Tua & Dolphins Capture Most Impressive Win of Season
By: Antonio Longobardo
A 2,000-mile trip out west. A pandemic taking out five members of the coaching staff. A Game against a white-hot 5-2 Cardinals team fresh off a bye. A shootout. Another Miami Dolphins Victory.
Going into week nine we discussed how difficult of a matchup the Cardinals were for Miami; an outstanding offense highlighted by a prolific run game coupled with an underrated defense had been the story of Arizona’s first seven games. National pundits called for Tua’s head after last week’s victory over the Rams and gave the Dolphins no chance of leaving the desert with a win. They, of course, were wrong.
The Dolphins fan base can be ecstatic with this game on so many levels, but there is one facet that matters most: Tagovailoa looked efficient, decisive, athletic, prolific, and extraordinarily clutch. He was 20-28 for 248 yards passing with two touchdowns to go along with 35 CRUCIAL yards on the ground. The drive of the game began with two minutes left in the 3rd quarter with Miami down 24 – 31. Backed up on their own seven-yard line, Tua & Co. constructed a 93- yard touchdown drive Fins fans have not witnessed often enough since the retirement of #13. Compiled with laser-sharp throws, magician-like pressure escapes, and Wilson-esque runs, the Dolphins tied the game with 11 minutes left to play.
With that drive came a shift in momentum; the defense followed up the long scoring drive with a key stop on the consequent Cardinal series, and Tua drove down the field again with five minutes left to bring the Dolphins within scoring distance. Jason Sanders then continued to plead his case as the best kicker in the football, knocking through a 50-yard clutch kick while fans everywhere held their collective breaths. That kick ended up being the deciding score of the contest.
Kyler Murray, explosive as he is, had a chance to drive the field to win or tie with three minutes remaining. The defense, however, had different plans. While the Dolphins did give up 442 total yards of offense, they held up when it counted most-a true bend-don’t-break kind of day. Dealing with a 3rd and 1 with two minutes remaining, the Miami defense forced an incompletion. Cardinal kicker Zane Gonzales came out to tie the game but quickly proved he is no Jason Sanders, coming up short on a 49-yard boot.
Now, The Dolphins are a legitimate playoff contender. The coaching staff had a good game plan to try and out-duel Kingsbury and his electric offense. The defense was big when the moments were big. Miami, it seems, has found their franchise QB.
On paper the Dolphins biggest challenge was going to be against the Cardinals run game, but Miami’s run defense showed sparks of life. On the contrary, it was through the air that Arizona was able to take advantage of this defense.
The old adage explains it best when referencing Kyler Murray: “You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him.” The pocket-sized quarterback threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns-good for a 150.5 passer rating-while adding another 106 yards on the ground; a cherry on top of the offensive Sundae, if you will. He made play after play-something that would have put the game away before halftime against the Dolphins of old. Miami is now notoriously bad at stopping mobile quarterbacks. First Cam Newton, then Josh Allen and Russel Wilson, and now Kyler Murray.
While they were able to get away with a win this week, it will not happen too often. The Dolphins need to find a way to contain non-traditional passers more efficiently moving forward if they want to be a serious contender.
The highest paid cornerback duo in the league had a so-so outing. Christian Kirk looked like the second coming of Randy Moss. Byron Jones got beat twice for touchdowns, and Xavien Howard was getting called for DPI’s seemingly every other play (four times in total). While Xavien did appear to lockdown Hopkins, the Dolphins were getting beat with big chunk plays through the air all game. Expect for Josh Boyer and Brian Flores to put in extensive work this week with the defense to prepare for another mobile QB coming to hard rock Stadium next week: another rookie first round pick in Justin Herbert.
The Dolphins move to 5-3 off this impressive win, and currently hold 7th seed in the AFC, an extension to the playoff field in 2020. Miami has as many wins through eight games as they did through ALL last season. A friendly reminder: The Dolphins were 1-7 at this point last year. The turnaround has been quick, and it seems like there is no limit to where this could go with a bag of cash and an arsenal of draft picks going into the 2021 offseason.
However, we need not be looking ahead to 2021 just yet. This team is built to compete now. If Tua is who we think he is (cue Dennis Green interview please), then winning the division is not out of the question. The fact of the matter is, great QB play in the NFL levels the playing field.
Next up: Sunday, November 15th the Dolphins play the 2-6 heartbreak kids often referred to as the Los Angeles Chargers. The record does not denote this team’s talent. All six losses have been by single scores, including some Atlanta Falcons-esque games. This will be an interesting week 10 matchup, and undoubtably will highlight the Tua vs. Herbert matchup.
The 5th overall pick in Tua Tagovailoa will play the 6th overall pick Justin Herbert. Many sources close to the team stated the Dolphins were extremely close with making the Oregon product the QB of the future before ultimately choosing Tua. With Herbert playing exceptionally well, it will be a treat to watch the two rookies battle head-to-head in an important game next Sunday.
After a 5-11 season in 2019, and a 1-3 start to the 2020 campaign, it is impossible not to get excitedly optimistic about this Dolphins team’s quick turnaround. The defense has pieces. The coaching staff is a strength. And Tua looks like a franchise quarterback. It is amazing what one week will do… isn’t it?
For now, the critics have turned into crickets.