It was a boxing triumph in which the final blow was actually an opponent knocking himself out after staggering and stumbling out of the ring. The relief is in the 30-24 outcome, but how the Dolphins got there will raise a litany of questions.
It was a win, of course, a decision that for the moment makes the Dolphins part of a second-place trio -- one of three teams in the AFC East with one win chasing the undefeated first-place New England Patriots (with the Jets playing a late-afternoon game in Kansas City). It also comes with numbers that look good on paper, such as 319 yards and three passing touchdowns for Ryan Tannehill, or 23 first downs, 426 yards of offense and, most importantly, a "1" next to the name of new head coach Adam Gase.
But about that opponent ...
The winless Browns had an 81.6 chance to win, according to ESPN's win probability -- but missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired, perhaps not a surprise given that Cody Parkey had been signed off the street just this week. But that was one of three missed field goals.
Cleveland started a rookie third-string quarterback with no previous NFL experience -- Cody Kessler fumbled on two of the game's first three plays and took a delay-of-game penalty on the other. Not only that, the Browns often pulled Kessler and replaced him with Terrelle Pryor to provide a new look, a wrinkle that helped the hapless Browns outgain Miami 430-426 on the day. Pryor, by the way, also turned out to be Cleveland's leading receiver, with eight catches for 144 yards.
Cleveland stacked up a whopping 13 penalties.
The biggest question and looming shadow over a win is whether Ryan Tannehill is progressing at all under Gase.
Gase is the renowned quarterback whisperer here to unleash Tannehill, but early on, the Dolphins' QB was a disaster, and he almost cost them the game late. Tannehill threw an interception on his first passing attempt of the game, then provided Cleveland with its only first-half touchdown with a pick-six toss just minutes before halftime. In the final minute, he held the ball for too long, allowing the Browns to get a strip-sack that turned into the winning field goal attempt that went awry.
The Dolphins came in 0-2 and leave 1-2. All they need to worry about now is most of what happened to bridge that distance.