The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints closed out Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season with a Monday night showdown. The Dolphins did not seem to find their rhythm until the second half, then turned it on to dominate the Saints down the stretch. The Saints finished the game 0-12 on third down and quarterback Ian Book, making his first career start, was sacked eight times. Things went well for the Miami defense.
With the win, the Dolphins are now in the seventh seed position in the AFC playoff picture and are the first team in NFL history to have a seven-game losing streak and a seven-game winning streak in the same season. They now start looking ahead to the Tennessee Titans and former Dolphins first-round pick, quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Dolphins 20 - Saints 3
Miami received the opening kickoff after the Saints won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. After a four-yard pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to tight end Mike Gesicki and another four yards on a pass from Tagovailoa to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa to Waddle converted the first down on a five-yard pass, with a roughing-the-passer penalty adding 15 more yards and moving the Dolphins to midfield. Two two-yard runs up the middle from running back Duke Johnson set up a 3rd-and-6, with Tagovailoa throwing too far in front of running back Myles Gaskin and leading to a punt.
The Dolphins offense did not feel like it was full in rhythm on their first drive. They did some nice things, but it just did not quite feel like they were in their full stride.
With rookie quarterback Ian Book starting for the first time in his NFL career, the Saints started the drive with a run from running back Alvin Kamara for three yards. They turned to Book after that, with a short pass to Ethan Wolf for four yards before Book targeted Nick Vannett but linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage and Nik Needham picked off the pass and returned it for the score. Dolphins 7-0.
And just like that, it’s 7-0! Nick Needham to the house!— The Phinsider (@thephinsider) December 28, 2021
Welcome to the NFL, Ian Book.
The second Saints drive went nowhere. After an incomplete pass, running back Mark Ingram picked up four yards on the ground. Then Book was sacked by Christian Wilkins and Emmanuel Ogbah for a ten-yard loss and a three-and-out possession.
That feels like Miami’s defense. They are going to be able to keep up the pressure and confuse Book all night if they stick with the aggressive, amoeba looks.
Miami again started moving the ball on their second drive, finding a little bit more of their normal rhythm, but still coming up short. Johnson picked up a yard on first down, with a pass interference penalty on the next play giving Miami a free first down. Johnson picked up four yards on the next play, then Tagovailoa threw to Waddle, but the receiver lost a yard on the play. Waddle made up for it on the next play, picking up 18 yards on a pass from Tagovailoa, who then threw to tight end Durham Smythe for seven yards on the 1st-and-10 play. On 2nd-and-3, running back Phillip Lindsay picked up two yards on a rush up the middle, setting up a 3rd-and-1, which Lindsay converted on the wildcat rush. Tagovailoa threw to Smythe for another 11-yards, followed by an incomplete pass. A pass to Gesicki for six yards set up 3rd-and-4, with Tagovailoa attempting to scramble up the middle on the play, only to be hit from behind and fumble. Austin Jackson recovered the loose ball for a 16-yard loss, with kicker Jason Sanders connecting from 48-yards to extend Miami’s lead on the next snap. Dolphins 10-0.
The drive looked better from Miami, but they are still not on all cylinders, and they are being dangerous with the ball. The fumble did not cost them completely, but they have to have better security on it and not lose touchdown opportunities.
The Saints again went three-and-out as Kamara ran for three yards, then one yard, then Book was sacked for a seven-yard loss with linebacker Jerome Baker chasing the quarterback down after defensive lineman Zach Sieler nearly got Book on the initial rush.
Another good performance from the defense.
A four-yard run from Lindsay ended the first quarter.
The Miami defense is doing what you want them to do against a rookie quarterback. The offense needs to put together a sustained drive.
After the break, Miami started moving the ball with a pass from Tagovailoa to receiver Tommylee Lewis for seven yards. Lindsay then picked up three yards before Tagovailoa threw a screen to running back Myles Gaskin for a six-yard gain. On 3rd-and-1, Miami brought in quarterback Jacoby Brissett for their short-yardage package, but the play-action pass did not work and Brissett scrambled but did not pick up any yardage. Miami punted.
The Brissett package should probably be done. The offense still needs to work out whatever funk they are in.
Book threw his best pass of the game on first down, picking up 17 yards on a throw to Marquez Callaway. Book came back to pick up eight yards on a pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey. After a Kamara run for a one-yard loss, Book was sacked for no loss by Xavien Howard, with the team backed up 15 yards on an unnecessary roughness penalty on Kamara for a shove to the back of the head of Wilkins. New Orleans was forced to punt on 4th-and-18.
The Dolphins cannot allow Book to get into a rhythm. They need to keep him guessing.
Miami picked up four yards on first down with a run from Lindsay, then four yards on a run from Gaskin. On 3rd-and-2, Tagovailoa found Waddle for nine yards, but a holding penalty negated the play and backed Miami into a 3rd-and-12. Lindsay picked up two yards on a wildcat snap, leading to a three-and-out punt.
Nope. Still no rhythm.
Those passes on the previous Saints drive gave New Orleans the rhythm Miami’s offense has not found yet. Book threw to Callaway for 11 yards on the first play, then Ingram picked up seven yards on the next snap. Kamara took the wildcat snap for a seven-yard gain to give the Saints another first down and move the ball to midfield. Book threw to Kamara for 12 yards, with a roughing-the-passer penalty on Brandon Jones adding 15 yards for New Orleans. On 1st-and-10 from the Miami 23-yard line, Ingram picked up four yards, then Kamara picked up four. On 3rd-and-2, Kamara was stopped for no gain, leading to a field goal. Dolphins 10-3.
Miami’s defense cannot allow this to continue. Book is finding a rhythm and the Saints are adjusting to make sure the Dolphins’ aggressive front is not getting home. They are getting the ground game going, and the Dolphins need to stop it.
Miami started the drive with 2:45 on the clock. Johnson picked up nine yards on the first play, then the Dolphins let the clock run to the two-minute warning. A holding penalty backed up the Dolphins, setting up a 2nd-and-11 from the 24-yard line. Tagovailoa then found Waddle for 10 yards, followed by a nine-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Waddle. Tagovailoa then threw to Waddle again for a 17-yard gain, with a neutral zone infraction moving Miami to a 1st-and-5 at the Saints’ 35-yard line. After a holding penalty on Miami, the Dolphins picked up 13 yards on a pass from Tagovailoa to Smythe. Tagovailoa looked deep down the sideline for Waddle on 2nd-and-2, but it was incomplete. Tagovailoa was then sacked on 3rd-and-2, with Cameron Jordan beating Jesse Davis around the edge. With four seconds left, the Dolphins lined up for a 59-yard field goal attempt, but the ball hooked wide right.
Waddle now has the Dolphins franchise record for rookie receiving yards, surpassing Chris Chambers’ 883 yards. Waddle is now at 911 yards. He is also at 93 receptions on the season, which pushes him from ninth to second in NFL history for a rookie. He trails Anquan Boldin by eight receptions.
The Miami offense cannot seem to find their rhythm. A field goal is all they have scored so far in this game, and that is simply not good enough. They just cannot seem to keep it together, with penalties or fumbles derailing them. They have to perform better.
The defense started off well, but the Saints have adjusted, and Miami’s defense is not keeping up. It is not like it is horrible - they have only allowed 67 yards on offense and New Orleans is 0-for-5 on third downs, but the Dolphins defense cannot allow Book to have time to make reads and find receivers for 17-yard gains. They have to clean it up.
New Orleans started with the ball for the second half following a touchback on the kickoff. They did nothing with the possession, however, picking up four yards on a pass to Wolf, then a two-yard run from Kamara. Book threw incomplete targeting Kamara on 3rd-and-4, though it probably would have been short of the marker if it had been completed. Andrew Van Ginkel broke up the pass and just missed a diving interception.
Much better from the defense on that possession. Need to keep that up.
Miami did not make it to the three-and-out on their first possession of the half. Lindsay picked up four yards, then lost three yards on the first two plays. On 3rd-and-9, Tagovailoa stepped up and tried to find Mack Hollins deep over the middle of the field, but overthrew his receiver and it was picked off by Marshon Lattimore.
That was just the wrong read from Tagovailoa, then a bad throw deep. He just sailed the ball over Hollins and it was an easy pick for Lattimore.
The Dolphins defense stepped up, however. On the 1st-and-10 play, Booked was sacked by Emmanuel Ogbah and Raekwon Davis. After a 14-yard pass from Book to Callaway, Ingram was stopped after a two-yard gain. An incomplete pass on 2nd-and-8 brought up a third-down attempt, with the Dolphins sacking Book again, this time Brandon Jones came up with the stop. New Orleans punted.
The pass rush is getting to Book, which Miami needs to keep up. That is their fifth sack of the night, the most the Saints have given up this year, and now makes New Orleans 0-7 on third down so far.
The Dolphins began at their own 14-yard line after the punt. An incomplete pass on first down was followed by a one-yard run from Gaskin. Facing a 3rd-and-9, Tagovailoa dropped a dime to Hollins down the sideline for a 40-yard gain. After a New Orleans challenge, the call stood and Miami moved out to the Saints’ 45-yard line. Tagovailoa looked deep again, finding Waddle over the middle for a 24-yard gain on the next pass. Johnson then ran through the defenders to pick up 10 yards. On a direct snap, Lindsay picked up six yards, then took the handoff for two yards. On 3rd-and-2 from the Saints’ four-yard line, Tagovailoa was hit as he threw the ball, leading to a duck in the endzone that was batted down; a holding penalty on New Orleans was declined as a roughing the passer penalty was accepted and gave Miami a 1st-and-Goal from the one-yard line. The Dolphins faked an option run to the left, with Waddle coming back across the flow of traffic to take a pop pass from Tagovailoa into the endzone. Dolphins 17-3.
That was a great-looking drive from Miami. Tagovailoa was looking deep and being accurate with the throws. The play calling was good, and the play design on the touchdown pass was perfect. Miami’s offense finally found some rhythm.
Kamara started the drive for the Saints with a 10-yard run, then followed that with a three-yard run. Book then threw to Kamara in the flat as a dump off, with Jerome Baker tackling him for a five-yard loss. Book threw for six yards on 3rd-and-12, leading to another punt.
Now up 14, the defense should be able to get back to attacking and keeping Book off balance. Will the Saints have to give up the run? Miami’s defense is made for that.
Miami started with the ball at their own 19-yard line after the punt, looking to make sure they do not have any issues and control the clock. Two Lindsay runs for four-yard each brought up 3rd-and-2, with Tagovailoa scrambling for one-yard run. Despite only having the ball for a three-and-out drive, the Dolphins ate 2:20 off the clock, with the Saints only having one timeout left for the half.
The Saints began with a pass from Book to wide receiver Kenny Stills, picking up four yards. A direct snap to Kamara gained a yard and led to the end of the third quarter.
This feels more like what should be expected from the Dolphins in this game. The Saints are struggling with COVID-19, and Miami needs to take advantage. With the playoffs in play for Miami, they need to be in control of this game and they need to come out of it with a win.
Facing 3rd-and-5, the Saints continue to struggle on third down and only picked up four yards on a Book pass to Callaway. On 4th-and-1, Book was forced to throw away the pass as he was run out of bounds by Wilkins.
Miami’s defense is starting to dominate the Saints offensive line.
The Dolphins started with the ball at the New Orleans 38-yard line, with Tagovailoa again throwing a pop-pass to Waddle for five yards. He then looked to Gesicki, who turned a short pass up the sideline for a 12-yard gain After an incomplete pass, Gaskin picked up five yards. Tagovailoa overthrew Gaskin on 3rd-and-5, leading to a 34-yard field goal from Sanders. Dolphins 20-3.
Miami is clearly trying to chew clock and control the ball. No issue with taking the field goal there.
The Saints took over at the 20-yard line, with Book scrambling for two yards on the first play. The Dolphins then sacked Book, with Jevon Holland and Jerome Baker getting to the quarterback. Kamara then picked up 19 yards on a 3rd-and-20 run, followed by Book taking the quarterback sneak three yards to convert on the fourth-down attempt. After an illegal use of hands penalty on Byron Jones, the Dolphins sacked Book on back-to-back plays, with Zach Sieler getting him on first down and Emmanuel Ogbah getting him on second down. Kamara ran for no gain on third down, leading to a punt.
Miami’s pass rush is all out at this point. Just crushing Book.
Duke Johnson served as all of Miami’s offense on their next drive, picking up three yards, four yards, no gain, and no gain on the possession. The Dolphins did benefit from a horsecollar tackle on Johnson on the second play, giving them 15 yards on a negated no-yard run. The Dolphins punted after the drive.
Four plays, 17 yards, 3:33 off the clock. Well done possession.
The Saints started at their own one-yard line after Mack Hollins downed the ball perfectly on the punt. Running back Adam Prentice picked up two yards on the first play, then Book threw to Humphrey for 56 yards when the receiver caught a jump ball and Byron Jones fell down after the catch. Book then scrambled for a yard, followed by two incomplete passes. On 4th-and-9, Book tried to force a pass, but threw it straight to safety Brandon Jones for the interception.
Other than the one pass when Jones fell down, that was another great possession for the Dolphins defense.
The Dolphins put Jacoby Brissett back into the game as they got the ball back with 2:51 remaining in the game. Johnson picked up five yards, then lost a yard before the two-minute warning. Lindsay then picked up two more yards before the Dolphins punted.
Miami took another 1:47 off the clock.
New Orleans ran Tony Jones twice to kill the clock.