The game was a coach’s dream for the Miami Dolphins.
You take your talents on the road and beat a divisional opponent. Moreover, there are so many things head coach Brian Flores and his coaching staff can show this Dolphins team on film that they can correct to improve for the next game.
Xavien Howard made an excellent case for Defensive Player of the Year last season. He is back at it this season. Howard forced and recovered the Damien Harris fumble with New England driving in the fourth to help the Miami Dolphins fly back to Miami with a 17-16 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“They try to null me to sleep, and I try to make something happen,” Howard said. “Finding the ball being around the ball, that is my main thing.”
Howard was able to force the fumble, mainly when the Patriots’ game plan was to not throw in his area of the field.
“Every down, I feel like I have to make something happen for the team and get the ball back to the offense,” Howard said. “My mindset was get the ball out. We needed it, and it was crucial.”
The Dolphins have forced a turnover in 23 straight games; that is the longest active streak in the NFL.
It was Miami’s second straight win over the Patriots. Tua Tagovailoa also led the Dolphins to a victory in the second meeting between the teams last season.
Tagovailoa finished 16 of 27 for 202 yards, a touchdown, and one interception, and a 3-yard TD run.
Flip a coin. That is how Tua played. Heads good, tails bad. He was able to lead his offense down the field, but he put the team in jeopardy with ill-advised decisions. He threw an interception in the fourth quarter that would have been costly.
“I was trying to throw the ball away,” Tagovailoa said. “Unfortunately, that is not what happened. We have to execute a lot better, for me taking care of the ball that is big.”
There were whispers this week about Tagovailoa and Jerome Baker not being named team captains. It is puzzling. On the defensive side, Baker is the signal-caller. You always want your starting quarterback to be a captain. Though not labeled, they both will be the most prominent leader on their side of the ball.
“It feels good to get a win, no matter how you get it,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said.
The wide receivers and offensive line played mediocrely. Expect improvements. Dolphins fans have reason to be excited for the offensive receiving and offensive connection between Jaylen Waddle and Tua.
Dolphins were 2 for 2 in the red zone, but 4 of 11 (36%) on third downs.
Mac Jones was very impressive for the Patriots and will only get better. He was accurate, made quick decisions, and handled the pressure in the pocket nicely.
Jones became the first rookie quarterback to start for the Patriots since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Jones was 29 of 39 for 281 yards and a touchdown. Damien Harris rushed 23 times for 100 yards but had the costly fumble to end New England’s comeback hopes. New England had four fumbles on the day, losing two.
New England was penalized eight times for 84 yards.
The beat goes on.
Dolphins will host Buffalo next Sunday.
Patriots will visit the New York Jets next Sunday.