DAVIE, Fla. – Rather low on star power, the Miami Dolphins are winning thanks to a cross-section of contributors, none more improbable than defensive back Michael Thomas.
“Michael Thomas, the new superstar,” coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday.
Undrafted out of Stanford, Thomas joined the Dolphins (8-6) last week when they signed him off the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad, where he had spent the past two seasons. Once in Florida, he worked with Miami’s scout squad but didn’t practice with the defense, and was expected to play only on special teams Sunday against the New England Patriots.
But when cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll left the game with injuries, nickel back Jimmy Wilson switched to corner and Thomas found himself in the game at safety with four minutes left. He had to borrow gloves from receiver Mike Wallace.
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“You try to give to the needy,” Wallace said with a laugh.
In the final minute, with Miami leading 24-20, Tom Brady tried to pull off the Patriots’ fourth consecutive comeback victory, and a completion gave them a first down at the Dolphins’ 19 with 27 seconds to go.
Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle consulted frantically with assistant coach Blue Adams, who had tutored Thomas, to find out what in coverages the newcomer would be comfortable.
“Blue is behind me in the press box and I kept asking him, ‘Does he know this? What things can we do?’ ” Coyle recalled with a laugh. “I started calling out things that I was thinking about, and Blue had a lot of confidence that Michael knew everything.”
Brady threw for the end zone on first down, but Thomas leapt and swatted the ball out of Danny Amendola’s grasp. After two more incompletions, Brady threw Thomas’ way again on fourth down — and Thomas jumped again to intercept a pass intended for Austin Collie.
Thomas fell to his back, still clutching the ball as he looked to the sky. Soon the 24-year-old was in tears.
“I thought about all the hardships I had been through to try to get to this one moment,” he said.
Miami will clinch an AFC playoff berth if it wins its final two games.
Grimes and Carroll returned to practice Tuesday, so Thomas might be relegated to special teams Sunday in Buffalo. Even so, the Dolphins newcomer is hoping he has found a home in the league.
“I moved into an apartment Monday to celebrate our victory,” Thomas said. “So I’m here for at least another week.”
• Aaron Hernandez, former New England tight end, has been sued by the family of a man he is accused of killing.
The wrongful-death lawsuit was filed Monday in Superior Court in New Bedford, Mass., according to The Herald-News, based in nearby Fall River.
Hernandez, 24, has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June 17 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a semipro player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s girlfriend. Hernandez is being held without bail.