It didn’t start the way the Miami Dolphins would have liked, but they still managed to secure a dominant victory over the Carolina Panthers. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, both the offense and defense played nearly flawless football for three quarters in route to their 42-21 victory. We saw some special performances on both sides of the football. Lets take a look at some keys of the game from our preview article and see how they faired in those areas.
Did we see more explosive offense from Miami?
For anyone who didn’t see the game (or read the box score), yes we saw more of this explosive and efficient Miami Dolphins offense. While the running game was productive against the Panthers it wasn’t quite as dominant as we have begun to expect. Raheem Mostert averaged just 4.1 (feels crazy to say “just” there) yards per carry outside of his 49 yard scamper in the first half. The Dolphins needed some big throws from Tua Tagovailoa in this one and he did not disappoint.
After three weeks of deploying more underneath passing (Den, Buffalo, NYG), the Dolphins asked Tua to push it down the field in this game. He had some of his best throws of the season in this contest and it was probably his second best game of the season- only behind the Chargers comeback win. It’s telling that Tua Tagovailoa is at his best when asked to do more of the heavy lifting with this offense. I’ve always said that Tagovailoa excels as a vertical passer, and even the most ardent critics can’t help but be impressed by these throws.
Was Bryce Young able to hang with Tua and this offense?
Early on, it looked like we were going to see a career day for Bryce Young and this Carolina offense. Unfortunately for Young, he was unable to keep that high level of play going as the Dolphins offense awoke from their slumber. The coverage was better in this one for Fangio’s defense, but the story of the day was again the pass rush.
This was the second straight impressive week for Miami’s interior defensive line. Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler combined for 9 pressures and 3 sacks. They are both now in the top-15 for pressures among interior defensive linemen. Wilkin’s 21 pressures ranks 5th, while Sieler’s 18 is tied for 14th in the NFL. This is a really interesting development and could (unfortunately for the Dolphins) only add to how much Christian Wilkin’s contract will be.
Bradley Chubb had another impressive performance against the Panthers. He was active as a pass rusher and run defender. Logged 4 pressures, a sack (had a second sack negated by def holding), and 4 run stops. Some really high effort reps here too. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/Rb1XV6ax5r— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 17, 2023
The other player that really pops when you turn on the tape is Bradley Chubb. He’s been one of the most criticized players on this defense and for good reason. The Dolphins gave up a 1st round selection and signed him to a lucrative contract. With resounding confidence, I can say that Chubb has looked much better this season. He’s still not likely to be that elite top-5 edge rusher, but this is his 3rd game of the season where he’s been heavily involved in generating pressure. The Dolphins have been one of the better pass rushing defenses in the NFL and he’s been a big reason why. Now, we just want to see it against the leagues better offenses.
Scheme away their strengths
There were two players that caused some concern from this defense: Derrick Brown and Brian Burns. While their status was in question earlier in the week, they both did end up starting and playing most of the snaps in this game. The Dolphins were without their starting center Connor Williams for this game, so they needed an improved performance from Liam Eichenberg in the middle of this offensive line.
Eichenberg had his best game of the season and helped to hold Derrick Brown to just one QB pressure in this game. The tackles also held up their end of the bargain, holding Brian Burns to just two pressures. Tua Tagovailoa got the ball out quickly (2.33 seconds on avg) and was pressured on just 16% of his dropbacks (compared to 35% for Bryce Young) without being sacked. When this offense is humming, they can make even the most talented defensive players disappear.
The first quarter may have given some of us painful flashbacks to past Dolphins teams that ended up just being flashes in the pan. The difference this year is the overall talent of the football team, the coaching staff, and the starting quarterback. Teams are always scrambling to find the right QB and head coach because once you do, winning in the NFL becomes much easier. The Dolphins will need to sustain this for an entire season, but they have found their winning formula.
As for this Panthers game, it never felt like they were in real danger of losing this contest. Even when they were down 14-0, it just felt like a matter of time before they turned it on. Bryce Young had a good game, but he’s on a team that needs elite QB play to be competitive on most Sundays. The embrace between Tua and Bryce Young at the end of this game was as wholesome as it gets.
Tua Tagovailoa said in postgame convo with Bryce Young he shared what he would want someone to tell him as a rookie. A part of it, Tua said, is to block out media/naysayers + grow through your struggles, run your own race. Tua lived it, came thru better.pic.twitter.com/RD974eLN68— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) October 15, 2023
You can’t help but empathize with Young in his current situation. A lot of people are second guessing his ability and the wisdom behind selecting his #1 overall. He has a rival first round QB outperforming him (CJ Stroud) and there are rumblings that his head coach didn’t want him. Its beginning to mirror Tua’s own situation under Brian Flores’ regime and you can only hope that he listens to Tua’s advice here. Run your own race and grow through your struggles.
The Dolphins will travel to Philadelphia for a big time showdown on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles have a banged up secondary, but a dominant defensive line. It will be a real test for Tua and the offensive line in this game. Look for Tua to build on the game he had against the Panthers and hopefully they can find a way to win what should be a shootout in Philly.