By: Brandon Liguori
Prior to the start of the contest Monday night at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, Brian Flores’ Miami Dolphins, riding a six-game winning streak, were in a phenomenal spot, as Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints were missing 21 players and four members of the coaching staff due to COVID-19 protocols, including both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian.
Miami’s ferocious defense, which totaled eight sacks and two interceptions, including a Nik Needham pick-six to open the scoring, paved the way, extending Miami’s winning streak to a season-high seven games in convincing fashion, 20-3. Why was Monday’s win significant? If postseason play were to begin today, Flores’ crew, once opening the season 1-7, would be in for the first time in five seasons. “I think this team stuck together really the entire year. I think obviously we dealt with a lot of adversity early in the year and I think it revealed a lot. I would say it revealed the character of the guys in our locker room,” Flores said after the game.
It’s the first time Miami has won seven straight games since Nov. 10, 1985 to Dec. 22, 1985. “Credit Josh (Boyer) and the defensive staff. They had a nice game plan- mixing coverages, mixing the fronts. They did a good job stopping the run, which was a big emphasis,” Flores said.
Tua Tagovailoa, appearing in a Monday Night Football game for the first time in his brief, two-year career, put together an important performance, throwing for 198 yards and a touchdown to rookie Jaylen Waddle, who continues to showcase his talents on a week-to-week basis. Tagovailoa threw a questionable third-quarter interception on a ball intended for Mack Hollins, but the left-handed quarterback explained after the game exactly what occurred on the play.
Waddle did not play in the Dolphins’ 31-24 victory Dec. 19 because of COVID-19 rules, but finished Monday with a game-high 10 receptions on 12 targets for 92 yards. Waddle’s touchdown gave the Dolphins a 14-point cushion in the third quarter and his 92 yards Monday now puts Waddle at 941 through 16 weeks of play, surpassing Chris Chambers for the most receiving yards by a rookie in Dolphins history.
“I’m not a genie, so I’m not going to say that I did foresee that in Jaylen’s future, but I knew that he had a lot of potential of course just being able to play with him at Alabama and then also the OTAs that we’ve had together and leading up into training camp, he’s done a really good job,” Tagovailoa said.
So, the formula is very, very simple: If the Dolphins secure victory in their final two games of the regular season against the Tennessee Titans and a home contest vs. the New England Patriots, the team is in the postseason and in order for Miami to accomplish that feat, which would result in a nine-game winning streak to close the campaign, two individuals stand in the way:
Ryan Tannehill and Bill Belichick. Grab a large box of popcorn, Dolphins fans