With a 33-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon, the Dolphins turned in their fourth-straight win and closed the month of November with a perfect 4-0 record. Under head coach Brian Flores, Miami is now 10-3 in November and 16-6 after Halloween in the last three seasons. There's still a lot of work to do, but the Dolphins continue to surge in the second half of the season coming off their best, most complete team win of 2021.
The takeaways from this one are simple. It was offense. It was defense. And it was special teams.
As always, for further analysis, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
1. The Defensive Storm is Here
The Panthers offense was hitting a bit of a stride entering their Week 12 matchup with Miami, but the Dolphins were dominant in every sense of the word. A 64-yard completion and a one-play, field goal drive off a Dolphins turnover produced the only points of the day for the visitors.
Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland and Nik Needham intercepted passes. Howard is the fastest player since 1990 to record 25 career interceptions (67 games). Christian Wilkins and Emmanuel Ogbah had a sack apiece while rookie Jaelan Phillips tallied three sacks in the second half. Phillips now ranks t-21st in the NFL in sacks, t-20th in QB hits and second among rookies with 6.5 sacks.
Over the last four weeks, the Miami defense has surrendered just 9, 10, 17 and 10 points -- good for 11.5 points per game. That figure, their 10 takeaways and 32.3 percent (19/59) third-down defense all rank first in the NFL among teams that have played four games over the last four weeks.
2. Offense Does it All
The Dolphins had answers all day against the NFL's top-ranked passing defense and No. 6 scoring defense. Tua Tagovailoa's 230 passing yards were the second-highest total against this Panthers defense this season. The second-year southpaw completed over 80 percent of his passes (87.1 percent) for the second straight week. The only other quarterbacks to achieve that feat since 1950 (min. 30 attempts per game) are Peyton Manning in 2013, Drew Brees in 2018 and Kyler Murray earlier this season.
Tagovailoa now has 16 starts in the books. He's posted 27 total touchdowns compared to 12 turnovers, a passer rating of 90.5 and a record of 9-7. His 57.6 Total QBR ranks ninth in the NFL.
His top target, Jaylen Waddle, is second in the NFL in receptions and receiving yards since Week 6. He's quickly approaching Dolphins rookie records in both those departments. Waddle was the first Miami receiver to go over 100 yards in the first half of a game since Jakeem Grant in 2017.
The running game found contributions across the roster. Myles Gaskin showed his nose for the goal line with a pair of rushing touchdowns while newcomer Phillip Lindsay rushed for 42 yards in his Dolphins debut, including a key blitz pickup on the 57-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Waddle. Tagovailoa rushed for a big first down and tight end Durham Smythe successfully converted a pair of third-and-short sneaks from under center as the Dolphins piled up 111 yards on the ground.
Miami possessed the ball for 37:34 of game clock and scored on all three of their second-half drives (excluding a possession that featured only QB kneel downs).
3. Special Teams Strikes
It all started on the Panthers' opening drive, a three-and-out capped off by a Duke Riley blocked punt. The Dolphins shifted right before the snap to bring the outside man on a blitz, which pulled a blocker wide and created a lane inside for Riley to come clean. Justin Coleman recovered the football and his teammates pushed him across the goal line for the fourth touchdown in his career.
Michael Palardy hit all four of his punts inside the 20-yard-line including a pair inside the 10. Carolina did not have any return yardage while Miami had 26 on three punt returns. Jason Sanders was 2-of-2 on field goals, hitting both in the fourth quarter to stretch the Dolphins' lead.