"I told him before the game, 'Let's go for a couple hundred [yards],' " Bushrod said of his pregame conversation with Ajayi. "He told me 150. I said, 'No, let's go for a couple hundred.' "
Not even Ajayi knew what was possible. But as Sunday's 30-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers progressed and Miami's opponent wore down, more teammates began chirping in Ajayi's ear to reach the rare milestone.
Ajayi put an exclamation point on the game with a 62-yard touchdown run up the right sideline on his final carry in the fourth quarter to reach 204 yards. It was the first 200-yard rushing game in the NFL this season and the first for the Dolphins since Reggie Bush accomplished the feat in December 2011.
"I feel like as the game kept going along, the O-line kept opening creases and we kind of knew that we would have a good game," Ajayi said. "I knew I was at 140 [yards]. That's kind of when the guys were like, 'Try to get 200.' "
It wasn't an easy journey, but the Dolphins finally found their go-to running back.
This is a Miami team that took five tailbacks into the regular season because no one stepped forward in the preseason. Former Pro Bowler Arian Foster won the job in training camp but continued his string of injuries in Week 2 when he hurt his groin and hamstring. The team went by committee with Ajayi, rookie Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams and Isaiah Pead, who was later released, for several games hoping someone would take hold of the position. No one did until Sunday.
Ajayi showed the burst, power and ability to make long runs that made him a coveted prospect out of Boise State two years ago. Ajayi fell to the Dolphins in the fifth round because of prior knee injuries, but the team believed then that it got a steal as long as Ajayi stayed healthy.
Ajayi's play Sunday could be a game-changer for Miami's previously struggling offense.
The team was better in every phase with Ajayi able to dictate the pace of the game against the Steelers (4-2). His 8.2 yards per carry took pressure off quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who played error free and efficient, and the defense was rested enough to attack and frustrate Pittsburgh's offense and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (189 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) for four quarters. The Dolphins entered Sunday's game last in the NFL in time of possession.
In Week 1, Ajayi was in the doghouse and didn't make the trip to face the Seattle Seahawks. The team wasn't happy with the way Ajayi handled himself after it was announced Foster would be the starter entering the regular season and coach Adam Gase made the decision to leave Ajayi in South Florida.
"I think he just had a bad five days," Gase said Sunday. "I'm sure all of us have had that bad five days at some point in your life. So it happens sometimes. We have a lot of young guys."
It was a wise move for Gase not to give up on Ajayi. Since missing the first game, Ajayi did the right things to earn his second chance.
The Dolphins (2-4) still have a lot of questions on their roster. But after Sunday they at least found one answer at running back.
"I'm definitely grateful," Ajayi said. "I definitely can't do anything without the opportunities given. So I'm definitely thankful for the coaching staff trusting me to do that.
"This isn't where I want to be; I want to do more."