CLEVELAND — As long as he’s Miami’s quarterback, Ryan Tannehill will play in Dan Marino’s shadow.
Someday, he hopes to cast his own.
Tannehill, surrounded by more offensive weapons in his second NFL season, passed for 272 yards and a touchdown, leading the Dolphins to a 23-10 win on Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, who lost their ninth straight opener and fell to 1-14 in Week 1 since 1999.
Tannehill threw a 34-yard TD pass to Brian Hartline in the third quarter, and completed 6 of 7 passes for 78 yards on the Dolphins’ game-clinching TD drive in the fourth.
“Any quarterback’s job is to get the ball in the end zone,” Tannehill said, downplaying his role in a win where Miami had several stars.
Daniel Thomas had a 1-yard scoring plunge with 6:48 left, putting the Dolphins up by 10, and Miami then handed it over to a defense that recorded six sacks and pummeled quarterback Brandon Weeden from start to finish. Defensive end Cameron Wake had 2½ sacks and Dimitri Patterson had two of the Dolphins’ three interceptions.
It’s only one win. But for the Dolphins, who have had four consecutive losing seasons, it’s a big step.
“If you’re the same team you are Week 1 that you are Week 17, 16, then you’re not making very good strides, you’re probably not a postseason team,” said Hartline, who had nine catches for 114 yards. “We’re hoping to grow.”
Tannehill went 7-9 as a starter during an up-and-down rookie season (12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions), but the former first-round pick showed the Dolphins enough promise that they invested more in his future. The club signed free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, and re-signed Hartline to a five-year, $30 million contract.
The first game of his second season couldn’t have gone much better for Tannehill, but coach Joe Philbin was cautious with his praise.
“First glance, I thought he played pretty well,” Philbin offered.
For the Browns, coach Rob Chudzinski’s opener was like so many previous ones.
Cleveland hasn’t won its first home game since 2004, and despite some renewed energy with the addition of better players, the Browns haven’t changed. Weeden finished 26 of 53 for 289 yards and one TD, but he was plagued by several drops and his offensive line was manhandled.
“It’s not the way we drew it up,” Weeden said. “We’re all going to learn from this. There’s no reason to point any fingers.”
Rookie Caleb Sturgis kicked field goals of 49, 45 and 36 yards for the Dolphins, who were leading 13-10 when Tannehill took the Dolphins 85 yards to set up Thomas’ short TD.
Tannehill opened the drive with completions of 24 yards to Gordon and 16 to Hartline. Tannehill moved the Dolphins down the field without once hooking up with Wallace, who had just one catch for 15 yards and didn’t want to discuss his performance with reporters afterward.
“Ask coach,” said Wallace, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Dolphins in March after four seasons with Pittsburgh.
Tannehill didn’t get any boost from Miami’s running game as the Dolphins were held to 20 yards on 23 carries.
“That’s not a good way to live in the NFL, you’ve gotta have balance,” Philbin said. “Obviously we did not have that.”
Weeden was missing top wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is suspended for the first two games for violating the league’s drug policy. Gordon would have helped some, but the Browns also hurt themselves with nine penalties and couldn’t get running back Trent Richardson away from Miami’s tacklers. He had 47 yards on 13 carries, but none in the fourth.
“It’s just the first game,” Richardson said, trying to point out a positive after the disappointing loss. “Don’t get it wrong. We’re going to come back and play hard. This season ain’t over with.”
Tannehill connected with Hartline in the third quarter to give the Dolphins a 13-7 lead.
Three plays after Browns safety T.J. Ward dropped a possible interception in the end zone, Tannehill waited for Hartline to run a double move and get past cornerback Buster Skrine before hitting his wide receiver in stride down the left sideline.
Weeden and the Browns’ offense overcame a bizarre, ugly first half — five penalties, three interceptions — to somehow lead 7-6 at halftime.
With 28 seconds left, Weeden hit a leaping Jordan Cameron in the back of the end zone for Cleveland’s lone TD, a score that brought a fist pump from Chudzinski, a lifelong Browns fan who landed his dream job and knows he has a lot of work to do with one of the league’s youngest teams.
“A disappointing game and a tough start,” Chudzinski said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played this season.”
NOTES: Dolphins rookie DE Dion Jordan picked up his first sack with 1:55 left, his only tackle. …. It was Wake 10th career multi-sack game. His 43 sacks entering this season were the most by a Dolphins player in their first four years. He had 15 sacks last season. …. Thomas led Miami’s rushers with 14 yards on eight carries. … Miami has only won two openers since 2005. … Tannehill had three interceptions in last season’s opener, a 30-10 loss to Houston. …. Patterson left in the second half with a groin injury and didn’t return.