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Dolphins play as team, dominate 49ers in Week 5

Miami Dolphins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins showed up and showed out on Sunday, dominating the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. Coming away with the 43-17 victory, the Dolphins moved to 2-3 on the year and made a statement that they are here to compete and compete now. Even as the team continues a rebuild started with last year’s roster tear down, they are not a team to be overlooked each and every week.

Miami showed up. They played a complete game, in every aspect of the game, and they looked like a team ready to fight through the remainder of the season.

Miami showed out. Ryan Fitzpatrick became the only Dolphins quarterback not named Dan Marino to throw for 350 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Xavien Howard recorded his third interception of the season, moving him into a tie for the early-season league lead. Miami’s five team sacks on Sunday moved them into seventh on the season in sacks. The defense’s overall performance jumped them from nearly last in every team-defense measurement to middle of the pack - and to nine in points per game allowed this year. The offense is up to 13th on the season in points scored per game.

Obviously, these stats are pending two more games to be played this week (Tuesday Night Football?), but the Dolphins looking much more like a finished building than the cracked and crumbling foundation they were at the end of the 2018 season. They are looking closer to a finished product that they were even just last year, when the team was torn down so that foundation could be relaid and the studs reinforced.

Miami showed up and showed out on Sunday.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was 22-for-28 for 350 yards with three touchdowns and a 154.5 passer rating - just shy of the 158.3 perfect rating. ESPN’s Quarterback Rating metric, quantifying a quarterback’s performance on a 0-100 scale, with the higher score indicating a better performance and 50 representing average play, rated Fitzpatrick at 99.1.

Running back Myles Gaskin was asked to carry the ball 16 times, picking up 57 yards, a 3.6 yards per carry average, with one touchdown. Matt Breida added nine carries for 28 yards, giving him a 3.1 average.

Tight end Mike Gesicki and Gaskin tied for the team lead with five receptions each, with Gesicki picking up 91 yards and Gaskin 34. Wide receiver Preston Williams caught four passes for a team high 106 yards and a touchdown, while wide receiver DeVante Parker caught two passes for 50 yards and a score. Tight end Adam Shaheen caught one pass for three years, scoring Miami’s opening possession touchdown and getting the blowout started. Nine different receivers caught at least one pass on Sunday, with six of them tallying at least 20 receiving yards.

On defense, linebacker Jerome Baker led the team in tackles with eight. Baker, along with linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, linebacker Elandon Roberts, and defensive end Zach Sieler all recorded a sack. Safety Bobby McCain and Howard each pulled in an interception, while defensive tackle Christian Wilkins recovered a fumble.

Kicker Jason Sanders was 5-for-5 on field goals, the second straight game in which he reached that mark.

Williams, who missed the second-half of last season with an ACL tear, came into his second-season in the league healthy, but it did not appear he was completely comfortable on his knee yet. That seems to have changed on Sunday, with the receiver being aggressive and attacking the ball. If Sunday’s performance is what the Dolphins, and Dolphins fans, can expect to see the remainder of the year from Williams, Miami’s offense will take a huge leap forward over the final 12 weeks of the season. Williams and Parker attacking outside, with Gesicki working the middle of the field and Jakeem Grant and Isaiah Ford coming inside on slants and crossing routes. The Dolphins have the right group of receivers to make the offensive explosive, and if Williams is fully trusting his knee, the explosion could be starting.

The defense also seems primed to break out. Miami’s defense was supposed to be the strength of the team this year, especially the secondary where the Dolphins added Byron Jones this offseason to play opposite Howard. The Dolphins were supposed to have two of the top cornerbacks this season, but injuries slowed them. Howard underwent offseason knee surgery and was eased back into playing time early in the season. Jones injured his groin four snaps into Week 2 and had not played since. On Sunday, both of them seemed to be 100 percent, and the defense looked like what everyone expected to see this year. The communication issues of the first quarter of the season seemed to disappear, the team did not have to rely on rookie Noah Igbinoghene or second-year corner Nik Needham nearly as heavily. McCain seemed much more comfortable at safety, while Eric Rowe played like a beast opposite McCain.

The pass rush showing up also assisted the secondary. Miami’s five sacks and constant pressure on both quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard, who replaced Garoppolo at halftime, disrupted the 49ers passing attack. It forced bad throws. And the secondary took advantage of those mistakes.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Miami’s offensive line was forced to adjust to the loss of rookie left tackle Austin Jackson, who was place on injured reserve last week. They moved Jesse Davis from right tackle to left tackle, then slid rookie Robert Hunt into the right tackle position. It worked. Miami now has two rookies starting on the right side, with Hunt next to right guard Solomon Kindley, but it worked. The line was effective. Fitzpatrick was sacked twice on the day, but one of those was the quarterback rolling out of the pocket and not feeling the presume coming behind him and one and the other came when Fitzpatrick rolled out and had time, but no open receivers so he ate the ball and gave Miami a chance for a field goal. The Dolphins offensive line played well and continues to improve each week, even with the changes force upon them this week.

Every aspect of the game worked for the Dolphins on Sunday. They came away with the easy 43-17 win and they have positioned themselves to be a factor the rest of the season. Miami now begins to prepare for the New York Jets after the NFL adjusted the Week 6 schedule, making changes after more coronavirus positive tests from the New England Patriots. If the team continues to play together as a single unit, they could continue to roll against their AFC East rivals in Week 6.