Despite a solid off-season and an impressive win over the New England Patriots in week one, the Miami Dolphins were yet to win over many skeptics. Uncertainty with team chemistry, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and offensive line play served as concerns heading into this season. Led by a revamped offensive line and new head coach Mike McDaniel’s newly implemented offensive scheme, Miami seems to have taken on a new identity.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins had the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFL through the 2021 season. The unit allowed the most quarterback pressures out of all teams while posting the league’s worst pass-blocking efficiency score.
Miami’s new West Coast offensive scheme has proven to benefit their personnel immensely. Instead of executing a traditional assignment-based blocking scheme, McDaniel implemented a zone blocking scheme. By blocking in zone, the athleticism of the offensive linemen is emphasized as they are often asked to engage in double teams or advance to the second level and block “scraping” linebackers. The signings of veteran offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, former starters on their respective teams, have proven to pay off.
Miami’s decision to emphasize offensive line play while adding new dynamic weapons in wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Chase Edmonds has provided Tagovailoa a newfound sense of comfort. Miami now has three offensive players that have statistically finished among the league’s fastest ball carriers. In 2020, Raheem Mostert was the league’s single-fastest ball carrier as he reached a breathtaking top speed of 23.09 MPH. He also posted the second fastest time that season. This season, Jaylen Waddle has the fifth fastest time on that list, while Hill finished fifth in 2021. These skillsets complement McDaniel’s offense, which emphasizes quick-hitting routes like slants, outs and screens.
Overcoming Adversity Against Ravens
Miami faced challenges early, as All-Pro specialist Devin Duvernay returned the opening kickoff for a 103-yard touchdown. Shortly thereafter, Tagovailoa threw an interception to Marcus Williams on a narrowly-missed contested pass to Hill. Later in the first half, Williams capitalized off a questionable decision by Tagovailoa and hauled in his second interception. Despite the early gut punch, Miami demonstrated resilience.
Based on Miami’s upset over Baltimore in 2021, many assumed that the only way the Dolphins would win was through a defensive battle. Although the Miami defense was once the team’s strong suit, Sunday’s victory can not be solely attributed to defensive play.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson continued rewriting the record books throughout his 318 yards and three touchdown performance on Sunday. This time, Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history with both a touchdown pass and a touchdown run of at least 75 yards in the same game.
TUNE IN ON CBS! pic.twitter.com/nCyyHMqU0G
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 18, 2022
Rallying To Victory
Despite being down 28-7 at the half, Miami returned from the locker room with new life. While an opening-drive touchdown for Mike Gesicki generated optimism, Lamar Jackson responded with an electric 79-yard touchdown run. Entering the fourth quarter down 35-14, Miami began to find success throwing the ball, as Tagovailoa found Hill for two touchdowns throughout the quarter. One touchdown pass came from a post route that traveled for over 55 yards before being snatched by Hill.
The Alabama product later orchestrated a game-winning drive and demonstrated great ball placement by finding Waddle for the game-winning touchdown on the goal line. Tagovailoa ultimately finished with 199 yards and four touchdowns in the quarter, the most touchdowns thrown in a fourth quarter in over 15 years.
Tagovailoa finished with a total stat line of 469 passing yards, six passing touchdowns, and two interceptions. He becomes the second player in Dolphins history to pass for over 400 yards and throw five touchdowns in the same game. The other player on that list is Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
The Dolphins also became the first team ever to have two players with more than 170 receiving yards and two touchdowns, in addition to Tagovailoa’s performance. Hill hauled in 11 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Waddle caught the ball 11 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
The @Dolphins were the first team in NFL history with a player recording 400+ pass yards & 5+ pass TD (Tua Tagovailoa) & two teammates recording 170+ rec yds & 2+ rec TD (Tyreek Hill & Jaylen Waddle) in the same game.#FinsUp @Dolphins @Tua @cheetah @D1__JW @ProFootballHOF
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 18, 2022
The franchise’s 2-0 start is their first in five seasons and their 21st in team history. Although there is reason to be positive, Miami faces another concerning challenge on Sunday when they play against Buffalo, who many see as a Super Bowl favorite. After facing the Bills, Miami has a quick turn-around as they have to face the Cincinnati Bengals that Thursday.