1) Defense Stands Strong
The Dolphins defense gave up a lot of yardage in the first quarter, but it surprisingly didn’t result in an early large deficit for Miami. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr connected with wideout Jordy Nelson in the first drive for a total of 73 yards and a touchdown to give the Raiders an early 7-0 lead. On their next offensive possession, Carr again found Nelson for 66 yards, which put the ball on the Dolphin’s 8-yard line. However, Miami’s defense stood strong and held the Raiders scoreless, with a fourth down goal-line stop. This defensive stop kept the game manageable when it could have gotten out of hand early.
2) Tricks + Speed = Win
The Dolphins offense struggled early in the game against a Raider defense that was especially stingy against the run. Miami only managed 41 yards on the ground, and it was lead by a long of 18 yards from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Head Coach Adam Gase wisely changed direction and started with a pass-first mentality in the second half, that gave the Dolphins offense a better chance to succeed. Gase also dipped deep into his playbook, which allowed players like Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson to display their speed and skills on the perimeter. The explosive plays started when Grant took a touch pass from Tannehill behind the line of scrimmage and used his speed to gain leverage on the Raiders defense. Once he squared his shoulders to the goal line, his speed and shiftiness cut the deficit to three, at 17-14. Then, wide out Albert Wilson reverted back to his high school days when he was a quarterback for a play in the fourth quarter. Wilson took the lateral from running back Frank Gore and sprinted to his right, where he found Grant strolling down the sidelines. His pass was perfect and allowed Grant to make the easy reception, avoid an Oakland defender at the 10-yard line and score on one of the most exciting plays of the season. Finally, it was Wilson late in the fourth quarter, taking a touch pass from Tannehill and sprinting 74 yards to close out the victory for Miami. Wilson wasn’t touched until teammate Grant caught him around the 12 yard line, where a high-five led them both into the end zone.
3) Howard Reaches New Heights
Cornerback Xavien Howard is making game-changing plays at a rate that not only leads to winning football games, but will bolster his reputation as a shut-down corner. His two interceptions against the Raiders, especially the second, helped keep Oakland out of the end zone and held the score at 21-17. His body control and ball skills were on full display, as he tracked the ball in the air and had the awareness to keep both feet in bounds to complete the interception.