Entering his third season with the Miami Dolphins, Jerome Baker came into Week 1 with intentions of leading the front five.
Registering 17 total tackles, 14 solo and 1 sack, Baker was the ultimate playmaker for the Dolphins’ defensive efforts, who despite suffering a 21-11 loss, displayed notable improvements in comparison to last season’s opener.
Despite picking up two unnecessary penalties during the New England Patriots’ final drive, the X-factor crown remains deserving of the talented outside linebacker.
“It’s a team game, it’s not one guy, it’s not just Jerome [Baker] or [Ryan] Fitzpatrick, we’ve got to do a better job as a unit, as a team,” coach Brian Flores said on the critical mistakes down the stretch, as they now sit with an 0-1 record.
Let’s take a look at Baker’s noteworthy plays from Sunday’s loss:
Baker picks up Dolphins’ first sack of the season:
Sitting at a respectable spot during their first possession of the game, New England’s offense was disrupted by Baker’s presence. Sacking Cam Newton for a nine-yard loss, the Patriots had to much room to cover on third down, ultimately leading to a punt.
Consecutive tackles force a quick three and out for New England:
Coming off a solid offensive drive, which led to a Jason Sanders field-goal, Miami’s defense was tasked with preventing Newton’s crew from making a big-play with 3:53 left in the second quarter.
Assisting in two tackles alongside Christian Wilkins, Baker and the Dolphins limited the Patriots’ running attempts, forcing a 4th and 1, as coach Bill Belichick chose to punt.
Forced fumble prevents New England from icing game, gets Miami back in it:
In what was a back-to-back dominant drive from New England was shockingly disrupted by Baker, who stripped the ball from wide receiver N’Keal Harry at the one-yard line, forcing a touchback and Dolphins ball.
That one play changed the course of Miami’s game.
“Just run to the ball, that’s all it was,” Baker said on his miraculous play. “We preach about that every day.”
On the ensuing possession, Miami’s 13-play drive resulted in 8 points for them, putting the score at 11-14 with 10:31 left in the final period. To put this scenario into perspective, if the fumble never occurred, the Patriots would’ve been sitting at a 21-3 lead approaching the end of the thid quarter.
As Miami preps for Week 2 against the 1-0 Buffalo Bills, Baker’s consistency will play a major role into pulling off a victory at Hard Rock Stadium.