The Dolphins are finding a winning formula of complementary football over the last three weeks. The offense comes out red hot and lights up the scoreboard while the defense brings it home with key late stops. Sprinkle in a special teams touchdown and the Dolphins got contributions from the entire 53-man roster and all three units. The win gives Miami a 6-3 start for only the second time since 2002.
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Here are the three takeaways from the Dolphins' 35-32 victory over the Bears.
1. The terrific trio
We've reached the copy-paste portion of the weekly three takeaways story. Tua Tagovailoa recorded a second consecutive day with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdown tosses without a turnover. He's the first quarterback in Dolphins history to do that in back-to-back games. He leads the league in nearly every efficiency metric. He's been aces on third down and he's doing his part to maximize the most dangerous duo in the National Football League, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
First, Head Coach Mike McDaniel on his quarterback:
"The growth has been unbelievable in how he's playing the position, learning the whole system, and then how he's handling the ebbs and flows of natural in-game momentum," McDaniel said. "The players themselves can really feel the visceral confidence and energy that he's bringing forth to play the position and responding to it on both sides of the ball, I feel like."
Tagovailoa targeted Hill and Waddle 15 times Sunday in Chicago. The result: 12 receptions, 228 yards and two touchdowns. That's 15.2 yards per target without accounting for the two defensive pass interferences the Cheetah and Penguin drew for a total of 79 yards. If you include the 79 yards from those infractions, Hill and Waddle have combined for 601 yards and four touchdowns in the last two games.
Hill's 1,104 receiving yards are the most by a player through nine games in the Super Bowl era. He leads the league in yards, catches (76) and yards per game (122.7) with the next closest receiver (Justin Jefferson) trailing by 14.3 yards per game.
Waddle's 11.6 yards per targets leads qualifying receivers (at least 40 targets). He's tied for 10th in the league with 47 catches, fifth in yardage with 812 and tied for third with six touchdowns.
Their quarterback, Tagovailoa, leads the league in passer rating (115.9), QBR (79.9), yards per attempt (9.2), touchdown percentage (6.9) and expected points added per play (.19).
2. Well to Miami, Jeff Wilson!
It's been quite a week for Jeff Wilson. He arrived in South Florida in the early hours Wednesday morning, passed a physical, was issued a playbook and team gear and got right to work on the game plan for the Bears. Just four days later, he leads the team in rushing, produces 72 yards from scrimmage, a devesting blitz pickup to afford time for a deep shot from Tua to Tyreek, and caught a third-down touchdown strike in the red zone.
On his first score as a Dolphin, Wilson caught the ball near the sticks with a defender in hot pursuit. Wilson turned up, put his hand on the ground to stabilize himself, then lunged for the end zone in acrobatic fashion. We saw similar moves produced a pair of missed tackles on the nine attempts and an average of 3.11 yards after initial contact.
"Yeah, wow – that's what I've got to say," Tagovailoa said of his new teammate. "For someone like him to come from the 49ers and fit right into our offense like that, that tells you a lot about his work ethic, it tells you a lot about who he is as a player and who he is as a professional. So, wow."
Credit to the offensive line for opening lanes for both backs, including a beautifully executed 1-yard touchdown plunge from Raheem Mostert. To cap it off, Tagovailoa was not sacked in the game. Since his return to the line three weeks ago, Tagovailoa has been sacked only twice.
3. Production off the edge
The Wilson trade garnered attention, but it was the move for Bradley Chubb that made the marquee as Miami parted with a first-round pick to bring in the uber-talented 26-year-old. While Chubb's traditional box score didn't nab the headlines the way Wilson did, his impact on the game was felt across multiple units of the Dolphins football team.
First, he produced three quarterback pressures, which was second only to Jaelan Phillips' five. His impact, however, was always going to extend beyond his own production. His presence gives the Dolphins more depth at a spot where an old cliché tells us, 'you can never have enough pass rushers,' and perhaps the punt block, scoop-and-score is the prime example of exactly that.
"Maybe that doesn't happen if that group isn't as fresh, and we can't use them as much on special teams," McDaniel said. "So the whole team benefits when everyone is playing and contributing. It was awesome to see those guys flourish then."
In addition to the nine QB pressures and sack picked up by Dolphins outside linebackers, Phillips won his most critical rep of the day by stepping inside the edge of the Bears punt team. He blocked the kick and Andrew Van Ginkel scooped the rock with the 25-yard punt block returned for a touchdown, the longest in franchise history.
For more analysis, takeaways and breakdowns, check out the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, available on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.