Two of the toughest road trips of the season are in the rear-view mirror as the Dolphins escape without a blemish to their record. Miami is out to a 2-0 start for the second consecutive year – the first time that’s happened since 2001-2002 – behind an offense that’s out-pacing record books, and a defense stamping an emphatic statement.
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Here are the three takeaways from the Dolphins’ wire-to-wire victory in Foxboro by the final or 24-17:
1. Next Man Up, Opposing Quarterback Taken Down
With four more quarterback sacks on Sunday night, Miami currently ranks sixth in the league with seven sacks, and they’re doing it without committing extra rushers. The Dolphins have blitzed just 8.4 percent of their passing downs, yet are generating pressure 14.5 percent of opposing drop backs. At a rate of plus-6.1 pressure-to-blitz, the Dolphins are eighth in the league in that category, and seventh with 13 QB hits.
Andrew Van Ginkel led the charge with a sack, three QB hits, a tackle for loss, a pass defensed and five pressures. It was a shift in role from Week 1 when Van Ginkel played primarily in an off-ball position. Playing exclusively off the edge, Van Ginkel was one of the best players on the field Sunday night. Pushing him for that title was the rusher on the other side, Bradley Chubb. Chubb forced a fumble, picked up a sack, two QB hits, six pressures and two tackles for loss.
Xavien Howard picked off the 29th pass of his career, tying Patrick Surtain and Glenn Blackwood for fourth all-time in Dolphins history.
Perhaps most important, Miami held the Patriots to 88 yards on the ground at a clip of just 3.52 yards per rush.
2. Take What They Give You
The Patriots deployed a unique defense designed to limit a Miami passing attack that exploded for 17 plays of at least 15 yards in the season opener, the most in an NFL game since 2012. New England’s solution was a three-deep structure utilizing a trio of backed up safeties on 40 of the 61 offensive snaps, the most in a game since at least 2006 when these metrics were first tracked.
Miami’s solution was throwing the ball short and wide to add horizontal stretch, in addition to the Patriots voluntary vertical stretch allowance. Then the Dolphins capitalized with the run game.
Tua Tagovailoa averaged the 4th-quickest time to throw (2.08 seconds) of any quarterback in a game since 2020.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 18, 2023
“That’s the most important thing playing this defense is they’re not going to give up too many explosives,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “They really want you to work for yardage. And it’s definitely a take-what-they-give-you kind of defense.”
“It was a unique game plan that I think guys did a pretty solid job of adjusting to the weird spots the guys were in,” said Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel.
3. Run Raheem Run
The Dolphins passing game is incredibly difficult to contend with. Add in 145 yards on the ground at over five yards a clip (when removing end-of-game kneel downs), and defenses are left with a choice.
The Dolphins’ choice in the backfield through two games has been Raheem Mostert. The bruising runner with track speed ripped off 121 yards on just 18 carries, including scoring scampers of eight and 43 yards. Picking up where he left off last season, Mostert punished opposing tacklers to the tune of four forced missed tackles and an average of 3.68 yards after contact per carry.
Over the final five games of 2022, Mostert forced 19 missed tackles on 56 carries for an average of 4.89 yards after contact. He did it behind an offensive line that achieved consistent surge, even in the four-minute offense at the end of the game when there was no mystery what Miami wanted to do. Additionally, the Miami line has allowed just one sack and three QB hits through two games.
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