie Jackson clouted three home runs for the New York Yankees. And in Sunday’s 35-13 win over Oakland, Miami had a guy playing long ball as well.
For the first 2 ½ quarters Reggie Bush averaged 2.8 yards on his 14 carries. But, suddenly, in a game that had been dominated by punts, the running back broke four tackles for a 23-yard touchdown jaunt and a 14-10 Dolphins lead.
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Two carries later, on Miami’s next possession, Bush broke loose down the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run. The fans at Sun Life Stadium chanted, “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.” It continued at times the rest of the game even after some Bush runs of three or four yards.
“It feels good, obviously,” said Bush, who finished with 172 yards on 26 carries for the second-best rushing game of his seven-year career. “I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t. It’s great to hear that and know that the fans are there cheering you on and rooting for you.”
Bush coming alive changed the entire complexion of the game. It took pressure off Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who looked like a different guy the rest of the way.
Before Bush’s first TD, Tannehill completed 12 of 22 passes for 108 yards. The rest of the game, he was six of eight for 92 yards and threw his first career touchdown pass, a 14-yarder to tight end Anthony Fasano early in the fourth quarter that put the Dolphins up 28-13. Then it was just a matter of time before rookie Miami head coach Joe Philbin had his first win and got a water-bucket dousing from players that he said “caught me off guard but was good.”
“It’s huge,” Tannehill said of how Bush’s running helped the passing game. “It’s tough running the ball in the National Football League and, when you’re able to have an explosive player like Reggie who can make tough yards and take it the distance, it adds a whole other element.”
Could Bush’s big runs end up changing the face of the Dolphins’ season? Before he broke loose, the Dolphins had gone 0-4 in the preseason and were coming off a 30-10 drubbing in last Sunday’s opener at Houston. And they had done little on offense against the Raiders.
Suddenly, though, Miami looks to have more dangerous weapons. Tannehill, whose final stats were 18 of 30 for 200 yards with no interceptions, was poised, and wide receiver Brian Hartline has added life to once-moribund receiving corps. Hartline, who missed the entire preseason due to a calf injury and didn’t catch his first regular-season pass until the fourth quarter against the Texans, hauled in nine balls Sunday for 111 yards.
And Bush’s boasting must be taken more seriously. Bush, confident after closing last season with more than 500 yards in his final four games, talked about winning the rushing title this year.
“I felt like it was a complete game (Sunday), but I’m not sure if it was my best game,” said Bush, who rushed for 203 yards last December at Buffalo and has 241 yards in this season’s first two games. “I’ll leave that to (the media). For me, I just wanted to play a complete game, catching the ball, running the ball.”
Bush also caught three passes for 25 yards, all of those yards coming on a 25-yard reception early in the fourth quarter that added to his hot second half. Bush got some support in the running game from Lamar Miller, a rookie from the University of Miami who carried 10 times for 65 yards in his NFL debut and concluded Miami’s scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run.
Now, there’s some pro football excitement back in South Florida. Next Sunday, the Dolphins (1-1) play host to the New York Jets with, as crazy as it sounds, first place in the AFC East on the line. A win would put the Dolphins in no worse than a tie for the top.
“It’s great for our fans,” tight end Anthony Fasano said of Miami winning its home opener for the first time since 2005. “They’ve been through a lot, and we all appreciate their support, and they deserve these home wins.”
After hauling in Tannehill’s first career touchdown pass, Fasano said he was “absent minded” and flipped it to an official. A Dolphins equipment manager, though, retrieved the ball with plans to give it to Tannehill even if Fasano joked he might try to get it back himself.
“I’m going to try to find it and just hold it as a little collateral,” Fasano said. “When he gets into the Hall of Fame, I’ll sell it back to him or sell it to Canton or something . . . I have sticky fingers. I’ll go snatch it somewhere.”
Tannehill also scored his first NFL touchdown, running in from 2 yards on Miami’s first drive before the Dolphins ended up punting on their next six possessions. Tannehill said he doesn’t need the football from the rushing TD but does vow he’ll “find somewhere” to put the one from his first passing TD.
The game ball, though, goes to Bush. If he doesn’t break lose for those two TD runs in the third quarter, perhaps Tannehill doesn’t finish as strong as he did. Perhaps Philbin doesn’t get wet.
“It was good to feel that momentum,” Philbin said. “(Bush’s scores) give juice and energy to the whole ball club.”
One Reggie 35 years ago was the straw that stirred the drink for the Yankees. Another Reggie has provided juice to a very thirsty Miami team.