Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins are making a push for respectability.
After beginning the 2021 season with a 1-7 start the Dolphins have seemingly picked up steam, winning a third consecutive game with Sunday’s 24-17 road victory over the New York Jets.
While it seems crazy to even suggest that the Dolphins (4-7) could finish this season with a winning record, it’s possible that Miami could use the next three games to get back to .500.
Here are some more takeaways from Sunday’s win:
Can Dolphins actually get to .500?
Dolphins are building momentum with their three straight wins, and these victories could go a long way towards saving people’s jobs after a disappointing start to the season. The 4-7 Dolphins play three more winnable games — hosting the Panthers next week, the New York Giants on Dec. 5 and then the Jets after their bye week — before traveling to face the New Orleans Saints for a Monday night game on Dec. 27. Miami could be favored to win its next three games, and if it does so the Dolphins would get to 7-7. — Omar Kelly
Tua Tagovailoa is a winner again
Tagovailoa came into the game with a 7-7 record as an NFL starter, and Sunday’s victory pushed his record to 8-7, making him a winning quarterback, which only three of his peers selected in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 NFL drafts can say. Only Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who owns a 20-19-1 record as an NFL starter, and New England’s Mac Jones, who is 7-4 as a rookie starter for the Patriots, possess a winning record in quarterbacks selected the past three draft cycles, so Tagovailoa is in elite company.
Dolphins own this series lately
Today’s 24-17 win gave the Dolphins an edge in this heated AFC East rivalry, providing a 56-55-1 lead in the all-time series, which includes playoffs. While series outcomes typically only matter on the college level, because of recruiting, it should be a source of pride that the Dolphins hold the edge, at least for a few weeks. The Dolphins have won seven of the past eight meetings.
What’s going on with Preston Williams?
DeVante Parker and Will Fuller have collectively played seven games this season, and despite their injuries the Dolphins haven’t been able to get Williams, a starter previous two seasons, going on the offense. The Dolphins are playing tight end Mike Gesicki out wide more than Williams, who has seemingly fallen out of favor with Miami’s coaching staff. If there was a time for him to prove he’s past his injuries and lived up to the talent he showed in his first two years it’s now.
First drive always Miami’s best drive
The Dolphins concluded the team’s first possession with a 1-yard touchdown by receiver Jaylen Waddle, who capped an 11-play, 83-yard drive with a Wildcat run. It was the fifth time in 11 games the Dolphins scored on an opening drive, and fourth time they scored a touchdown. Unfortunately, Miami’s offense mostly stalled after that and was never able to recreate that efficiency.
Why doesn’t Mack Hollins play more?
We’ve asked this question just about every week for two months, and the Dolphins haven’t provided a good answer. But Mack Hollins has been one of the offense’s more reliable playmakers, as he showed again with his 65-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Yet he only plays a handful of plays because of how few packages he’s involved in. Hollins finished the game with 72 yards on two receptions.
Myles Gaskin had a respectable day
Gaskin, who has spent most of this season as the Dolphins’ lead back, finished Sunday’s game with 89 yards on 23 carries, which makes his performance against the Jets the best rushing effort he’s had all season. This happened to be in a week the Dolphins elevated Duke Johnson, a former University of Miami standout, up from the practice squad, to replace Salvon Ahmed, who was inactive. Johnson gained 18 yards on four carries, most of which came in the fourth quarter when Miami was trying to run out the game clock.
Offensive line delivers sack-free performance
Miami’s offensive line has struggled most of this season, but the unit has produced much better performances when Tagovailoa is the starting quarterback because of his ability to get the ball out quickly and knack for evading sacks. This is the second time all season Miami didn’t allow a sack. The first since Miami’s loss to Jacksonville that took place in London.
Albert Wilson gets significant role
We finally know who Miami’s emergency quarterback is, just in case something happened to Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett in the same game, which is possible considering how poor Miami’s offensive line pass protects. Wilson, who played quarterback at Georgia State, has thrown a pass in the past two games on trick plays the Dolphins have been using lately to add an element to the offense. Williams wasn’t able to bring in his end zone pass from Wilson, but now we know who’s the break-in-case-of-emergency player.
Jaelan Phillips beginning to heat up
Phillip, a former University of Miami standout who the Dolphins selected with the 18th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, started out his rookie season slow. But the pass rusher has been heating up lately, routinely applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Phillips delivered a sack on Flacco in the fourth quarter that improved his sack total to 3.5 on the season. Brennan Scarlett started the game at outside linebacker, but Phillips, who finished the game with three tackles, was used primarily as the third-down specialist before Scarlett left the game with a knee injury in the first half.
Emmanuel Ogbah has an incredible streak going
Emmanuel Ogbah maintained his NFL lead with his seventh pass batted at the line of scrimmage. Those seven bats include an amazing active streak of six straight games with a bat. Arguably the second-most impactful play a defensive lineman can make, short of a sack, is a bat down of a pass. With the NFL having made the passing game so much more easy than in years past (the median passer rating among starting quarterbacks since the beginning of the 2020 season is a gaudy 95.8; for context, Dan Marino exceeded that rating for a season only three times in his 17-year career), when a ball is batted at the line of scrimmage, it is probably costing that offense 7-8 yards. — Steve Svekis
The win streak has been distinctive in its entirely coming against Dolphin-killer QBs
Tyrod Taylor came into the Nov. 7 game at Hard Rock Stadium with a career 113.8 passer rating against Miami and a 4-2 record. The Dolphins annihilated him in their 17-9 win over the Texans, squeezing three interceptions and a 42.8 passer rating out of him. Then, South Florida product Lamar Jackson, who had roasted the Dolphins for a five-TD-pass-fueled perfect 158.3 passer rating in the 2019 season opener, was hemmed down to a season-worst performance, leading his Baltimore Ravens to a paltry 10 points as Jackson was limited to a 73.6 passer rating and only 39 rushing yards. For Joe Flacco, the Dolphins — among opponents he has played more than three times in his 14-year career — are the opponents against whom he has the highest career passer rating. He had a 97.6 career passer rating against Miami while going 6-1 before Sunday’s game. Sunday, the Dolphins logged their first win ever against the former Ravens star in a game where he had a better than 100 rating (101.7).
After 21 years, the Dolphins finally have taken back the series lead against the Jets
Before this evening, the last day the Dolphins had led the series against the Jets was on Nov. 18, 2000. So, that drought was of drinking age by the time Sunday’s win came around. The Dolphins now lead 56-55-1. It has been a series filled with streaks. The Jets won the first eight matchups from 1966-69, before Don Shula showed up. The Shula era started with a 14-2 routing of Gang Green through the 1977 season. The Jets rebounded with a 7-0-1 run from 1978-81. Miami then went 7-0, including the 14-0 win in the 1982 AFC Championship Game. From 1985-93, the streaks subsided as the Jets won 11 of the 18 games. Then, from 1994-97, the Dolphins went 7-1. At the end of Dan Marino’s career, with Bill Belichick as the Jets’ defensive coordinator, New York ran off an 8-0 streak. Miami then won 3 of 4, and then the Jets got 8 of 9 through the 2008 opener. Neither team then had a streak as long as four until the Flores’ Dolphins won the 2019 season’s first matchup. The Dolphins are currently in a run of seven wins in eight outings.
Tua’s interception was a fine decision, just a poor throw
There was this phrasing all over social media after Tua’s first interception: “Bad decision, bad throw.” It is half right. It was a great decision as Jaylen Waddle was blazing across the Jets secondary and was breaking wide open. If Tua had hit him in stride, that would have been an uncontested 81-yard touchdown. Instead, the pick set up the Jets to get a tying touchdown. Tagovailoa rebounded nicely from the error.
Tua found his mojo in that second half
Tagovailoa had the first touchdown drive of his career with an average play length of at least 14 yards when he found Mack Hollins deep for an also-career-long 65-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter for a four-play, 90-yard possession (22.5 yards per play). Then, after the Jets had tied the score 14-14 and the stadium was starting to rumble, the youngster faced a third-and-7 with a minute left in the third. He dropped back, stuck his back foot and rifled a pass to the left that was dropped perfectly into Waddle’s hands a half-yard past the first-down marker despite tight coverage. It was part of a superb final touchdown drive where the second-year player was 8 for 8 for 68 yards.
The 2022 draft-derby update
Following the 1 p.m. window, the 2022 first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins that is owned by the Philadelphia Eagles fell to the eighth position, the worst it has been since after Week 2. Meanwhile, the 49ers beat the Jaguars and the first-rounder of theirs that Miami possesses fell to the 14th slot.
Dolphins keep missing field goal attempts in close games
Dolphins Pro Bowl kicker Jason Sanders continued his shaky season with a miss from 32 yards on the final snap of the half. The game was tied 7-7 at the time, continuing a disturbing trend: All of misses either came in a game the Dolphins lost by three or fewer points, or came when the score was tied. In Las Vegas, Sanders was errant from 48 in a game the Dolphins lost 31-28 in overtime. In London, the Dolphins asked for a lot, with an attempt from 58 yards away. But there are plenty of makes nowadays from that distance. Miami also lost that game by three points. The next week, he was blocked from 49 against Atlanta, and Miami went on to lose 30-28. He finished the opening Dolphins possession in Buffalo as A.J. Epenesa got a hand on a 36-yard attempt with the game scoreless.
The quarterback pressures keep shooting upward
Heading into the Jets game, the Dolphins had displayed an explosive increase in their pass rush. According to pro-football-reference.com, in Miami’s first six games, it had logged 56 pressures (sacks plus hurries plus quarterback knockdowns). In the four games leading into the contest in New Jersey, the Dolphins had equaled that 56-pressure number. The Dolphins got two sacks of Flacco and knocked him off his spot plenty, though they may come in below that 14-pressure-a-game rate of the previous quartet of games.
Miami’s defense has been improved in the first half of games the past month
The Dolphins defense got a little loose and allowed 180 first-half yards Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but it continued a run of the defense allowing fewer yards in the first half than the second. Over the past four first halves, Miami has allowed a total of 555 yards (138.7 yards per half). They yielded 122 in Buffalo, 121 against the Texans and 132 vs. the Ravens.
On deck: Carolina Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium
Carolina (5-6) got a sparkling start from Cam Newton, who they signed off the street two weeks ago, against Washington on Sunday, a 27-21 loss, and in his past three NFL games he has completed 45-of-61 passes for 439 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 126.3. Further, Newton’s wheels still work, as he ran 10 times for 46 yards, including a 24-yard jaunt and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, back after missing five games with a hamstring injury, is looking like his normal self with 280 total yards on 40 touches the past two games.
Source: Berkshire mont