By: Jason Sarney
With a ragtag bunch of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs, Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins jumped on the back of rookie running back Salvon Ahmed and beat the New England Patriots 22 to 12.
To make it even more impressive, a rookie quarterback along with three rookie offensive linemen, beat a Bill Belichick coached team while Miami was also missing a number of key offensive weapons. Wide receiver DeVante Parker joined fellow top wide-out Preston Williams on the sidelines this week as well as tight end star in the making, Mike Gesicki. Not to mention Jakeem Grant who also left a space open in the return game. Picking up the slack for Gesicki were his in-room tight end mates, Durham Smythe and Adam Shaheen, who each contributed with big plays throughout the afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
Defensively the Dolphins once again held their opponent to under 20 points and moved to 7-1 on the year when accomplishing such a feat. Although not necessarily getting to Cam Newton via the sack that often as well as committing a number of questionable penalties throughout the game, they held him in check.
The defense came up big especially defensive player of the year candidate Xavien Howard who created a major turnover by knocking the ball out of Jakobi Meyers grip following a reception. Tagovailoa started the game 7-7 and although threw an early game interception while on the doorstep of the goal-line, kept his cool and led the Dolphins to victory with two rushing touchdowns.
Tagovailoa threw for 145 yards on 20 of 26 passing and those two ground touchdowns. Ahmed was a star for Miami with 122 yards on 23 rushes and a score. He had a 5.3 yards per carry average.
Smythe led the way with 5 receptions and 40 yards and rookie Lynn Bowden was targeted a leading 7 times for 6 catches and 37 yards. He also added 9 rushing yards which seemed like he ran the length of the field, laterally.
Miami continues to play stellar defense when it matters the most, defending their fourth quarter lead and continuing to be a top NFL team in turnover creation, 3rd-down efficiency, and scoring defense. They created two turnovers on Sunday and held New England to a mere 22% 3rd-down conversion rate. Miami dominated the time of possession 37:26 to 22:34.
With having to pretty much win out the rest of the season, Miami has a road trip with a match-up against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, a day after Christmas, which was flexed to a prime-time game. This, followed by a finale Week 17 in Buffalo, which could be a meaningless game for them having already wrapped up the division.
Credit needs to be given to Chan Gailey who opened up the playbook with a lot of creativity and although there were some penalties, and not a ton of points, there easily could have been 30+ points on the board if a few things went differently for the Dolphins offense.
Almost more importantly than anything, this game officially ends the New England Patriot’s playoff reign and might send them in a rebuild mode unseen this century. Coach Brian Flores guarantees a winning season in his second year as a Miami Dolphins head coach, and really should be a front runner for NFL Coach of the Year now, certainly if he stamps a ticket for the Miami Dolphins to make a playoff appearance. Which that alone, is almost a Miami Miracle of 2020.