O’Leary ex­cited for 1st TD catch as Dol­phin

The Palm Beach Post - - SPORTS - By Steve Gorten

MI­AMI GAR­DENS — Nick O’Leary charged out of his crouch in the back­field, roared right, glanced back and reeled in a touch­down catch he’ll for­ever trea­sure.

Sure, the for­mer Dwyer High School and Florida State Semi­noles stand­out also scored in his pre­vi­ous NFL game at Hard Rock Sta­dium. But that 26-yard snag in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale last New Year’s Eve, which helped the Buf­falo Bills make the play­offs for the first time since 1999 and snap what had been the long­est run­ning non-play­off drought in North Amer­i­can pro sports, came against his home­town Dol­phins.

Sun­day’s 5-yard touch­down catch from Brock Osweiler, which ac­counted for the only score in the first half of the Dol­phins’ 31-28 over­time tri­umph against the Bears, was for the team he grew up root­ing for.

Shoved in the back as he reached the ball out over the goal line, O’Leary tum­bled to the turf, rolled, bounced up and fired the ball into the air un­der-handed.

“I usu­ally don’t get too ex­cited about things, but I got pretty ex­cited,” said O’Leary, who was im­me­di­ately em­braced by re­ceiver Danny Amen­dola be­fore other Dol­phins mobbed him. “It was fun.”

O’Leary had three catches for 30 yards in the first half, and he hauled in an­other grab for 19 yards in the third quar­ter to cap­i­tal­ize on all four times he was tar­geted. It was a pro­duc­tive sec­ond game with the Dol­phins for O’Leary, whose grand­fa­ther, golf­ing le­gend Jack Nick­laus, watched from the stands as he did in De­cem­ber.

O’Leary didn’t have a catch in his Dol­phins de­but in Cincin­nati last week, but Dol­phins coach Adam Gase deemed O’Leary’s ef­fort “out­stand­ing” and said he did “a great job block­ing” while play­ing 28 snaps — 41 per­cent of the Dol­phins’ of­fen­sive plays, and just two fewer snaps than start­ing tight end Mike Gesicki.

O’Leary started Sun­day against the Bears and made an im­me­di­ate im­pact, catch­ing a short pass to the left from Osweiler on the sec­ond play from scrim­mage for a 14-yard gain.

“We were on scout team [to­gether] a cou­ple of times and we got a lit­tle con­nec­tion. We hit it off,” said O’Leary, who was signed to the Dol­phins’ prac­tice squad Sept. 18 and pro­moted to the 53-man ros­ter on Oct. 6. “It’s al­ways good to get the ball in your hands at the be­gin­ning of the game.”

O’Leary, a sixth-round draft pick in 2015 who had 32 catches, 473 yards and two touch­downs in 35 games (12 starts) with the Bills prior to his re­lease Sept. 1, said getting ex­ten­sive ac­tion against the Ben­gals helped him feel com­fort­able in his first home game Sun­day. His touch­down on the Dol­phins’ sec­ond pos­ses­sion capped a seven-play, 54-yard drive that ac­counted for the only of­fense from ei­ther team be­fore half­time.

“He does a good job with both run [and] pass pro­tec­tion and what our game plan was,” Gase said. “The tight end was not go­ing to be in­volved as much and Mike [Gesicki] knew that go­ing into the game and we prob­a­bly thought we were go­ing to go a lit­tle more two-tight end per­son­nel. But it didn’t go that way ... we were able to do a lot of things with him in there.”

Re­ceiver Al­bert Wil­son said of O’Leary: “We knew when he came in that we were go­ing to be able to use him.”

ALLEN EYESTONE / THE PALM BEACH POST

Tight end Nick O’Leary’s 5-yard touch­down catch on Sun­day, which ac­counted for the only score in the first half of the Dol­phins’ 31-28 over­time tri­umph against the Bears, was a spe­cial one for him.

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