By: Shawn Williams
The silver lining of having ALL of the attention focused on Tua Tagovailoa, was everyone’s failure to look towards the defense. In the post-game presser, even Coach Flores seemed a little over the Tua talk. Nearly every question about Tua, and the offense, was met with “it’s a team game”.
Look, as long as Tua is the starting Quarterback of the Dolphins, the lights will be clearly affixed overhead, and deservedly so. Maybe that’s a good thing because with the way the defense played today it was almost like they were insulted.
For the past two weeks the national media, local beat writers, and Dolphins twitter have been all Tua all the time. Despite the defense holding top ten numbers in numerous categories and being top three in point differential, they were completely lost among the quarterback hype. Then again, I write for, and love a team that’s never really in anyone’s brain space, so it’s easy to imagine people haven’t really been paying attention. That apparently has changed, but possibly in more ways than one. While Tua and the offense will continue to garner speculation and analysis, the defense has quietly become one of the best in the National Football League, and they’re going to get the respect they deserve.
On a day where the Dolphin’s coaches seemed to clearly have Tua’s training wheels in place, the defense had Rams QB Jared Goff completely rattled.
Credit Brian Flores and Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer for scheming up one heck of a game plan. The entire first half was mired in “zero blitzes” and game changing turnovers. Goff was under immediate pressure on most plays, leaving little time to read the defense. Goff is much more effective on “roll outs” and “waggles”, and today there be no such opportunity.
Christian Wilkins got his first career interception around the 3:00 minute mark in the first quarter. That turnover led to Tua’s first career touchdown pass, when he slung a ball through a tight window to DeVante Parker (who was fouled on the play) for a 3-yard score.
On the next Dolphins possession, Myles Gaskin fumbled after a vicious hit from Rams Safety Taylor Rapp. That put the Rams on the Dolphins 7-yard line. The Dolphins defense didn’t seem too phased by the disadvantage. They continued to bring the blitz, and Emmanuel Ogbah nailed Goff with a nasty hit, causing him to fumble. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who previously dropped an interception, scooped the ball and took it 78-yards for a Dolphin touchdown.
After a following three-and-out, the Rams punted to Jakeem Grant, who returned it 68-yards for the score.
The next series it was an interception for Eric Rowe.
The Rams would turn the ball over one more time in the half, when Goff fumbled for a second time after taking a hit from Shaq Lawson.
Rams Coach Sean McVay wasn’t able to come up with a much better formula in the second half. The Dolphins continued to bring pressure to an already flustered Goff, and despite a “garbage time” touchdown, the Rams never got close.
It was a lackluster debut for Tua Tagovailoa (12/22, 93 yds and 1 touchdown; 80.3 passer rating), however the Dolphin defense made a BIG statement.
Dolphins got an important 28-17 victory over a tough Rams team. They now sit at 4-3 (2nd place AFC East) and will prepare for a cross country tip to Arizona. That game will take place next Sunday at 4:25 EST.
Please welcome Shawn Williams to PhinManiacs and please check him out on Twitter @swilliams3205