The losing streak is over as Dolphins Nation basks in a much-needed Victory Monday. However, it's a quick celebration and turnaround as the Baltimore Ravens come to town in just three days. We'll recap the three takeaways before moving on to Week 10, Lamar Jackson, and a very good Baltimore team.
As always, for further analysis, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
1. There's That Defense
It started brewing last week in Buffalo, but Sunday against Tyrod Taylor and the Houston Texans, the Miami defense came to play with their best performance of the year. They forced four turnovers and dumped Taylor for five sacks en route to a smothering performance, one that resulted in just 14 first downs, a 35.3 percent third down conversion rate, 272 total yards and a victory in the time of possession battle.
The secret sauce was the combination of contributors. On the back end, the young safety tandem of Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland combined for eight total tackles, an interception, three passes defensed and a fumble recovery. On top of it all, a pass-rush plan that perplexed the Houston offense for 60 minutes spearheaded by the versatility of these young playmakers. Holland and Jones came on blitzes a combined 19 times, including a handful of "get-off-the-field" occurrences on third down (an INT, a PBU, another incompletion forced).
"I think both of those young guys are doing some good things," Brian Flores said. "When you have guys who can play down in the box, play in the deep part of the field, do a good job with disguising – are they blitzing, are they playing in coverage, are they playing in man, is it zone? That gives us some flexibility defensively. I think those guys are improving in those areas every week and it's helping us."
Aiding in the pressure-filled performance, Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips combined for 11 QB pressures and 3.5 sacks. On back-to-back plays late in the second quarter, the pair lined up on the same side – Ogbah outside, Phillips inside – and executed rush games that produced an Ogbah sack and a Jerome Baker interception. Baker contributed with the pick, four QB pressures and five run stops of his own.
"I think both of them executed well on the play," Josh Boyer said. "I think we got a number of guys that we can lineup next to each other. Obviously, we always try to put guys in positions where we feel they can succeed. They executed very well on the play and that's a credit to Emmanuel and a credit to Jaelen on that play. Obviously, 'Bake' (Jerome Baker) was able to finish the play for us on one of those. It's really a credit to the players. They executed very well."
Phillips produced his second-highest pressure-rate percentage of the season at 25 percent (Week 4 vs. Indiaapolis, 27.2 percent).
Emmanuel Ogbah's 35 QB pressures are tied for 10th-most among edge defenders (PFF) and his 18 run stops (run-down tackles within two yards of the LOS) are tied for 11th at the position.
Eric Rowe forced a fumble and Justin Coleman secured his first interception as a Dolphin in the victory.
2. Ups and Downs of a Young Line
Despite the defense's success and giving the ball back to the offense on some short fields, it was a second-half struggle. Miami put up 17 first-half points but couldn't change the scoreboard in the second stanza.
Up front, a young offensive line had been showing progress in recent weeks, but Sunday was a challenging outing. Ups and downs are part of this game, especially at this level, and the young front has an opportunity to make some quick corrections for Thursday night.
The Miami offensive line was charged with 23 QB pressures allowed, tied for the second-most by the Dolphins this season . As a result, it was a struggle to push the ball downfield (0-for-3 on passes traveling 20-plus yards with an interception) and struggled in the run game.
Brian Flores was asked about the offensive line on Monday: "We've got to do better along the offensive line. We've got to do better in the run game. We've got to protect better. Our guys understand that. It's something we put an emphasis on, really on a weekly basis, on a daily basis. We didn't do a good enough job yesterday."
3. Juxtaposing Weapon
Few things about Jaylen Waddle's and Mike Gesicki's games are similar other than the reliable production of the wide receiver and tight end duo. Sunday, Waddle produced 83 yards on eight receptions and 10 targets -- good for 8.3 yards per target. Gesicki's efficiency has been through the roof in recent weeks and the nature of his receptions against the Texans was quite remarkable.
Gesicki was plucking one-handed grabs and Waddle was chewing up defenders with precise route-running, acceleration and change of direction. These two have become Miami's go-to guys to the tune of 47.3 percent of Miami's season passing-yardage production and 42.9 percent of the team's 233 total receptions.
Together, they combined to account for 56.1 percent of Miami's passing production in Sunday's win.
The Dolphins are back at Hard Rock Stadium this Thursday, November 11 vs. the Ravens, kicking off at 8:20pm ET. For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com.