After starting the season 1-7, the Dolphins have successfully fought their way back to even their mark with a six-game winning streak. The latest of the run -- a 31-24 victory over the rival Jets to give Miami the all-time regular season lead (56-55), back-to-back sweeps, and a fifth win over the Jets in six starts under Head Coach Brian Flores.
The turnaround continues to set the pace as far as bounce backs are concerned. Miami is the second team in the modern era (1994 Giants) to win six straight games inside of a season that also featured seven-consecutive losses.
As always, for further analysis, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
1. Duke's Homecoming
The Dolphins want to play balanced, complementary football. It's a formula every team wants to adopt -- the more ways to win allows different areas of the team to pick up the pace if one particular phase is struggling. Sunday, while the passing offense got off to a slow start and the Jets' offense trick-played its way down the field for 17 first-half points, it was the Miami rushing attack that consistently produced.
Duke Johnson rushed for a career-high 107 yards and in doing so, became the first Dolphin to surpass the century mark this year. He added 20 more yards through the air, but it was his two touchdown plunges that made the difference. Both times, Johnson was stood up short of the goal line, but pushed the pile with a second effort to gain access to paydirt.
Yards after contact were the order of the day for Johnson. He averaged 3.68 yards after initial contact and forced eight missed tackles in the game. Johnson, at age 28, played his first game at Hard Rock Stadium as a Dolphin, a dream come true for the Miami-Dade and Hurricanes product.
"It just reminded me of college. It felt like my college days again," Johnson said. "Definitely enjoyed it."
While Johnson enjoyed a career day, Myles Gaskin ripped off his biggest run of the season, and perhaps the most important. On a second-and-10, in a 24-24 tie late in the fourth quarter, Gaskin sprung a 30-yard scamper to put Miami in position for the game-winning score.
2. Swarming Pass Rush
Over the six-game winning streak, opposing quarterbacks have encountered a ruthlessness of rushers the Dolphins can dial up.
With six more sacks on Sunday, Miami has 37 on the season -- tied for fourth-most in the league.
Brandon Jones picked up his fourth sack of the season, that's the most among defensive backs in the league. Jerome Baker had a two-piece and he's second among all off-ball linebackers in QB pressures (26, per PFF). Zach Sieler, who has become one of the league's most efficient interior defensive lineman, made the splash play with the sack fumble.
Emmanuel Ogbah recovered that fumble. He also added his seventh sack (the second-highest total of his career (9.0 sacks in 2020) and a batted pass at the line. The latter gives Ogbah 10 on the season, the most by an NFL defensive lineman since 2017 (Cameron Jordan). The defensive lineman with the second most passes defensed this season is Cameron Hayward, he has seven PDs.
Ogbah, Andrew Van Ginkel and Jaelan Phillips combined for 13 pressures in the game. The trio ranks 10th (Ogbah, 57) 28th (Van Ginkel, 40) and 29th (Phillips, 37) in QB pressures among edge defenders, per PFF.
Pairing with the rush, starting cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones were targeted five times combined on 72 coverage snaps allowing one reception for nine yards.
As a result, it was Miami's third straight game allowing 200-or-less passing yards. The Dolphins defense has also allowed 300-or-less passing yards in seven straight games.
3. Dance, Christian Dance
Last year, in a Week 13 game against Cincinnati, Shaq Lawson put a hit on Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen that jarred the ball free. Christian Wilkins scooped it up and took across the goal line for a momentary touchdown. After a flip into the end zone, a dunk over the goal post, several chest bumps, an Irish jig of some sort and a capping summersault, Wilkins learned that the fumble was being reversed to an incomplete pass.
If he ever got a chance to find the end zone again, you knew Wilkins was going to make it worth the price of admission. And he did.
It's hard to pinpoint which was the best part of the celebration. The Hard Rock Hurdle into the stands. The well-executed worm for a 320-pound man wearing football pads. Just those two alone would've gone into the celebration hall of fame. Then, he went to the break dance windmill-exit and struck the pose for a perfect closer.
According to Wilkins, that was a tamed down version of the skills in which he's truly capable.
"I was holding back, honestly," Wilkins said. "You ain't seen me at a wedding or at a bar mitzvah or nothing like that. That's when the moves are on full display. But it was definitely exciting. It was cool. I was happy I was able to make a play for my team. But yeah, I don't know how I squeezed all that into 40 seconds or into however long the play clock was because I felt like I was going for a while. I enjoyed it. It was fun. Glad I could make a play for my team."
The dancing is fun, no doubt, but the energy Wilkins brings to game day is the same energy he brings to the practice field, meetings and walkthroughs, and even press conferences. He reminds us often that football is supposed to be fun, and did that again on Sunday.
Never change, 94.