It wasn’t pretty, but the Miami Dolphins pulled off a 24-17 victory over a desperate New England football team to start the season 2-0 (both games on the road). As many expected, we saw Bill Belichick and the Patriots go deep into their bag of tricks and coverages to slow down this passing attack and try to pull the upset. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the game from our preview article and talk about how the Miami Dolphins faired.
How Did Belichick Scheme Away Tyreek Hill?
Belichick played Tyreek similarly to how he has in the past. There were a minimum of two safeties back every play and one of them always had Tyreek over the top. They moved around and disguised their intent before and after the snap in an effort to confuse Tua. They forced him to throw it underneath or hand it off almost the entire night. For the exception of one play where Tua tried to push it down the field, he remained patient and carved the Patriots for 5-7 yards a play all night.
This is what maturity/growth looks like for a young QB #FinsUp ... Great stuff for Tua Tagovailoa.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) September 19, 2023
I never talk through videos, but this would have been too much text haha
Sound Up pic.twitter.com/G21mX6v6tO
One of the biggest changes so far this season is that we haven’t seen Tagovailoa confused or overwhelmed. Earlier in his career, he would have questionable decisions where he panicked and threw it in a bad spot. While he has two questionable interceptions this season, they were plays where he found one-on-one coverage and decided to give his guy a shot. We can argue whether Miami has the right receivers for that, but it is a fundamentally different situation. He is reading the field as well as any quarterback in the NFL right now and nothing has shaken him-not even the kitchen sink Bill Belichick threw at him.
The Offensive Line Continues to Exceed Expectations.
Tua Tagovailoa was pressured on only six of his dropbacks (18%-per PFF) and took one sack all game. His pressure rate was the third lowest of any qualifying quarterback from week two. While the offensive line played well, we need to make sure that credit is evenly distributed here. A big reason for this was his league-best 2.08 second time to throw (per Next Gen Stats). For much of the game, the ball was out before any pressure could get home.
These guys also get paid to block in the run game, and they had their best game of the season so far. The Patriots are a difficult defense to run on, but Miami’s backs averaged over six yards a carry and scored two touchdowns on the ground. Their most impressive play of the day came on Mostert’s 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that ended up icing the game for Miami.
A Get-Right Game for the Defensive Line.
You can imagine the disappointment I felt when Jaelan Phillips was ruled out for the Patriot game. He was one of my players to watch and had a favorable matchup against Patriots’ right tackle (filling in for an injured Riley Reif) Calvin Anderson. Well, an old fan favorite stepped up and had one of the defining defensive performances of this young 2023 season.
Have a day Mr. Van Ginkel. My defensive player of the game (though Chubb deserves consideration as well).— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) September 19, 2023
Hard to believe he almost left Miami. It's obvious Fangio loves him... EXTEND HIM. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/zaPmLdKh5H
Van Ginkel racked up five QB pressures, two hits, and a sack while sporting a 25% pass-rush win rate on true pass sets (per PFF). It wasn’t just Van Ginkel either, Bradley Chubb had his best day as a Miami Dolphin. Chubb managed six total pressures, one sack, and made the play of the game forcing a fumble in Miami territory early in this contest.
While it ended up being a close game, these two teams didn’t look all that evenly matched. Don’t get me wrong, the Patriots are a solid team. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they compete for a playoff spot down the stretch (especially after the Jets lost Rodgers). That’s what made this all the more impressive. The Patriots threw everything they could at this Dolphins team (I didn’t even mention the blocked kick), but it didn’t matter-Miami cruised to victory... on the road.
Tua Tagovailoa and this Miami Dolphins team look different (even from their hot start last year). They started as a nice story, but are beginning to progress into being legitimate contenders. They’ll take on a desperate Denver Broncos squad this Sunday but have a good shot at starting 3-0 for the second year in a row under Mike McDaniel.