It's starting to sound like a broken record around here. The Dolphins are accomplishing feats not achieved since the early 2000's – like the team's first 6-2 start in 22 years. With a fifth win in the last six starts over the Patriots, Miami maintained its one-game advantage in the AFC East before departing to Deutschland for the biggest game of the young season against the defending Super Bowl champs.
Here are the takeaways from Miami's 31-17 win over rival New England.
1. Multiple ways to move the rock
Few offenses have achieved the balance that Miami found over the first seven games of the 2023 season. Entering Week 8, Miami had the top passing and running offense. In Week 2, New England deployed more three-high safety structures than any defense in the Next Gen Stats era. In the rematch on Sunday, the Patriots took away the Dolphins run game as Miami gained just 78 yards on 26 attempts.
Fortunately, for the Fins, they feature a potent passing attack starring Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Miami quarterback won his sixth game in as many tries against a Bill Belichick coached team – the most ever in the regular season. Hill crossed the 1,000-yard mark enroute to the most receiving yards through eight games since 1961 (1,014). And Waddle posted his first 100-yard game of the season.
All of this despite a challenging defense that threw new looks at Miami.
"It was one of the better defensive game plans that I've really ever gone against," Head Coach Mike McDaniel said. "The Patriots had an unbelievable plan to really kind of try to bottle us in and guys were able to make plays in key situations, which was always fun to be around."
The 15 combined receptions by Hill and Waddle equaled just half of Tagovailoa's 30 completions. He spread the ball to 10 different targets, taking advantage of every blade of grass through a game-plan that exhibited terrific spacing and execution by each player on the offense.
2. The Jalen Ramsey affect
Speaking of multiple ways to win, the Miami defense continued a four-game stretch of taking the football away and harassing opposing quarterbacks. The lone takeaway for Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio's side came from Jalen Ramsey in his Dolphins debut. That play, which displayed Ramsey's keen instincts and penchant for playmaking, was just part of a dominant showing from the Dolphins' big offseason acquisition.
Ramsey forced a fumble on a play that didn't count in the box score due to a Patriots penalty. And the other 47 snaps Ramsey played also displayed his impact.
The Patriots seemed very disinterested in testing Ramsey, as the chart above shows. A significant portion of these snaps came from a three-by-one look in which Ramsey was all alone to the wide side of the field. That's quite an impact in his first game in the aqua and orange.
Ramsey's debut helped contribute to another dominant showing by the defense. Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips dominated the edge both in the run and pass game combining for five QB pressures and seven stops (tackles deemed defensive wins). Punctuating the performance, New England tested the perimeter in the run game six times for just 17 yards.
Christian Wilkins picked up another sack, giving him a career-high 4.5 on the season. The Dolphins now rank fourth in the NFL with 27 sacks and first with 61 QB hits.
3. Getting stronger as the year progresses
Injuries seem to be at an all-time high across the league and the Dolphins are far from impervious to the attrition. Miami posted 390 yards of offense, 31 points and gained 24 first downs despite missing four of their original starting offensive linemen for most of the game. And without rookie sensation De'Von Achane in the backfield.
Defensively, they held the Patriots to 13 first downs, 218 total yards and 1-of-9 on third downs despite missing Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland.
The Dolphins sit at 6-2 despite the numerous injuries to key contributors. With the bye week looming, and many of those players expected back soon, the Dolphins hope their best football is ahead of them.
For more analysis, takeaways and breakdowns, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.