Even in an exhibition setting, few things top seeing the Dolphins return to the field to do battle with an opponent. The final result didn't fall in favor of Miami, but the positive takeaways are aplenty. The opportunity to make corrections will only serve to make this young team better.
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These are the three takeaways from the preseason opener in Chicago.
1. Thou Shall Not Pass!
It took until there were 27 seconds left of the second quarter for the Soldier Field public address announcer to dust off his first down call. Despite first-teamers Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Emmanuel Ogbah not playing in the game, the Miami defense prevented Chicago from moving the chains through its first five possessions. The Bears managed just 79 yards of offense averaging 3.8 yards per play in the opening half.
Defensive backs Nik Needham, Eric Rowe, Noah Igbinoghene and Clayton Fejedelem all scored pass breakups and the Dolphins front brought the same stingy run defense that showed up in the two joint practices with the Bears over to the game on Saturday.
In the first half, Chicago running backs rushed just three times for seven yards. For the entire game, the Dolphins defense limited the Bears to three third-down conversions on 12 attempts (25 percent).
Check out the top photos from Preseason Week 1 - Dolphins vs. Bears on August 14, 2021, presented by Baptist Health.
2. Explosive Plays, Third-Down Success and Something to Work On
Complementary football was the name of the game through the first 30 minutes as the offense ate up yardage and the clock. Though the final results left something to be desired (one drive stalling at the 1-yard-line, another a turnover in the red zone), Miami's ability to convert on third-and-long and have explosive plays is hopefully a sign of good things to come.
The Tua Tagovailoa-led attack converted three times on third down with completions to Mack Hollins (14 yards on third-and-9), Mike Gesicki (six yards on third-and-4) and Gesicki again with the most electrifying play of the day. Scanning the field with terrific pass protection, Tagovailoa dropped an arching throw over the top of the coverage and the fourth-year tight end did the rest. Gesicki used his speed and a timely stiff-arm to make his way down to the 7-yard-line for a gain of 50.
Salvon Ahmed got in on the fireworks with a pair of 20-plus-yard plays – first, a 20-yard rush on a draw play up the middle, then a 23-yard touchdown reception on a wheel route. Jacoby Brissett saw a favorable matchup with a Chicago linebacker on Ahmed and threw a gorgeous ball to the front pylon. Ahmed finished with a diving effort to break the plane of the goal line.
3. Winning the Hidden Yardage Battle
Head Coach Brian Flores has made no secret about his preference for proficiency in the game's third phase and disciplined football. Return men Jaylen Waddle and Jakeem Grant combined for 74 punt return yards on their first three returns (Waddle for 23, Grant for 20 and 34) to help set the offense up with excellent field position.
Michael Palardy, Mack Hollins, Jamal Perry and the punt coverage team did their part to flip the field. Palardy averaged 52.4 yards per pont while Hollins and Perry were first on the scene for a pair of Chicago returns that failed to gain yardage.
Jason Sanders hit both of his field goals and the lone extra point on the day. His kickoffs also pinned the Bears inside the 20-yard line twice.
The Dolphins committed just four penalties for 38 yards compared to nine fouls for 55 yards by the home team.