The Miami Dolphins are the hottest team in the NFL, and after their 34-31 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals, they’ve now won four games in a row.
Here are my eight thoughts.
1 — Tua Tagovailoa excelled.
Following a 98 passing yard performance, the Dolphins’ rookie quarterback was exceptional against the league’s 18th-best pass defense. Tagovailoa completed 20 of his 28 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was smart in the pocket and knew when to throw it away, and his play earned him a 122.3 QB rating.
Tagovailoa threw for just eight first downs in his first start against the Rams, but on Sunday he moved the chains 24 times through the air. He also led three touchdown drives and extended drives — 10 plays, 75 yards, 8 plays, 80 yards and 10 plays, 93 yards — which is something he didn’t do last week. It was expected for him to improve off of his first start, but he looked as comfortable as he did in his Alabama days. And his touchdown throw to Mack Hollins, man, that was on the money.
2 — Tua is a dual-threat QB?
If you’re like me, your heart froze when you saw Tua take off on the read option. However, he continued to use his legs in the match, whether it was to extend plays or to pick up 35 rushing yards on six carries, two yards behind the team-high.
He had a short gain in the first half in which he did good job sliding, but on his 17-yard rush, he has to slide and prevent getting hit. Nonetheless, it’s good to see Brian Flores having trust in Tua to run the ball and it means that he’ll have more in his bag of tricks.
3 — Dolphins continue to struggle against mobile quarterbacks.
Cam Newton, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson and now Kyler Murray. The Dolphins have once again failed to contain mobile quarterbacks. In addition to throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns, Murray rushed for 106 yards and a score on 11 carries.
There was definitely a sign of improvement, as Miami’s defensive touchdown came off a Murray fumble. But the former Heisman winning QB had a field day with the Dolphins’ pass rush.
4 — Preston Williams made up for last weeks struggles.
Williams dropped two seemingly easy passes last week, but he wasted no time in making up for it. He caught four passes for 60 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown grab with 10:18 left in the second quarter.
He wouldn’t see the field again, however, as he was carted off the field after the play with a foot injury.
5 — The stats may not say it, but Xavien Howard was good.
Howard was flagged for pass interference four times on Sunday, marking the first time he’s been flagged more than twice in a game. However, it’s important to recognize who he was sticking when the yellow rag was thrown: none other than Deandre Hopkins.
Hopkins entered the match as the league leader in receiving yards. And in the first half, Hopkins, who was primarily defended by Howard, had 0 targets, 0 catches and 0 yards. He finished the match with a season-low three receptions for 30 yards.
Howard may have been flagged a lot (with a couple of the calls being questionable), but if you can hold one of, if not the best receiver in the NFL to just 30 yards, you’ve done a good job.
6 — The Dolphins’ defense wasn’t great, but they stepped up when it mattered most.
Miami’s secondary gave up 283 passing yards and three touchdowns, and allowed for Christian Kirk — five receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown — and Larry Fitzgerald — four catches for 53 yards — to fill up the stat sheet.
But at the end of the day, they performed when it mattered most.
Byron Jones may have allowed two touchdowns, but he delivered a big hit on a Murray scramble to prevent him from picking up a crucial first-down late in the fourth. And then Zach Sieler made a big tackle to force a turnover on downs.
7 — How about Salvon Ahmed?
There’s a new running back in town, and there’s a chance he could be the answer to Miami’s problems on the ground.
The rookie half back led the Dolphins in rushing with 38 yards on seven carries (5.4 YPC), despite not taking a snap in the first quarter. On his 19-yard run, he showed signs of what many expect Matt Breida to be: a speedy, shifty and decisive running back.
With Breida and Myles Gaskin expected to miss some more time and Jordan Howard not showing out, expect Ahmed to take more snaps moving forward and potentially work into a meaningful role in the RB room.
8 — Dolphins could very well be 9-3 before Chiefs in Week 14.
At 4-3, Miami is currently second in the AFC East and sit as the seventh seed in the AFC with the eighth-easiest remaining schedule in the league.
Before their Week 14 match against the reigning Super Bowl Champions, here’s who the Dolphins will face: Chargers (2-6), Broncos (3-5), Jets (0-8) and Bengals (2-5-1).
If Miami continues to play at the rate their playing at, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win out in their next four matches. But in order to defeat the Chiefs, they’ll have to heal up and get some of their top players back.