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Dolphins start slowly against Panthers but come back for Week 6 victory

The Miami Dolphins move to 5-1 on the season with a Week 6 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers met as part of the NFL’s Week 6 schedule this afternoon, with the Dolphins starting slowly but coming back to score the win. It was not the prettiest victory Miami has had this year, but it was effective. After starting the game by giving up two quick touchdowns to the Panthers, Miami was able to battle back and then pull their starters for the final five minutes of the game.

The Dolphins move to 5-1 on the season and continue to pace the AFC East. They also pulled back into a tie for the best record in the AFC, matching the Kansas City Chiefs who won on Thursday.

The Panthers fell to 0-6. Quarterback Bryce Young, the 2023 first-overall pick, showed flashes of potential and looked like Carolina made a smart move in trading up to get him.

Miami is just a ridiculous team at this point. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 262 yards - actually a low number for Miami’s quarterback at this point in the season - with three touchdowns and a 126.0 passer rating. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill caught six passes for 163 yards and a score, while Jaylen Waddle caught seven passes for 51 yards and a score. Running back Raheem Mostert ran 17 times for 115 yards with two scores, plus added three receptions for 17 yards and another touchdown.

Miami’s defense recorded four sacks, two by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, one from linebacker Bradley Chubb, and one from defensive tackle Zach Sieler, during the game.

The Dolphins have things to work on this week, especially with a Sunday Night Football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on tap, and this game was not as much of a blowout as it seemed like it could have been prior to kickoff, but this was a solid game for Miami. They will move on to Week 7 now, looking to keep rolling.

Live reactions from throughout the game are below, marked in italics.

Final Score

Panthers 21 - 42 Dolphins

First Quarter Reactions

The Panthers opened the game with the ball, with Chuba Hubbard rushing up the middle for four yards. Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb got to Panthers quarterback Bryce Young on second down, recording the sack. An eight-yard pass on third down did not convert for the first down and the Panthers punted on a three-and-out drive.

Great start for the Miami defense. Chubb getting the early sack is hopefully a signal of good things to come.

Miami could have done better with the ball on their opening drive. A bubble screen from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle picked up two yards, but then running back Raheem Mostert lost two yards as a slow-developing run to the left gave him no room to advance. Tagovailoa threw to Mostert for six yards on 3rd-and-10, and Miami matched the three-and-out possession.

It is so odd to have Jake Bailey have to come in to punt this early in a game. Miami is usually really strong on their opening drive, but not today. This is exactly the opposite of the defense’s opening performance results. Hopefully, Miami will settle down and find their rhythm.

Wide receiver Adam Thielen picked up 27 yards on the first play of the Panthers’ next possession, essentially flipping the field as Carolina moved from their own 36-yard line to Miami’s 37-yard line. A couple of plays later, facing a 3rd-and-6, Young again targeted Thielen, picking up seven yards and a first down. Two plays later, Hubbard picked up 19 yards on a run to the left, then punched it in from six yards out for an early lead. Panthers 7-0.

What just happened? Seriously, this is not the start Miami needs in this game.

Miami began the possession with a seven-yard gain on a pass to Waddle. But after a two-yard run from Mostert set up 3rd-and-1, the Dolphins tried a trick play. Tagovailoa faked the quarterback sneak, then looked to throw back to Mostert who was running out into the flat. Instead, he overthrew the running back and Miami lost nine yards on the play. A second-straight three-and-out for the Dolphins.

Which team is 0-5 and which is 4-1? This needs to look better.

Thielen again started the drive for Carolina, this time with a 21-yard catch-and-run, followed immediately by an 11-yard reception. The Panthers turned to the running attack, picking up 29 yards on six straight running plays. After a penalty on Miami for having 12 men on the field, Young threw an incomplete pass, but immediately came back to find Thielen for the eight-yard touchdown and Carolina’s largest lead of the season. Panthers 14-0.

I’ll just put the tweet I sent here as my reaction following this drive:

The first quarter ended with a Miami 27-yard gain on a Tagovailoa pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

At least this drive cannot be a three-and-out.

Second Quarter Reactions

Miami opened the second period with a deep shot toward Waddle in the endzone, but the pass fell incomplete. Mostert then took a pitch on an end around for seven yards. Tagovailoa then rifled a pass to wide receiver Braxton Berrios for the first down and a 10-yard gain. Tagovailoa then shoveled a pass to Hill for 11 yards. After Ahmed picked up three yards, Tagovailoa threw to Waddle for 14 yards and a 1st-and-Goal from the Panthers’ three-yard line. Two plays later, Miami scored on a pass to Mostert, with tight end Durham Smythe out in front to throw a block and free Mostert to walk into the endzone. Panthers 14-7.

Okay, that felt a little more like Miami’s offense. They came out flat today, but maybe the can get it going now.

The Panthers started with another run, this time seeing Hubbard pick up eight yards. Then they turned back to Thielen for an eight-yard gain and a first down. Wide receiver Jonathan Mingo caught as pass for ten yards before the drive stalled. The Panthers tried a fake punt on 4th-and-8, but linebacker Duke Riley made the stop just before Carolina could convert and Miami took over on downs at midfield.

That fake could not have been closer to a conversion. Riley made the hit at exactly the right moment to force wide receiver Laviska Shenault out of bounds just before he stretched out for the marker. Thielen is killing Miami’s defense right now. Time to figure out a better way to shut him down.

After a replay and a measurement of the spot, Miami still got the ball back. Mostert picked up 48 yards on the drive’s first play, then added four yards on the second play. A fake to Mostert led to a Tagovailoa four-yard pass to Waddle for the score. Tied 14-14.

That is Miami’s offense. Chunk yards, quick strike. Game is tied, so now it is time for the Dolphins to put this away.

The Miami defense stepped up after the touchdown, allowing just four yards on a three-and-out possession by Carolina.

That feels so much better. The defense needs to be playing like that the rest of the day. Stop the run with Zach Sieler and Christian Wilkins, then Xavien Howard making the tackle on a one-yard pass reception. Get the ball back for the offense and let them put up the points quickly.

After two incomplete passes, including a throw away on a near coverage sack, Tagovailoa found Waddle for 17 yards and a first down. Running back Salvon Ahmed picked up two yards on first down, but an incomplete pass with Hill dropping a ball that appeared to be in his hands, set up 3rd-and-8. Tagovailao threw a pass to Mostert in the flat, with the running back avoiding a tackle, then dragging a defender foward to pick up eight yards and a first down. Mostert ran for two yards, then Tagovailoa threw to Ahmed for another two yards. After the two-minute warning, Miami scored on a 41-yard pass from Tagovailoa down the sideline to Hill. Dolphins 21-14.

Can we start the party now? It feels like we are getting close to this being what it was supposed to be. That touchdown pass was beautiful.

With 1:48 remaining in the half, the Panthers looked to move down the field and add some points quickly. After two incomplete passes, Young looked to Thielen, who picked up 16 yards, then repeated it with another 16 yards on the next play. He then gained seven yards on a third-straight reception. An incomplete pass on second down led to a 3rd-and-3, but the Panthers only picked up a yard on a pass to wide receiver DJ Chark. After letting the clock wind down, the Panthers attempted a field goal, but it pushed wide right as the half ended.

Miami gets the ball to start the second half. The Panthers missing that field goal may signal the start of this game getting out of hand. The Dolphins were not on point through much of the first half, but they put it together and appear to control everything now. They cannot start like this next week against the Philadelphia Eagles, but they worked through their issues today and now need to keep it up in the second half.

Third Quarter Reactions

Miami started with the ball, but three straight incomplete passes, including two throw aways by Tagovailoa, led to a three-and-out.

Well that makes the opening possession for Miami at the start of both halves a three-and-out. What happened here? Miami usually has a good set of scripted plays to get into scoring range. Not good.

The Panthers opened their first possession of the half with a five-yard pass to Thielen. After a couple of Hubbard runs, Miami cornerback Kader Kohou nearly had a sack on a blitz, then almost forced a fumble as he did not give up on the play, getting back to a scrambling Young. The pass went up in the air and was nearly picked off by linebacker David Long, Jr. A four-yard pass from Young to Thielen was then negated by a defensive tackle Christian Wilkins sack of Young on third down and the Panthers had to punt.

It was not a match three-and-out, but the Dolphins defense forced the punt after six plays for five yards. Good to see Wilkins getting into the action today. Miami’s defense will need him to get hot as the season continues.

Mostert picked up 13 yards on two carries to start the drive. After an offside penalty on the Panthers, Miami faced a 1st-and-5, with Mostert running for no gain. Tagovailoa then threw to Hill, who cut back after the catch to turn it into a 47-yard gain - but also resulted in him pulling up with what appeared to be a cramp. Tagovailoa then threw to Waddle for nine yards and Ahmed for another nine yards. Mostert finished the drive with two four-yard runs, finding the endzone on the second. Dolphins 28-14.

Of course, the main concern is Hill, but it appears to be a cramp and something IV fluids may be able to assist. Otherwise, this was the kind of drive Miami needs to put together every time they have the ball. If the defense can step up one more time and the offense can score again, this might be over before the fourth quarter begins.

However, the Panthers were not ready to tap, with Hubbard picking up six yards, then two yards on the first two plays before Young looked deep to Chark for 14 yards. A pass to tight end Tommy Tremble added four yards on a reception, followed by Hubbard picking up five. On 3rd-and-1, Hubbard crashed up the middle for two yards and a first down. After a couple of runs and an incomplete pass, the Panthers offense stayed on the field for 4th-and-1, with Young looking deep into the endzone but the pass falling incomplete and Miami taking over on downs.

It was a defensive stop, but not how the Dolphins defense should have done it. The good point is that it gave more time for the IV fluids to work into Hill’s system and get him hydrated again.

Miami started the drive with a seven-yard run from Ahmed, then backed it up with a 24-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Hill. A deep attempt to Waddle followed an Ahmed two-yard run, but the receiver could not hold on to the pass. On 3rd-and-8, Tagovailoa found Berrios who picked up 10 yards and a first down. Mostert then ran for 11 yards as the third quarter ended.

The game may not be completely out of reach for the Panthers, but the Dolphins are systematically moving the ball here and look like they are in complete control.

Fourth Quarter Reactions

Miami started the quarter with a one-yard loss from Mostert. Tagovailoa then threw to Hill for 13 yards, followed by a Mostert run for eight yards, a run that included a stiff arm and a hurdle. After a defensive pass interference penalty in the endzone, the Dolphins punched the ball into the endzone three plays later for the score and Mostert’s third touchdown on the day. Dolphins 35-14.

That play from Mostert was crazy. Just a gorgeous stiff arm and hurdle. This drive felt a little more sustained than a normal Dolphins possession, where they are looking for the quick strike or breaking a run for a huge gain, but it still was a 12-play, 76-yard possession that only took up 5:05.

The Dolphins defense stepped up. An 11-yard pass to Mingo from Young was then backed up by a sack by Wilkins. After a two-yard pass, defensive lineman Zach Sieler got in on the fun with his own sack. The Panthers were forced to punt.

Great job by the defense. Getting a team down big, where they will have to pass almost every play, leads to the defense being able to pass rush on every down. Exactly where Miami wants their opponents.

Miami started their possession with Mostert picking up 13 yards, but the drive stalled there. A pass to Waddle loss two yards, then a pass to Ahmed gained nothing. On 3rd-and-12, Tagovailoa threw toward Ahmed, but the running back could not hold on to the pass as he was hit hard. Miami was forced to punt.

The punt was perfectly done, with the ball hanging in the air and Justin Bethel downing it at the eight-yard line.

Carolina started with a five-yard run from Hubbard, then a six-yard pass to Thielen. Chubb appeared to have a sack on the first down play, but a holding penalty on cornerback Parry Nickerson negated the play. Young then found tight end Hayden Hurst for 16 yards. Three incomplete passes led to a turnover on downs.

The defense is tightening up now. Good way to finish this game.

Miami pulled most of their starters after the turnover, including Tagovailoa being replaced by Mike White. They started the possession with a five-yard run from rookie running back Chris Brooks. After a Panthers timeout, Brooks lost four yards on a run. Another Panthers timeout was followed by White looking for Ahmed on a pass, but Troy Hill picked off the pass and returned it 61 yards for the score. Dolphins 35-21.

Ouch. Not exactly how you put away the game - and that score means something given the pre-game spread of 14.5 points.

Brooks ran for no gain after Miami recovered an onside kick attempt. After the Panthers used their last timeout, Brooks broke down the sideline, running through and over defenders for a 28-yard gain. The ball went back to Brooks for a one-yard gain on 1st-and-Goal, then again on a one-yard loss. Brooks was injured on the play. Ahmed replaced Brooks and took the next handoff nine yards for the score. Dolphins 42-21.

That injury to Brooks was not pretty. His leg got bent sideways as he was tackled. Hopefully he avoided a major injury.

The Panthers were held to six yards on four pass attempts on the possession, including incomplete passes on third and fourth down.

Miami can kill the clock now.

White knelt three times and the clock reached zeroes.