Recap: Miami Dolphins defeated their AFC East Rival

Credit: NBC Sports

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins defeated their AFC East rival New England Patriots in their season opener. Last season, Miami lost their week 1 matchup in New England. This year, after barely missing the playoffs 9 months ago, they needed to get off to a fast start.

They got the job done. No one expected a pretty, high-scoring game. It was expected that it would be a defensive dog fight until the end, and that’s exactly what happened. A game that consisted of three turnovers and six punts ended in a 17-16 victory for the Dolphins.

OFFENSE

On the first play from scrimmage, Tua Tagovailoa hit rookie WR Jaylen Waddle for a gain of 17 on an RPO. RPO’s were a huge part of the Dolphins offense on Sunday.

Although the run game struggled a bit, Myles Gaskin had a 15 yard carry on that drive as well. The drive ended with a 3-yard TD run from Tua on an RPO. 

Unfortunately for Miami, the offense cooled off and punted three straight times. A big part of that was inconsistency from the offensive line. 

The Dolphins put together another good drive on their final possession of the first half. On the first play of the drive, Tagovailoa found Jaylen Waddle down the left sideline for a gain of 36-yards. They put together an 8-play 45-yard drive and let Pro Bowl kicker Jason Sanders tie the game 10-10 going into half.

On the very first drive after halftime, Miami faced a big 3rd & 8. The offense stepped up and Tua Tagovailoa threw a strike to Devante Parker for 30-yards. 

That gave Miami life, and the drive ended in Jaylen Waddle’s first career touchdown catch.

One of Miami’s most crucial drives resulted in 0 points. When Xavien Howard forced a fumble and gave Miami the ball back with 3:31 to go, the game wasn’t over. The Dolphins were at their own 9-yard line and had to drain more than 3 minutes off the clock to secure the win. That isn’t easy, especially against Bill Belichick. After a holding, they faced a 1st & 14 at their own 5. Tua delivered a strike to Devante Parker who picked up 13-yards. 

The Dolphins secured the win when short yard specialist and former Patriots SB Champion Jacoby Brissett took a QB sneak for 2-yards.

The Dolphins offense wasn’t always the prettiest on Sunday, but they stepped up when they needed to. 

Offensive Positives:

  • Once again, Devante Parker proved that when he’s healthy, he can be a huge part of the Miami Dolphins offense.
  • The Miami Dolphins have a plan for Jaylen Waddle. He was used in pre snap motion, and caught passes all over the field. 
  • Rookie Liam Eichenberg was a solid starter at LT in place of Austin Jackson.

Offensive Negatives:

  • The run game was inconsistent. Miami averaged just 3.2 YPC.
  • The offensive line was inconsistent. They showed they are very capable on some plays, but on others, it was a serious issue.
  • Tua Tagovailoa looked to be slightly uneasy when the pocket collapsed fast around him, but that shouldn’t raise any eyebrows at this point.

Defense

Knowing they were going to have to step up and be a big part of the reason Miami wins, the defense did just that.

On the first play from scrimmage, Miami was gashed by Damien Harris on a 35-yard carry. They bounced back and Christian Wilkins caused a Mac Jones fumble. The Patriots were taken out of field goal range and forced to punt.

On the ensuing possession, they did what they do best. They forced a turnover. Sunday’s game was Miami’s 23rd straight game with a takeaway. 

The Dolphins bend but don’t break defense and allowed a Patriots field goal, but held up very well in the redzone.

On the next drive, the Dolphins allowed their first touchdown of the season. All Dolphins fans will agree, this should have ended in a field goal at best. On 3rd & 1, Elandon Roberts sacked Mac Jones for a loss of 12, but was flagged for a questionable roughing the passer. The Patriots ended up scoring. 

The defense allowed two more field goal drives, but their best sequence came on New England’s final possession of the day.

The Patriots took over at the 50-yard line down by 1. After a 4:36 drive, they had a 1st & 10 at Miami’s 11-yard line. The Dolphins were on the verge of losing in New England, again. That’s when Xavien Howard happened. Damien Harris ran up the middle and the Dolphins star cornerback forced a fumble. Miami recovered

Defensive Positives:

  • Xavien Howard. They reworked his contract to bring him back this summer, and he forced and recovered the game-sealing fumble
  • Rookie Jevon Holland played less than 50% of defensive snaps, but was great when he was on the field. He was ranked PFF’s highest rated rookie.
  • The Dolphins didn’t miss many tackles. Missed tackles have been a major issue in the past, and they were much improved on Sunday.

Defensive negatives:

  • The Dolphins lack of pass rush was concerning at times. Letting Josh Allen stand in the pocket for what feels like an hour on Sunday could be a disaster.
  • The Dolphins run defense, which has been an issue in the past, was an issue on Sunday. The defense allowed over 4 YPC.
  • The Dolphins heavily relied on zone coverage when most of their cornerbacks are tremendous man to man players. Whether it was a lack of trust in the linebackers to cover, or an effort to make Mac Jones play checkdown football, it’s something to monitor.

Overall

The Dolphins in previous years would’ve found a way to lose this game. The team played complimentary football and beat a Belicheck coached team in New England to open the season. Improvmets need to be made, but the Dolphins are 1-0 and off to a good start.

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