Until two weeks ago, no Miami Dolphins receiver had ever caught 11 or more passes and multiple touchdowns in the same game. Only five-time Pro Bowler Mark Clayton had tallied at least 10 catches in a multi-score game, with a 1988 performance against the Jets.

Enter Rishard Matthews.

With $90 million worth of receivers – Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline – lining up on the outside, it was Matthews in the slot who delivered one of the best receiving performances in franchise history against the Buccaneers with 11 catches, 120 yards and two scores.

He followed that up by catching four passes for 52 yards Sunday against San Diego, again filling after Brandon Gibson’s season-ending knee injury.

Not bad for a second-year player who’s still learning a new position.

Matthews was viewed by the coaching staff as more of an outside receiver than a weapon in the slot, but he spent the beginning of the season backing up all three starting receivers – Hartline, Wallace and Gibson. But when Gibson’s season came to an abrupt end Oct. 27 against New England, Matthews moved inside full-time.

“I have to be honest with you: Matthews has exceeded my expectations in that position,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “I see him more of an outside receiver than an inside receiver. The inside guys have to be nifty, and he’s a little more nifty than I gave him credit for.

“[Matthews] kind of has this sleep-eyed look to him – you’re not sure he’s always paying attention but apparently he has been. He’s doing a very good job, I’m real proud of how he performed [against Tampa Bay]. He’s stepped into that role and done a nice job for us, so I’m real proud of him.”

Sherman has been insistent all season that the coverage alone dictates who gets targeted in a game, so while he seems pleased with Matthews’ gaudy numbers, he doesn’t think they’re indicative of the pass distribution going forward.

“If they play certain coverages, those guys have a tendency to get more balls,” Sherman said. “If they play other coverages, the outside guys have a tendency to show up. Because of certain things that can happen in a ballgame, his number came up more.”