The Dolphins beat the Patriots 22-12 on Sunday, giving the home team six wins in the last eight games against their rival at Hard Rock Stadium. As a result, Miami will finish with a winning record for the 31st time in franchise history and first since 2016.
|3rd Down Conv.||7/12||2/9|
|Time of Possession||37:26||22:34|
After a first half where very little went right for Miami, the Dolphins came out of the locker room looking to make a statement. Without tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receivers DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant, the Dolphins went to the ground game. In the second half, a rushing surge helped produce three touchdowns in four second-half possessions (not including a fifth possession to run out the clock).
Trailing near the end of the third quarter, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa punctuated a lengthy Dolphins possession that covered 90 yards on 14 plays with a scramble touchdown run. On third-and-goal from the 3-yard-line, Tagovailoa escaped pressure and extended the ball over the goal line to put Miami in front 15-9 (Miami converted a two-point conversion on a hook-and-ladder from Tagovailoa to Isaiah Ford and the pitch to Salvon Ahmed).
Tagovailoa, who added his second rushing touchdown of the contest on a game-clinching QB sneak late in the fourth, became the first Dolphins quarterback since 2007 (Cleo Lemon) to rush for two scores in the same game. He was one of six Dolphins to carry the football as the offense had its most successful rushing day of the season.
Rookie running back Salvon Ahmed hit career and season highs in several categories. His 31-yard run in the third quarter was the longest by a Dolphins back this season and his 122 yards marked the first time a Dolphin eclipsed the century mark on the ground since 2018.
"Execution, execution, execution, execution, execution," Dolphins Head Coach Flores said of the keys for the running game. "Chan (Gailey) did a great job throughout the week, really the entire offensive staff, Chan and Steve Marshall, Eric Studesville, George Godsey, the entire staff, Robby brown," Flores said. "Salvon ran hard, Matt ran hard, Patrick Laird ran hard. We executed. The offensive line blocked well and the receivers blocked well."
"I appreciate the o-line. They keep me going," Ahmed said. "They get push down the field and all I have to do is follow those big dudes. Getting a 'dub' isn't possible without the offensive line so shoutout to those guys.
Matt Breida also had a personal season-high with 86 yards. Patrick Laird added 20 yards on the ground, including a critical 12-yard gallop to extend a Miami drive. On third-and-8 from the New England 34-yard-line late in the third quarter, Laird took a shotgun snap up the middle to keep the Dolphins offense on the field.
The Dolphins ran for a season-high 250 yards in the victory, nearly doubling the previous high of 131 in the Week 3 win over Jacksonville. It was the team's most in a game since Dec. 24, 2016 at Buffalo (261).
Trailing 6-0 after the intermission, Miami marched 72 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter for a go-ahead touchdown. The drive was capped by a one-yard plunge from Ahmed.
Just two plays from scrimmage later, Miami extended its streak of consecutive games with a takeaway to 20 straight, the NFL's longest active streak.
Cornerback Xavien Howard forced it free with linebacker Elandon Roberts falling on the ball to set the Dolphins up in Patriots territory. For Howard, it's his first forced fumble of the season to go along with his league-leading nine interceptions.
It was the second Patriots fumble of the game, both involving Howard. Late in the first half, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton scrambled on a third-down play on the fringe of the red zone. Rookie safety Brandon Jones went head-to-head with the imposing 250-pound quarterback, preventing him from reaching the sticks and knocking the football free in the process.
Howard scooped up the loose ball and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown, but the play was overturned when replay showed the football in contact with defensive tackle Christian Wilkins while his foot was on the white sideline.
"I felt for him on that. I did my best but when you get 310 pounds full speed, it's kind of hard to stop and jump out of the way," Wilkins said with a laugh.
New England finished the game with just 12 points as the Dolphins' No. 2 ranked scoring defense improved upon the 18.8 points per game allowed entering play.
"You have to have that next play mentality and the one play at a time mentality after that," Tagovailoa said. "I think that's what we did as a team offensively, defensively and you can include the special teams in that as well. When all else fails, we try to revert back to our rules."
The Dolphins defense held the Patriots out of the end zone, forced a takeaway, sacked Cam Newton three times and limited New England to 2-of-8 on third-down conversions. The three sacks came courtesy of linebacker Jerome Baker, defensive tackle Zach Sieler, and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who picked up his team-leading ninth of the season.
"I think we overcame a tough first half," Flores said. "That just speaks to the resiliency and mental toughness of this team. We didn't play great in the first half. Got down in the red zone and turned it over. This team, we don't go in the tank. We just keep playing and battled through. We made some adjustments and they went out there and executed."
"It's huge for our defense, Wilkins said. "They threw a lot at us. They had their backs against the wall. This was an elimination game for them so it's huge for us."
Up next, the nine-win Dolphins travel to Las Vegas for a primetime showdown with the Raiders. Miami currently holds the seventh and final position in the AFC playoffs.
"For the Dolphins fans I'm very – we've got great fans," Flores said. "People who are lifers. They love this team. We're happy to bring some joy to our fans. They deserve it."