Road games on a short week are a tall order, but the hay was in the barn early for the Dolphins on Black Friday with a 34-13 win over the rival Jets. Moving the ball as well as any team has on Gang Green this season, and putting the New York offense in quicksand, the yardage disparity at one point was 320-50 in favor of the good guys.
By the final buzzer, the yards tilted Miami's way 395-159, with a comfortable three touchdown difference. Here are the three takeaways from Miami's convincing Black Friday win.
1. Climbing the defensive leaderboard
The Dolphins rank seventh in total defense after another sterling effort. Since Jalen Ramsey's return to the lineup, and removing touchdowns from the opposing defense, Miami has allowed just 50 points – 12.5 per game.
"We're starting to have a team that's complementing each other in all three phases," Head Coach Mike McDaniel said. "You can't just show up and say, 'We're going to stop this,' or 'We're going to beat this,' to beat the Miami Dolphins. You have to deal with all sides of the ball. We had a ton of plays made on the defensive side of the ball today."
The Dolphins defense hits you in waves, operating as a singular unit. The teamwork required to lead Jevon Holland 99 yards on an interception return jumps off the tape. Up front, it's a collective effort where the wealth of production is distributed evenly. Before the games on Sunday, Miami ranked third in sacks (38), second in QB hits (86) and had the sixth-best rushing average allowed (3.6 yards per carry). They're the only team in the NFL that features six players with at least four sacks.
Miami will need that depth to replace the production of Jaelan Phillips. Miami's star linebacker will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles.
2. Weapons, weapons and more weapons
Last week, we praised Jaylen Waddle's ability to shoulder the load of an offense that was without Tyreek Hill for one possession, when he had three receptions for 36 yards on an eventual scoring drive. Raheem Mostert did the dirty work on that drive, converting two first downs on short yardage plays.
Fast forward a week. Hill had to come off the field for a few snaps after getting rolled up on following a 36-yard reception, and Waddle and Mostert went back to work. The Penguin led Miami with 114 yards receiving while Mostert added 94 on the ground and a pair of touchdowns.tua
That's not to say the Cheetah was caged up. Hill produced his seventh 100-yard game of the year, putting him just one such game off the franchise mark (eight 100-yard games by Mark Duper in 1986). Collectively, the triumvirate produced 310 yards and three touchdowns.
Mostert's 13 rushing touchdowns lead the league and are just three behind Ricky Williams for the franchise record. Hill's 1,324 receiving yards puts him on track to become the first receiver in NFL history to eclipse 2,000 yards receiving in a season.
Tua Tagovailoa was under the least amount of pressure of any opposing quarterback facing the New York Jets this year. Despite a pair of interceptions, Tagovailoa posted a better passer rating vs. the Jets than Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen did this season.
3. Multiple ways to win
Even the best golfer knows that even on a good day, only some elements of their game will be clicking. It's similar in football. To get the passing game, ground attack, all aspects of the defense and special teams playing at its peak each week is very rare. If the playoffs are like a major championship, a football team can expect to have its proverbial putter dialed in one afternoon, then the ability to pound the driver the next.
For the Dolphins and this analogy, the first 12 weeks of the season have provided multiple routes to victory. On Black Friday, you saw many of these routes come together. The offense threw for the second most yards in a game vs. the Jets this year and rushed for the third most. The defense held the Jets to six offensive points without a conversion on their first seven third-down attempts, and added a touchdown of its own. Collectively, the Dolphins scored more points than any team has on the Jets this season, and took home a three-touchdown victory.
"There's only one way that you can beat that football team … you have to match and/or exceed their physicality," McDaniel said. "I thought that was, for a short week, that was very encouraging to see."
As the calendar turns to December, the Dolphins' desire to play their best football is off to a smashing start with every facet of the game showing promise and eight wins in 11 tries.