MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins’ defensive resurgence really began two weeks ago.
That’s when they limited the Buffalo Bills to 122 yards in the first half, containing one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Cornerback Xavien Howard said Miami once again had a lot of coverage and defensive schemes that made it successful in 2020.
If that game in Week 8 was the first sign of life, Thursday night’s 22-10 upset over the Ravens was living proof that the Dolphins defense is back.
Howard forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown when the Dolphins stunned Baltimore. Miami entered the game as an 8.5-point underdog, but bullied quarterback Lamar Jackson all night, sacked him four times and limited the Ravens to 4.6 yards a play.
The night got off to an auspicious start for Miami even before the game started, when it was reported that quarterback Jacoby Brissett would start in place of Tua Tagovailoa for the second game in a row. And while neither team was able to do anything offensively in the first half – there were nearly as many punts combined (seven) as points (nine) – the Dolphins’ defense was immovable even as Baltimore’s began to break down.
Now on a two-game winning streak after losing seven in a row, Miami has winnable games against the Jets, Panthers and Giants before their week 14 bye, followed by another home game against the Jets. If it maintains this level of defensive play, Miami could be a .500 team, which seemed inconceivable during its aforementioned losing streak.
“We did a lot of good things, we kept the score low, we kept them out of the end zone for the most part,” said Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. “They made a lot of plays, we made a lot of plays. It was a 60 minute battle and it really came to the end.”
Fundamental game: This game was dangerously close to becoming the second touchdownless game of the NFL season until Howard undressed Sammy Watkins early in the fourth quarter, got off the ground and returned the ball 49 yards for his second career touchdown. The scoop-and-score gave Miami a 12-point lead, which seemed insurmountable considering the level at which its defense had played up to that point. This is the second time this season that Howard has actually won a game; he forced and recovered a fumble against the Patriots in Week 1 to seal the Dolphins’ first win of the year.
Promising / Worrying Trend: The strength of Miami’s defense lies in its high school, and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer built his defensive backs at every opportunity. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Dolphins stacked the line of scrimmage with defensive backs in 24 plays. Jackson completed 14 of 21 passes for 128 yards with two sacks against DB Blitz. He averaged 3.9 passing yards on those 14 completions.
“I think Josh [Boyer] He did a great job calling the game, he called it aggressively. I think our entire staff did a great job setting up these guys in a short week against a very good opponent, “Flores said.” We felt we had to put pressure and [Jackson] He is a very skilled player, he also went out a couple of times. “
The biggest hole in the game plan: For the second week in a row, Tagovailoa wasn’t healthy enough to start, but was healthy enough to play in a pinch, which he had to do midway through the third quarter, when Brissett left the game with a knee injury. Tagovailoa wasn’t the same passer Thursday night as in the past, possibly due to a broken middle finger on his pitching hand, but he showed enough to show he should have started. He was aggressive, decisive and, most importantly, he didn’t play like a quarterback who couldn’t push the ball downfield, as evidenced by his 35-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle.
“[Brissett] I think it was probably okay to go back in, but we decided to stay with Tua, “Flores said.” He made a couple of passes so we felt it would be best to just leave him there. “