By: Jason Sarney
The journeyman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was once again back in the saddle for the Miami Dolphins, on the road against the New York Jets Sunday afternoon. All he did was lead them to a 20-3 victory, making them 7-4. Fitzpatrick started off 4 of 4 which was the same way he started his fourth quarter off the bench performance last week to prove that he is someone who could just be thrown into a game as if we all normal people can simply pick it up and ride a bike.
Fitzpatrick finished the game 24 of 39 passing and 257 yards with a pair of touchdowns to his tight ends, Mike Gesicki and Adam Shaheen. Durham Smythe, another tight end contributed as well with three catches for 19 yards. Although not a picture perfect display of football The Miami Dolphins went on the road and did what they needed to do against a winless team, while being down two running backs, a top receiver, a starting offensive lineman, and of course being relegated to a backup quarterback.
The first half was a mix of decent defense and solid offense through the air while the running game was still something left to be desired. The first half saw a poised Fitzpatrick lead the Dolphins on a scoring drive that ended in a beautiful read hitting Mike Gesicki in the end zone giving him an opportunity to go up and get a jump ball for six points.
Jason Sanders made it a seven point play an added two, 50-yard plus field goals giving him eight for the season in that category, as well as 10 consecutive makes from that distance on, which makes both of those figures NFL leading statistics. If there was ever a guaranteed bet for a Pro Bowler on this offense, it is Jason Sanders, and he may just be the NFL's most consistent, reliable, accurate, and best kicker.
DeVante Parker, who may have something to say about a Pro Bowl, was once again outstanding with 8 receptions for 119 yards. Once again he proved to be the lead target and played as well as he has been all season, reeling in passes while being blanketed in coverage, despite the lack of separation which has been a knock on these Dolphin receivers all year long. Fitzpatrick hit 10 different Miami targets, regardless of that separation.
It is that separation which is needed both in route-running and score and record, which is going to be a theme in the five games remaining for this 7-4 Miami Dolphins team. The Dolphins entered the 2nd half against the pitiful Jets with a lead, and with the ball. They were heading into the game 6-0 when leading after the break. They are now 7-0 with that statistic.
The Dolphins were able to create turnovers with interceptions by “ghosts” Nik Needham and Xavien Howard. Needham’s 3rd career interception made that 17-straight games with a turnover for the Dolphins defense, which is a club record. Howard added to his league-leading INT total in 2020 with his 7th.
As mentioned ad nauseam, Nik Needham has known Sam Darnold for years growing up back in San Clemente, California. Two of his signature plays, a sack last season and today's pick, came against his west coast pal in Darnold.
All in all, Miami went on the road as a hurt team both physically and spiritually, and healed a bit. The running game is what has to heal next, as well as a solidified offensive line that is not the worst in the league, yet has a very long way to go to be competitive. Both Matt Breida and Patrick Laird fumbled on consecutive running calls, which is never encouraging, and DeAndre Washington showed signs of serviceability with some decent runs and moves. Breida was able to rush for a respectable 4.5 yards per carry in 8 attempts, and Laird’s lone 9-yard run resulted in a turnover.
With Tua Tagovailoa’s status already unknown for next week’s home return to Hard Rock Stadium against the Bengals, it will be another interesting week of practice and preparation for a Brian Flores' team who no-doubt was lead this week by a fiery and angry head coach. They get a Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati team, and a win gets them to 8-4 with a pair of homes games remaining against the Chiefs and Patriots and road games with massive playoff implications at Las Vegas and a Finale at Buffalo that could mean the division.
There is a lot to learn, and a lot to fix, yet this year-two of a rebuild. And on November 29th, Week 12, they are at 7-4. Have a terrific start to your holiday season, count your blessings, and Fins Up.
Please follow Jason Sarney on Twitter @OrangeAquaman