Playing from behind for the first time since Week 4, and the first time in rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's career, the Dolphins offense responded with an 11-play, 93 yard drive. On the game-tying march, the second-time starter dazzled.
|3rd Down Conv.||4/8||5/12|
|Time of Possession||28:57||31:03|
Tagovailoa completed all five of his passes including a third-and-9 conversion backed up on the Miami 8-yard-line. The Miami quarterback faced a third down and a free rusher just three plays later. He made the Arizona blitzer miss and picked up six yards with his legs.
"We just took what the defense gave us," Tagovailoa said. "The plays that we've been given by our offensive coordinator (Chan Gailey) helped us get into situations where we could be successful offensively."
"He made a lot of big plays for us down the stretch when we needed it," Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores said. "It was a back and forth and game. The stage wasn't too big for him tonight. Everyone contributed. We made plays on all three sides of the ball."
That drive was the appetizer for what was to come. Before we go forward, a look back. Last week, Miami's defense created four first-half turnovers leading to 21 points.
The story was the same at the start of this game as Brian Flores went back to the well with a Cover 0 blitz (no safety help).
Once again, it was defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah coming clean on the quarterback and punching the football out. This time, it was Shaq Lawson – the defensive end on the other side of the formation – who scooped it up and took it all the way home, with the help of a critical block from rookie safety Brandon Jones downfield.
Postgame, Ogbah was asked if he intended to produce a sack-fumble leading to a Dolphins defensive touchdown every week.
"If that's what it takes to win games, then I'm down to do it," Ogbah said with a laugh.
The defense bookended its performance on the Cardinals penultimate drive. With the game tied at 31 apiece, Arizona attempted to convert a fourth-down play for the third time in the game (2-for-2 previously). Defensive tackle Zach Sieler saw Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds coming for his gap and the 6-foot-6, 297-pound monster along Miami's line shed his block. Once free, Sieler teamed up with linebacker Elandon Roberts to get the explosive Cardinals offense off the field.
"We bend, but we don't break," Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones said of the Miami defense. "That's the thing about football, you bring your own juice. When we make good plays, we're going to celebrate and slap hands like we're seven and eight years old."
On the very next play, Tagovailoa found tight end Mike Gesicki for 19 yards to push Miami closer into field goal range. Gesicki was one of seven players with a reception in the game as Miami battled attrition coming into the game, and during the contest.
Entering play without running backs Myles Gaskin (injured reserve) and Matt Breida (inactive due to hamstring injurie) and rookie receiver Lynn Bowden (reserve/COVID-19 list), and losing wide receiver Preston Williams (foot) and tight end Durham Smythe (evaluated for a concussion) during the game, Miami leaned on its next-man-up mentality.
"I think we persevered offensively and defensively as well," Tagovailoa said. "As an offense, we knew we didn't have a lot of the guys that we called certain plays for; but we made it work. That was the beauty of it was everyone coming together. Mack (Hollins) catching the touchdown, the completions to our tight ends, DeVante (Parker), Jakeem (Grant), dumping it down to our running backs, it was a total team win."
Wide receiver Preston Williams exited the game after scoring his fourth touchdown of the season, which doubled as another third-down conversion for the Miami offense. The Dolphins got seven instead of settling for a field goal inside the 10-yard line when Tagovailoa got the football out of his hands quickly, giving Williams time to leap over a pair of tacklers into the Arizona end zone.
With Williams out, Parker stepped up. He led Miami with 64 yards receiving and all six of his receptions came after Williams exited the game.
Williams was second on the team with 60 yards receiving and tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver Jakeem Grant chipped in with 42 and 35 yards respectively.
Miami wasn't just thin at the wide receiver and tight end positions, the team was down the top two snap-takers at running back entering the game. Without Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida, Gailey called on Jordan Howard, who punched one carry in for his fourth touchdown of the season, Salvon Ahmed, who ran for a team-high 38 yards in his NFL debut, and Patrick Laird, who picked up a critical 17 yards to set up Jason Sanders' career-long 56-yard field goal.
Sanders connected again later in the game from 50 yards, which proved to be the game-winner. The kick was also notable for Sanders on an individual note. He's now a perfect 17-for-17 on the season and his 20 consecutive made field goals, dating back to last season, is the most in franchise history.
The sequence of plays before the field goal to close out the first half were just as impressive as the kick itself. Miami took possession of the ball with 46 seconds and only one timeout. The offense got its shot because of a three-and-out executed by the Miami defense, finished by a Lawson tackle short of the sticks.
Tagovailoa found Grant, who made a man miss with a nifty run and stopped the clock by getting out of bounds. Then, after a sack, Tagovailoa stared down the barrel of a blitz and found Laird, who scampered down the sideline for 17 more. Then it was Sanders who put it through the uprights from 56 yards out.
The Dolphins are now winners of four straight – the longest streak since the team won six in a row in 2016 – and sit at 5-3 at the season's midway point.
Miami's 5-3 record is its best start through eight games of a season since 2014. The team has now scored 21-plus points in seven consecutive games, the team's longest such streak since doing it eight straight times in the final two games of 2001 combined with the first six games of 2002.
Up next, the Dolphins welcome fellow top 10 draft choice in quarterback Justin Herbert to Miami next Sunday as the Chargers come to town for a 4:05 kickoff.