Published October 15, 2012
MIAMI – Along the Miami Dolphins' sideline, players tracked the flight of the ball, leaning and twisting and hoping as they tried to influence its flight.
The kick sailed wide to end the game, and the Dolphins' celebration began. Field goal defense was one thing they did well Sunday, when they somehow held off the St. Louis Rams 17-14.
The Dolphins were outplayed for much of the game and outgained 462 yards to 192. They managed only 19 yards rushing, and their top-ranked run defense gave up 162 yards.
But Rams rookie Greg Zuerlein missed three field goal attempts, including a desperation 66-yarder on the final play.
"If you look at the stat sheet, you'd be surprised that we came out on top," Miami coach Joe Philbin said.
The victory left the Dolphins at 3-3 and in a four-way tie for the AFC East lead heading into their bye week.
The Rams missed a chance at their first three-game winning streak since 2006, and instead fell to 3-3 under coach Jeff Fisher. He lost to the team that courted him in January, when he chose the St. Louis job instead.
"We had a lot of opportunities to win this game," Fisher said, "but we didn't get it done."
The Rams scored their lone touchdown with 8½ minutes left, then moved 49 yards to face a fourth and 7 at the Miami 48-yard line with 30 seconds left. Rather than go for a first down, Fisher sent out Zuerlein to try a kick that would have been an NFL record by 3 yards.
The attempt appeared to have enough distance but missed wide left.
"I can make that kick. I just didn't come through," Zuerlein said. "I came across the ball a little bit. I should have made it."
He has been successful four times from 54 to 60 yards this season.
"The odds were much better for him to make the kick than us going for it," Fisher said. "He's got that kind of leg."
Zuerlein made his first two field goals to improve to 15 for 15 this season, then missed three times in a row, including wide left from 52 and 37 yards in the first half.
"I didn't do my job and I cost my team the game," he said.
Another rookie, Miami's Ryan Tannehill, went 21 for 29 for 185 yards with no turnovers. The rookie threw touchdown passes of 29 yards to Marlon Moore and 1 yard to Anthony Fasano.
Sam Bradford went 26 for 39 for 315 yards for the Rams, who struck for early gains of 44 and 65 yards. At halftime, St. Louis had outgained Miami 294-99 but trailed 10-6.
"We've got to find a way to score touchdowns and not kick field goals," Bradford said. "That really hurt us."
The Rams were down 17-6 before they finally got into the end zone when Bradford scored on a 1-yard sneak on fourth down. He juggled the ball as he held it over the goal line, but the call was upheld following a review.
Bradford then hit Steven Jackson with the 2-point conversion pass to make the score 17-14.
Two other key reviews also went against the Dolphins. They led by 11 points and appeared on the verge of pulling away when they recovered a fumble by Bradford on a sack midway through the third quarter. But the turnover was negated by a review, when the officials ruled the play an incomplete pass.
On the Rams' next possession, Chris Givens lost a fumble after a short catch, but again the ruling was changed to an incompletion following a look at the replay.
"A lot of real close calls," Fisher said. "Difficult, under-the-hood calls to make. But they got them right."
NOTES: Fisher and Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland chatted on the sideline during pregame warm-ups. ... St. Louis averaged 6.0 yards per carry against the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense. ... Miami rookie reserve Olivier Vernon had two sacks, including one on the play before Zuerlein's final kick. ... The Dolphins pulled off a fake punt to sustain a drive with four minutes left. ... The Rams still haven't won in Miami since Oct. 3, 1976.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL