Mike Wallace provides an offensive spark

MIAMI – The big connections between Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver Mike Wallace have been few and far between this season. Through their first 10 games together, Wallace was averaging just 12.1 yards per catch.

But something clicked on Sunday that may have lit a spark with both players. Tannehill and Wallace connected on a pair of deep balls, for 53 and 57 yards, in a 20-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Wallace finished with five catches for a season-high 127 yards in a losing effort. His 53-yard catch, on which Wallace zipped by Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, was Miami’s longest touchdown passing play of the season.

Big-play capability was the reason the Dolphins signed Wallace to a five-year, $60 million contract in the offseason. Before Sunday’s game, Wallace hadn’t scored a touchdown since a Week 2 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

“It felt awesome,” Wallace said. “I hadn’t been able to score a touchdown in so long. I got the game started. Our team got kind of hyped, so that’s always good. We just got to have more of that.”

The bad news is the pair just missed on two more deep balls in the second half, both of which could have produced touchdowns against a very tough Carolina defense.

Tannehill had been criticized this season for underthrowing Wallace, but the quarterback let it rip in this game. In the third quarter he overthrew Wallace streaking down the middle of the field. And on a broken play in the fourth quarter, Tannehill spotted Wallace in one-on-one coverage, but Wallace said he struggled to locate the football and couldn’t make the catch.

“That's tough for me to say; I don't know what he told [the media] on that play,” Tannehill said when asked whether Wallace should have made that final catch. “That's a tough play. It's basically a hope and a prayer and get it out there.”

Tannehill and Wallace need to be on the same page and making big plays if the Dolphins (5-6) are to have any chance at the final wild card in the AFC. They are grouped in with several teams, including the Baltimore Ravens (5-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) and New York Jets (5-6). The Dolphins will travel to play the Jets and Steelers in back-to-back weeks, and these essentially will be elimination games.