HOW ‘BOUT THEM DOLPHINS?!
In a game where nobody – not any national analysts, local beat writers, average fans, nobody – picked Miami to win, the Dolphins shocked the world and defeated the Baltimore Ravens 22-10 on Thursday Night Football under the bright lights at Hard Rock Stadium! They didn’t just win, they dominated in almost every facet of the game, en route to a stunning victory over one of the best teams in the NFL.
Where has this team been all season long?! Why has it taken them so long to find their identity this year? We’ll save the answers to those questions for another column, because today – on this victory Friday – we’re going to focus on the positives. Why wouldn’t we after such an exciting night last night?
That’s why we’re going to stay away from the “Bad” and “Ugly” portions that normally dominate these articles, and instead we’re going to highlight the “Good,” because dammit, there was plenty of it last night!
Creative playcalling finally unlocks multiple chunk plays for Dolphins’ offense
Through the first nine games of the Dolphins’ season, playcalling has been a bitter point of contention for this fan base. With the way Miami’s offense has performed for most of the year, can you blame us? Too often, the Dolphins have relied on the dink and dunk offense to slowly matriculate down the field, crossing their fingers that neither penalties, sacks, or bone-headed turnovers would derail scoring opportunities.
While there was still plenty of that on Thursday night against the Ravens, especially in the redzone, Miami finally got creative enough to scheme open receivers for multiple large plays through the air on a handful of occasions.
One of my favorite calls of the night saw the returning Tua Tagovailoa hand the ball off to running back, Myles Gaskin, then receive a pitch back from Gaskin – a classic Flea Flicker look – only to turn right back to the RB and throw him the ball after Baltimore’s defense crashed down into Tua’s face. Gaskin promptly took the dump off upfield for a first down.
Another standout call was the play that set Miami up for the game sealing touchdown late.
Pre-snap, Albert Wilson motioned from the right side of the field to the left, turning upfield just as the ball was snapped. Surprisingly, Baltimore sent no defender to cover the speedy wideout, and Tua Tagovailoa found him sprinting down the left sideline. Wilson took the ball all the way down to the 11 yard line of the Ravens, eventually setting up a Tagovailoa rushing touchdown via the QB sneak which all but sealed the victory for our boys in aqua and orange.
Tua Tagovailoa has his Willis Reed moment, returning at less than 100% to lead the Dolphins to victory
Curiously, Tua Tagovailoa has been healthy enough to dress and back-up Jacoby Brissett these last two games, but according to Head Coach Brian Flores, not healthy enough to start due to a fractured finger on his throwing hand.
After watching Brissett play quite poorly for more than two quarters against the Ravens defense, fate intervened, dealing the plodding QB a not-so-serious knee injury which temporarily forced him out of the game. After being cleared by the medical staff to return, Brian Flores had a change of heart, deciding a less than 100% Brissett was not as good as a less than 100% Tagovailoa.
This may have been Flores’ best decision all season. It was finally time for Tua to show why he was drafted fifth overall just a little more than a season ago.
After knocking the rust off with a couple of shaky throws, Tua Tagovailoa settled down and began to play his style of ball, providing a spark to Miami’s offense in ways that Brissett could not. The way Tua subtly evaded pressure, fading back out of harm’s way on multiple occasions, cannot go unnoticed. Even if his passes aren’t completed on said plays, the ability to avoid negative yardage ultimately leads to positive results in the form of shorter 3rd down attempts, and better field position for his team.
No matter how you feel about the young second year player, it is important that Miami’s brass gets as many games as possible to evaluate Tua’s potential to be the longterm answer at the quarterback position before heading into an offseason that is sure to be filled with various trade rumors for a particularly polarizing signal caller from Houston.
On Thursday, Tagovailoa showed the guts, grit and heart that is needed to be a star in this league. Fans should be quite excited to see what he does the rest of the way in 2021.
Miami’s defense returns to their 2020 form, stymieing a potent Ravens’ offense in the process
That’s all the Ravens were able to score against a Miami defense that, up until last week’s game against Houston, had been gashed by nearly every opposing offense in 2021. In fact, the ten points Baltimore scored last night were the least amount of points put up by a Ravens’ team led by electric quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
The Dolphins finally committed to their Cover Zero look for a full contest, sending multiple blitzers on nearly every snap. Rookie safety, Jevon Holland blitzed 21 times against the Ravens – the highest mark for a defensive back in a single game since 2016 according to Next Gen Stats. The second highest amount of blitzes for a DB in a single game? 17... by Miami safety, Brandon Jones... LAST NIGHT!
Lamar Jackson was sacked a total of four times in this game. Holland, Elandon Roberts, and Adam Butler each had one, while Andrew Van Ginkel and Jaelan Phillips each added a half a sack as well.
Miami’s rushing defense also stepped up, holding the Ravens to just 94 yards on the ground, which is no easy feat when going up against one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the NFL.
Time will tell if opposing offenses adjust to Miami’s exotic looks, but for right now, if it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. Keep pressuring quarterbacks until they find ways to beat those blitzes.
How are you feeling after Miami’s second victory in just 5 days? Do you think the Dolphins have a shot at getting to 7-7 with games against the struggling Panthers, Giants and Jets (x2) coming up? Who gets your “game ball” for last night’s surprising victory? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13. Fins ALL THE WAY up!