|3rd Down Conv.||3/12||7/17|
|Time of Possession||23:31||36:29|
In a 7-7 tie early in the second quarter, the Rams took possession of the football at the Dolphins 7-yard-line. Then, a wave of big plays and unrelenting pressure propelled Miami to 21 unanswered points and a third consecutive win.
The cavalcade of scoring began when defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah came clean, getting to Jared Goff as the quarterback reached back to throw, and picked up his sixth sack of the season. The ball popped free simultaneously as linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel arrived to scoop it up and take it back 78 yards for a Dolphins touchdown.
"The key to the game was just to attack Jared Goff," Ogbah said. "As a team, we did a good job rushing him and coverage goes hand in hand with the rush, and all those guys did a great job back there, too."
That play showed the trait the Head Coach Brian Flores is most proud of – his team's mental toughness.
"I think our guys showed a lot of mental toughness today," Flores said. "We got off to a slow start and when I talk about the mental toughness, that's part of it. We just kept playing hard. It was great to see this team's mental toughness."
It was the second takeaway of the day for Miami, but not the last. Before the Dolphins defense dipped back into the turnover well, a three-and-out preceded a record-breaking run back by the Miami punt return team.
Jakeem Grant fielded the punt at his own 12-yard-line and angled to the right before finding a glimmer of daylight. He slipped through an arm tackle and was off to the races. The fifth special teams return touchdown in Grant's career extended his own franchise record and gave him a new Dolphins record with three punt return touchdowns. Earlier in the game, his 47-yard kickoff return helped him move into sixth place in Dolphins history in kickoff return yardage.
The 88-yard punt return for a touchdown was the longest in Dolphins history. The previous record was 87 yards by Tom Vigorito (Sept. 10, 1981 vs. Pittsburgh) and Ted Ginn Jr. (Nov. 18, 2007 at Philadelphia).
"Coach told me coming in that I was going to get an opportunity to field one and we made the most of it," Grant sad. "I credit my teammates, I don't even think I got touched so it's all credit to them."
"Jakeem, I thought he played a great, great game," Flores said. "We talked about being one block away in the kicking game all year and today, it was nice to break one."
The Miami scoring started after the first takeaway of the game. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins faked a pass rush, fell into the underneath zone and secured the first interception of his career. The entire Dolphins defense raced to the end zone to celebrate with Wilkins on his big play, providing some foreshadowing for the Miami offense.
Wilkins walked the media through the play post-game.
"They call me on the drop. It's all in the hips," Wilkins said. "I just have to open my hips and break on the ball. I saw the line on the quarterback, follow his eyes and I was able to break on it. I'm just happy to make plays and help us win."
"He's always talking about how great his hands are, now I have to listen to that going forward," Flores joked post-game. "He's going to ask for the ball in goal line situations now, but I guess it's worth listening to him if he's going to make plays like that."
Six plays later, rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw the first touchdown pass of his career. The Rams brought a blitz on third-and-goal and the southpaw threw a strike to the chest of DeVante Parker, who made the catch despite a Rams defender hanging on his back (defensive pass interference was called but declined).
"That was fun," Tagovailoa said. "It always feels good throwing a touchdown. It's not easy scoring against a defense like that but just enjoying the moment every time. I'm keeping that ball."
The win marked the first time the Dolphins scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in a game since a 2009 win at the New York Jets. It was the first time the Dolphins have ever done all three in the first half.
The Dolphins have outscored their opponents by 57 points in the first half of games, second in the NFL behind Baltimore, who is +66. It was the third straight game in which Miami built at least an 18-point lead before the intermission. According to FOX, the last time a team did that was the 2004 Indianapolis Colts, led by then record-breaking quarterback Peyton Manning (he threw 49 touchdown passes that season).
The defense continued its dominance in the second half. The Rams possessed the ball three times in the third quarter and could only manage two first downs en route to a pair of punts and a turnover on downs. Defensive end Shaq Lawson batted Goff's fourth down pass down at the line, adding to his big day (a sack and forced fumble earlier).
"We forced them to do some things offensively that maybe they didn't want to do," Flores said. "Keeping a (running) back in, keeping a tight in, things of that nature."
Through the first three quarters, the Dolphins defense allowed only four conversions on 13 third down attempts (Miami entered the game with a league-best 31.3 percent conversion rate on third down). The Rams also failed to convert on the only fourth down attempt and averaged just 4.25 yards per play through the first three periods. Los Angeles finished the game with just seven conversions on 16 third-down attempts.
At the end of today's 1 p.m. games, Miami's scoring defense is now ranked No. 1 in the NFL, allowing only 18.5 points per game.
Safety Eric Rowe had five passes defensed, the most by any player in a game in the NFL this season. He also made seven tackles and recorded his first interception of the season.
"It's just a mindset," Rowe said of Miami's Cover 0 pressure looks. "We've been working on it since training camp. Everyone sees the results: the line, the coordinator, the quarterback, it results in quick throws then tipped passes. We're getting sacks, turnovers. Every time we call it, all of us have high confidence."
Linebacker Jerome Baker tallied 13 total tackles (eight solo), surpassing 250 for his career. He becomes the first Dolphins player with 250 tackles over the first three years of his career since Channing Crowder did it between 2005-2007.
The Dolphins have now won 22 of the last 36 games at Hard Rock Stadium dating back to 2016 when the stadium renovation was completed.
The four turnovers forced in the first half were the most by the Dolphins defense in one half since the 2016 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Next, the Dolphins will travel to Arizona to take on Kyler Murray and the 5-2 Cardinals. Miami puts its three-game winning streak on the line with a chance to make it four straight wins for the first time since 2016.