The Miami Dolphins held on to beat the Houston Texans in Week 12, jumping out to a big first-half lead then just sitting back and waiting for the game to end. It was not as easy a victory as it should have been, especially with the team pulling starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and having several other players, including offensive tackle Terron Armstead, leaving the game win injuries. But the team came away with their fifth-straight win and move back into first place in the AFC East.
With a 30-0 lead at halftime, the party was on in South Florida. By the end of the third quarter, the party stalled as worry began to creep in. By mid-fourth quarter, that worry had turned into some boos from the crowd as the offense continued to stall every time it had the ball. Skylar Thompson, the rookie quarterback inserted to replace Tagovailoa, could never find a rhythm, and Miami’s explosive offense ground to a halt. Luckily, the defense did just enough to hold on for the win.
Below, you can check out all of our reactions throughout the game, as well as our immediate post-game reactions.
Texans 15 - Dolphins 30
First Quarter Reactions
Miami won the toss and deferred to the second half, putting the Texans on offense to start the game. Houston started the game with two running plays, picking up four yards, before facing a 3rd-and-6. Kyle Allen, making his first start for the Texans, was flushed from the pocket on the play and threw the ball away, leading to a three-and-out.
That is the start the defense should have. They are playing the worst team in the league and they are facing a quarterback making his first start of the year. The defense needs to keep up the pressure all day
The Dolphins began the drive with a Tua Tagovailoa pass to Jaylen Waddle for 11 yards, then a pass to Tyreek Hill for 13 yards. After a run from Jeff Wilson for three yards, a high snap threw off the timing on the next play and Tagovailoa could not complete the pass to Wilson. He came back on the next play to find Waddle for 22 yards. After a seven-yard run from Wilson was negated by a holding penalty that backed Miami into a 1st-and-20, three straight incomplete passes led to a Jason Sanders field goal from 45 yards out. Dolphins 3-0.
That drive started well, with the offense looking in sync and ready to get into a rhythm. The last three passes were rough, though, including one that Waddle had in his hands but dropped. Hopefully this was just the offense shaking off some of the rust from the bye week.
Houston began their drive with an 11-yard pass from Allen to wide receiver Nico Collins, moving the team out to their own 21-yard line. The drive went no where after that, with Dameon Pierce picking up one yard, then an Allen pass to Brandin Cooks for no gain. On 3rd-and-9, linebacker Melvin Ingram burst through the offensive line and pulled down Allen for a nine-yard sack. Houston punted again.
Continued success from the defense. They are not giving Allen any options. If the pass rush gets going, this is going to be a long day for Allen.
Tagovailoa started the drive with a pass to wide receiver Trent Sherfield for 24 yards, working the play action to open up space deep over the middle of the field. Tagovailoa then threw to Hill for 14 yards. After Wilson picked up no yards on a running play, Miami turned to Hill on an end-around for a five-yard gain. Tagovailoa then threw to Hill for four yards, setting up a 4th-and-1 from the Houston 12-yard line. Tagovailoa again play-faked, throwing o Sherfield for nine yards and a 1st-and-Goal from the Houston three. After Wilson was stopped for a one-yard loss, Tagovailoa was flushed from the pocket, started right, came back left, and found tight end Durham Smythe for the touchdown. Dolphins 10-0.
Another quick, effective drive from the Dolphins. Tagovailoa looks like he is fully in rhythm and is ready to keep putting up points. This could be a fun game if this keeps up.
Allen began Houston’s next drive with an incomplete pass. He then found Pierce for nine yards before a penalty on Miami for having 12 men on the field gave the Texans a new set of downs. An incomplete pass was followed by a four-yard pass to Chris Moore. On 3rd-and-6, Allen was again pressured, leading to an incomplete pass and another punt.
Three plays. Four plays. Five plays. The Texans are getting one-play better on each possession,
Miami started with a run from Wilson for no gain, then let Hill do what he does, taking a slant pass and somehow turning it into a 29-yard pass. The quarter ended after the play.
That was a great first quarter for Miami. They need to keep it up all game long.
Second Quarter Reactions
After the break, Tagovailoa threw a dump-off pass to fullback Alec Ingold, who fought his way back to the line of scrimmage. Tagovailoa then found River Cracraft for 11 yards before three straight incomplete passes led to a Miami punt.
Hey, it is good to know Thomas Morstead is feeling better after having an illness early in the week. It has been a while since Miami has had to use their punter.
After a screen pass to Pierce picked up a yard, Allen dropped back and as the pressure got near him, he floated a pass back across the field. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel pulled down the interception and returned it 23 yards.
Keeping up the pressure on a quarterback with limited playing time in his career leads to mistakes. The Dolphins are taking advantage now.
After the interception, Miami was set up with a 1st-and-Goal play from the three-yard line. Jeff Wilson took the handoff to the right and scored. Dolphins 17-0.
Quick and easy.
Pierce started the Houston possession with a one-yard loss. After an incomplete pass, Allen was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled for five yards. The Texans were forced into another three-and-out possession.
Ended the trend of an additional play on each Houston possession. The defense is getting after Allen and making him uncomfortable as soon as the play starts.
Miami began the drive at their own 23-yard line, with Tagovailoa missing a deep pass attempt to Sherfield on first down. Tagovailoa then went to work, finding Cracraft for 11 yards, Waddle for 13 yards, and then throwing a jump ball to Waddle for 34 yards. After a timeout, Tagovailoa threw to Hill for nine yards before Wilson picked up three yards. On 1st-and-Goal from the seven, Wilson picked up two yards. Two incomplete passes from Tagovailoa led to a second field goal by Sanders, this one from 23 yards out. Dolphins 20-0.
Another solid drive, with Tagovailoa making good decisions and finding open receivers The nine-yard pass to Hill was a case of the quarterback trusting his receiver, with Tagovailoa never seeing Hill but putting the ball where he believed Hill would be. Unfortunately, they settled for a field goal, but points are points.
Allen threw to Collins on first down, but the play lost three yards. Allen was sacked on the next play, with linebacker Bradley Chubb stripping the quarterback of the ball with offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil recovering the loose ball. Tight end Jordan Akins caught the 3rd-and-25 pass, but safety Eric Rowe forced the fumble and Xavien Howard scooped up the ball and returned it for the score. Dolphins 27-0.
Everything is going Miami’s way right now. They just cannot rest and let the Texans find any sort of rhythm.
Houston came out looking to settle down the offense a little. They started the drive with a Pierce run for four yards, then found Akins for a 10-yard gain. On 1st-and-10 at the 30-yard line, Allen was sacked by linebacker Elandon Roberts for an eight-yard loss. Passes of five yards and seven yards moved the Texans forward some but led to another punt.
The Dolphins defense continues to get after Allen and they continue to shut down anything Houston is trying to do.
With 1:52 remaining on the clock and two timeouts, the Dolphins continued their offensive assault. After an incomplete pass, Tagovailoa threw to Cracraft for 22 yards and to running back Myles Gaskin for four yards. After a timeout, Tagovailoa threw an incomplete pass on a deep throw toward Hill. Following a delay of game penalty, Miami faced a 3rd-and-11, with Wilson taking the wheel route 13 yards for a first down. After another deep throw, this time to Cracraft for 11 yards, Miami used their final timeout. On what appeared to be a sack, Tagovailoa was dragged down by his facemask, giving Miami a first down at the Houston 11-yard line. An incomplete pass toward Waddle at the goal line, with the receiver slipping just as the ball was thrown, was followed by a sack of Tagovailoa. Following a spike to stop the clock, Sanders connected on his third field goal of the game as the half ended. Dolphins 30-0.
The Dolphins are dominating this game, as they probably should. The Texans are the worst team in the league, at least by record, and the Dolphins are trying to prove they are going to be a force in the AFC. They need to dispatch the Texans with ease, and through the first 30 minutes, that is what they are doing.
They need to make sure they keep up the pressure in the second half. There is no reason why the Texans should be able to climb back into this game. The Dolphins, both on offense and defense, need to keep the rhythm going in the second half.
Tagovailoa has thrown for 278 yards on 20-for-24 passing with a touchdown in the first half. He has a 95.0 passer rating on the day - which is well below his league-leading 118.4 rating this year and may be the only thing to critique this performance right now.
The Dolphins have had 10 different players targeted in the passing game thus far, with nine of them catching a pass. The Dolphins are spreading the ball around and they are finding success in doing it. That said, Waddle still has four receptions for 80 yards and Hill has five receptions for 69 yards - they are still leading the way even as eight other players are targeted.
The defense is getting after it today as well. They have three sacks already, an interception, and a fumble recovery (with a touchdown). Confusing and pressuring Allen has been the name of the game in the first half, and they need to keep it going in the second.
Third Quarter Reactions
Miami opened the second half with the ball. Jeff Wilson picked up seven yards on the first play, but appeared to cramp or get injured at the end of the play. Myles Gaskin replaced him, but lost two yards on the next play, leading to a 3rd-and-5 play. Tagovailoa threw to Hill, who was wide open down the field, for a 16-yard gain. Tagovailoa appeared to throw an interception on the next play, but Hill had been tackled running his route and the defensive pass interference penalty kept Miami’s drive alive. Sacks on either side of a Gaskin run for two yards led to a Miami punt.
Terron Armstead, Miami’s starting left tackle, has been ruled out of the game with a pec injury, and the offensive line clearly misses him. Are we closing in on Tagovailoa being pulled to protect him? Rookie Skylar Thompson is the back up today with veteran Teddy Bridgewater inactive with a knee injury.
Houston was held to a three-and-out on their possession, a drive that included a Jaelan Phillips sack of Allen.
The defense is still getting after the Texans, which is a good sign. They cannot afford to slide into a prevent style for the rest of the game.
Miami started the drive at their own 30, then backed up seven yards with another sack of Tagovailoa. Gaskin picked up two yards before Waddle gained five yards on a screen. Miami punted on the three-and-out possession.
That sack was the third in four offensive plays and fourth in 10 plays, going back to the first half. Armstead being out has clearly impacted the offensive line play and the Dolphins have to figure out something quickly.
The drive for Houston started with a nine-yard run from running back Dare Ogunbowale, followed by a pass from Allen to Ogunbowale for six yards. Allen threw deep to Cooks on the next play, picking up 17 yards, then having another 15 yards added on for an unnecessary roughness penalty on Dolphins safety Jevon Holland. Allen threw Cooks for three yards, then to Akins for 11 yards. On 1st-and-Goal from the Miami three-yard line, Ogunbowale ran up the middle for the score, but the two-point attempt failed. Dolphins 30-6.
The penalty hurt the Dolphins’ attempt at a shutout. They need to get back into a rhythm now.
Miami replaced Tagovailoa with Skylar Thompson to start the next possession. The drive started with Jeff Wilson returning and picking up three yards, then doing it again for another three yards. Thompson’s first pass went to Cedric Wilson, gaining six yards. Miami went back to Jeff Wilson for two more runs, picking up nine yards and two yards on the plays. The snap to Thompson was fumbled on the next play, with the Texans recovering the loose ball.
Good to see Miami protecting Tagovailoa, especially with the line struggling to block the last several plays. The drive ending with a fumble at midfield is not at all what the Dolphins needed. They have to put away the Texans, not keep giving them these chances.
The quarter ended on the next play as Allen found Akins for 10 yards.
Fourth Quarter Reactions
After a false start penalty to start the final period, Allen found tight end Teagan Quitoriano for 13 yards. A one-yard run from PIerce set up a 3rd-and-1, with Allen sneaking the ball forward for two yards. Jaelan Phillips just missed a second sack on the day, chasing down Allen as he scrambled and picked up four yards. Allen then found Aikens on a three-yard crossing route, with the tight end fighting his way into the endzone for the 25-yard score. A two-point conversion attempt on a pass to eligible lineman Laremy Tunsil fell incomplete. Dolphins 30-12.
The Texans have found their rhythm. Miami has to shut this down quickly. I would not have even been mad if Tunsil caught that two-point conversion pass. Would have seemed like a good moment for the former Miami first-round pick.
The Texans started the drive with a 39-yard pass from Allen to Cooks, jumping from their own 33-yard line to the Miami 28-yard line. Defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler were able to knock down the next to passes from Allen, but on 3rd-and-10, Houston completed a 12-yard pass from Allen to Collins. A pass from Allen to running back Rex Burkhead picked up five yards, then Ogunbowale ran for one yard. On 3rd-and-4, Allen threw incomplete as Miami’s blitz got into his face. The Texans settled for a field goal. Dolphins 30-15.
Seriously, it is time for Miami’s defense to get back after Allen and stop allowing these big gains. They are playing a softer defense, and it is killing them right now. When you know your starting quarterback is already done for the day, the defense cannot afford to allow the opponents to score points. This is getting ridiculous now.
Thompson threw incomplete on first down, targeting Waddle deep down the field with the pass broken up at the last second. Thompson then scrambled for two yards and three yards on the next two plays, leading to a three-and-out possession.
The Texans have the worst run defense in the league. Why is Miami only trying to throw right now? Run the ball. Keep the clock moving. Get this game over.
Allen threw for nine yards on the first play of the drive, but an illegal block penalty negated the play and backed up Houston. A screen pass was blown up for a two-yard loss, setting up 2nd-and-22. Allen found Collins on a slant route, with the receiver turning it into a nine-yard gain. Allen was sacked on the next play, with Jerome Baker getting to the quarterback and stripping him. Houston was able to recover the fumble, but the Texans had to punt.
Okay, hello defense. We have missed you. Need you to show up the rest of the way.
Miami’s next drive featured a Jeff Wilson run for five yards, a sack for a loss of six yards, and an incomplete pass. It did force the Texans to use two timeouts, but it was a three-play, 28 second possession.
Teddy Bridgewater may have his limitations, but the offense has just looked completely lost since Tagovailoa was pulled and Thompson entered the game. Not good.
Houston started the drive with two incomplete passes before Allen found Collins for nine yards. On 4th-and-1, Allen picked up the first down on a keeper. He then threw to Collins again, this time for six yards, before having to throw away the pass. On 3rd-and-4, Allen looked deep, but floated the ball and Verone McKinley picked off the pass.
Okay, end this game and we can all go home.
Miami started with a three-yard run from Gaskin to get the clock to the two-minute warning. After the break, Gaskin picked up 10 yards to gain a first down and force the Texans to use their final timeout. Thompson knelt three times to kill the clock.
If Tagovailoa had not convinced you he is the team’s MVP this year, that game should have done it. As soon as he was pulled to protect him when the offensive line was struggling, the offense simply stopped. There was no spark. There was so rhythm. And there were no points.
Part of that should also be on the coaching staff. Mike McDaniel has fallen in love with the passing game, which is great when you have Tagovailoa distributing the ball effortlessly and moving the team all over the field. When you have Thompson, a seventh-round pick this year, in the game, and you are facing the worst rush defense in the league, maybe turning to the ground game a little more would make sense. They did not really do that and it allowed the Texans to have the time to take a 30-0 game and turn it into a 30-15 game.
The defense was hot and cold on the day. Two interceptions, five sacks, a fumble recovery for a touchdown are great. Stopping the Texans with just 32 yards in the first half is outstanding. They allowed too many chunk plays in the second half, however, and Houston went from being blown out to having a chance. Against the worst team in the league as they make a quarterback change, you cannot allow that.
At the end of the day, it was a win and, if Tagovailoa had not been pulled, it probably would have been an even bigger win. But, the decision to pull the starting quarterback, and the injuries the team suffered, have exposed some of the questions that need to be answered by the team as they move forward toward a potential playoff spot.