The Dolphins (7-5) made it only once themselves in a 16-12 victory Sunday. Instead, they relied on stingy play from a defense that got routed last week by the Patriots to secure their fifth victory in six games.
“I think we had a hold on the game,” Miami running back Ricky Williams said. “We didn’t run away with it, but we kept them at enough distance.”
Miami and St. Louis had the top two picks of the draft and the Rams (2-10) are likely to get another early selection next April after losing their sixth in a row. They settled for ending a string of blowout losses behind Jackson, who had 94 yards on 21 carries, and tackle Orlando Pace, who missed only one game with a knee strain.
But they were undone by mistakes in the second half against a franchise that’s quickly become competitive after going 1-15 last season. Jackson had one carry in the fourth quarter as he returned from a strained right thigh, although he disagreed with coach Jim Haslett’s assessment that he was “gassed and his leg was starting to bother him.”
“No, I wasn’t gassed,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t my conditioning. I wish he’d stop saying that.”
Marc Bulger, sidelined by a concussion last week against the Bears, threw three interceptions in the second half—the clincher by Andre’ Goodman at the Dolphins 5 with 35 seconds to go. Renaldo Hill’s second pick in two games set up Dan Carpenter’s third field goal for the final score with 6:39 left.
Hill said Bulger had a tendency to lock in on targets.
“If you could just get a jump or take a gamble here or there, we knew where the ball was going,” Hill said. “He wasn’t doing too much looking off, so it did give guys a great chance to jump on balls.”
Against a team that has scored one touchdown the past four games, a 4-point lead was plenty of cushion. The Dolphins won consecutive road games for the first time since early in 2006.
Torched for 48 points and 530 yards last week by the Patriots, they limited the Rams to 278 yards to compensate for their own spotty play on offense.
“We just had some inconsistency,” said quarterback Chad Pennington, who was 13-for-23 for 166 yards. “It was a grind all day.”
The Rams got a perfect day from kicker Josh Brown, who matched his season best with four field goals in four attempts. Bulger was far from perfect, going 16-for-35 for 149 yards.
“It’s been like that all year in the red zone, we’re just not getting the job done,” Haslett said. “You’re not going to win kicking field goals in this league.”
The head-to-head matchup of the first two picks, both named Long, was probably was a draw. Dolphins tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall selection, had a false start on the first play of the game while Rams defensive end Chris Long had one quarterback pressure.
Jake Long said there was no braggadocio on either side.
“No, nothing like that,” he said. “Like I’ve said throughout the week, he’s relentless.”
Buoyed by Jackson’s return, the Rams’ 6-0 lead after the first quarter was their first lead in four games to end a horrible stretch in which they were outscored 99-6 in the first half. They had possession for more than 17 minutes and Jackson wasn’t exactly eased back in with 16 touches and 88 yards in the half.
But as they have all season, the Rams failed to finish drives, and two of Brown’s field goals in the half were chip shots. Carpenter’s 37-yarder at the end of the half put the Dolphins ahead 10-7. The Rams entered the game last in the NFL inside the 20, totaling five touchdowns in only 17 trips.
Dolphins C Justin Smiley (right ankle) was helped off the field midway through the first quarter. He was wearing a walking boot and on crutches after the game and will undergo an MRI exam Monday. … Rams G Richie Incognito became lightheaded near halftime, requiring IV fluids, and rookie John Greco replaced him the rest of the game. … Carpenter has made 11 straight field goal attempts, and his 47-yarder in the third quarter matched his season best. … The Dolphins had only middling success with their “Wildcat” offense, gaining 2 yards on two carries—one each by Brown and Ricky Williams. David Martin lost a fumble on a third play after a 23-yard reception.