Two weeks ago in Jacksonville, the Dolphins' offense accomplished a handful of franchise feats that hadn't occurred in years. Starting that game with three consecutive touchdowns, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami aerial assault outdid itself with an impressive display Sunday over last year's NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.
|3rd and 4th Down Conv.||6/14||2/12|
|Time of Possession||36:53||23:07|
Fitzpatrick, who pitched an even 150.0 passer rating in the opening half and finished with a 154.4 rating in the game, led the Dolphins offense to 30 first-half points – the second-most since at least 2000 (October 25, 2015 vs. Houston). The Dolphins scored on six of their seven possessions in the first half. Miami finished with 43 points, the most since that same win over Houston. It was the most points Miami scored in a road game since Thanksgiving Day in 2003, a win over Dallas.
The Dolphins ran 33 plays in the first half and gained 281 yards, an average of 8.5 yards per play. They outgained San Francisco by a 281-140 margin in that first half. The Dolphins had three scoring drives in the first half that ended at the 2-minute warning or later as Jason Sanders booted field goals with 2:00, 0:38 and 0:00 remaining. It's the first time since at least 1991 the Dolphins have had three scoring drives in the final two minutes of a half.
Coming into the game, Miami's longest offensive play measured 27 yards. Sunday, the Dolphins offense topped that high-water mark five different times.
The longest play went for 70 yards from Fitzpatrick to tight end Mike Gesicki with a beautiful, lofted pass that led to a big run after the catch. The game started with a 47-yard strike to Preston Williams, who also scored on a pass of 32 yards in the third quarter. That play came one snap after a screen pass to Matt Breida netted 31 yards. DeVante Parker's touchdown on third-and-goal from the 22-yard line was his second-longest catch on the day (28 yards earlier in the first quarter). Parker's touchdown was the longest third-and-goal (22 yards) conversion in the NFL since December 17, 2001 (New Orleans, Aaron Brooks to Willie Jackson), per Elias Sports Bureau.
Fitzpatrick was 5-for-6 with 199 yards and two touchdowns on passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the game.
"We got off to a great start with the deep one to Preston," Fitzpatrick said. "Just evaluating the few games before, we haven't taken enough chances downfield to give our guys chances. We've got some big guys and guys that can run and so that was part of our game plan. This is a team that's very resilient and I think we showed that today."
"We ran the ball well late in the game," Flores said. "(Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) called a really good game. Our offensive coaching staff put together a good plan and the players went out and executed it. Credit goes to our players and I thought it was a good team victory."
Complementary football is the quickest route to victory and the Dolphins defense and special teams matched Miami's offensive explosion. In the opening 30 minutes, Miami got interceptions from safety Bobby McCain and cornerback Xavien Howard, and sacks from defensive tackle Zach Sieler and linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel (forced fumble) and Elandon Roberts. Jerome Baker picked up a second-half sack and Ogbah closed it out with a strip sack, recovered by Christian Wilkins.
The special teams units chipped in with five Jason Sanders field goals – who remains perfect on the season with 14 successful kicks. Sanders hit five field goals without a miss in each of the last two games. Sanders has now made 16 straight field goals dating back to last season, tied for the third-most in team history. His kickoff coverage unit also shut down Kevin White at the 49ers' 14-yard line on the lone San Francisco kick return of the game.
"(Sanders) has been great the entire year," Flores said. "He's taken real ownership of his craft. Every kick is important to him whether it's a kickoff or a field goal. He's as diligent about his craft as anyone I've been around."
Miami's theme of complementary football continued in the third quarter. After a pair of penalties extended the 49ers opening drive of the half, San Francisco cut the lead to 30-14 and the Dolphins faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line on the ensuing possession. Special Team Coordinator Danny Crossman's punt team executed a fake punt with a direct snap to the up-man, Dolphins special teams captain Clayton Fejedelem.
Fejedelem converted and the Dolphins hit another big play with a screen to running back Matt Breida for 31 yards. Fitzpatrick capped off the drive with a dime between two 49ers' safeties to Preston Williams for the 32-yard score.
"I thought to get a few turnovers there and every time you see the other quarterback getting hit and getting sacked, that stuff is a huge boost for us on offense," Fitzpatrick said. "I think we played really well off of each other today. That's something Flo always talks about and this was a great team win."
Fitzpatrick continued on the fake punt.
"I loved it," he said. "That might've been the call of the game. I thought it was really aggressive and that aggressiveness that was shown by (Flores) and Danny (Crossman), that fed us as an offense and let us know that we couldn't waste what we just converted."
San Francisco tight end George Kittle was first-team All-Pro at his position in 2019. He missed two games this year but returned last week to the tune of 15 receptions on 15 targets for 183 yards and a touchdown. Kittle provided Dolphins safety Eric Rowe – who came into the game limited opposing pass catchers to 5.15 yards per target since his Week 6 switch to safety last season – with a challenge unlike any he had seen since his position change.
Rowe answered the bell, limiting Kittle to one catch on three targets for 11 yards through the first half. The Rowe versus Kittle matchup resulted in two receptions for 24 yards on four targets.
The Dolphins defense got stops on the 49ers' first three drives of the game, including a fourth-and-1 stop on a Jerrick McKinnon rush from the Dolphins 44-yard line. On the play, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah reset the line of scrimmage, stacked up the offensive line and Roberts joined in to make it a trio of Dolphins defenders to shut down the McKinnon run.
Ogbah's versatility was on-display early and often. He put pressure on the 49ers quarterbacks (both Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard, who entered the game in the second half), with a strip sack, thwarted 49ers run opportunities and got his hands on a ball for a pass breakup.
The Dolphins receivers got their hands on plenty of footballs throughout the game, as well. Entering play, Miami was down to two tight ends (Durham Smythe missed the game with a knee injury) one week after utilizing each Gesicki, Smythe and Adam Shaheen for more than 20 snaps each.
The latter tight end – Shaheen – scored his first touchdown of the season to get the offensive onslaught rolling.
Fitzpatrick finished the day 22-of-28 for 350 yards and three touchdowns.
"The way these guys prepared, the way we practiced, how important this is to them, it's a byproduct of all those things," Flores said. "It's not easy to win in this league, it wasn't easy today. Our guys brought a lot of energy today and hopefully we're learning that that's the type of preparation we need."
Miami's offensive fireworks came behind a reshuffled offensive line. Jesse Davis, who started at right tackle the first four games, replaced the injured Austin Jackson at left tackle, and rookie Robert Hunt held down the right tackle post. The line sprung Myles Gaskin for a 21-yard fourth quarter run, the longest of the season for Miami.
"What I got to experience today was great," Hunt said. "Everybody having a great time, working and competing. The morale was up. I've been preparing and I think I was ready for the opportunity."
The Dolphins also got cornerback Byron Jones back after a two-game absence. He didn't join McCain and Howard in the interception category, but he only allowed one reception in the game.
The Dolphins schedule looks a lot different than it did 24 hours ago. Miami's original Week 6 opponent, the Denver Broncos, had their Week 5 game with the New England Patriots postponed until next Sunday.
Now, the Dolphins take on their AFC East rival, the New York Jets, next Sunday, Oct. 18, at Hard Rock Stadium (4:05 EDT). The bye week will now occur in Week 7 with a few other games rearranged.
"We had coaches breaking down film of the Jets this morning," Flores said. "We have to adapt, so that's what we'll do."
Don't forget to check out the post-game recap edition of Drive Time with Travis Wingfield – available wherever you get your podcasts.