By Greg Fuchs
The Dolphins opened their 2022 season with their first win of the year beating the New England Patriots 20-7. Perhaps more importantly, it was the Mike McDaniels’ first win as a head coach in the NFL. Dolfans are hoping that is the first of many.
While Miami hardly played a perfect game, there is no reason to apologize for beating a team that made the playoffs last year by 13 points.
There were 2 primary things that went well for the Dolphins on Sunday that led to the win.
The Defense – When you hold a team to 271 total yards and 7 points, you’ve done your job. When you also force 3 turnovers including one that goes for a touchdown, you’ve really done your job.
Cornerback Xavien Howard shadowed ex-Dolphin DeVante Parker all game and held him to 1 catch for 9 yards. One of the biggest plays of the game was on the Patriots first drive of the game when Howard thwarted a long Patriots drive by tipping away a pass to Parker in the endzone that safety Jevon Holland grabbed for an interception. This turnover led to a 43-yard field goal by Jason Sanders that put the Fins up 3-0.
Then midway through the 2nd quarter a blitzing Brandon Jones had a strip sack of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. Linebacker Melvin Ingram, playing in his first game as a Dolphin, scooped up the loose ball on the 2-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown that put Miami up 10-0.
Also, kudos to undrafted rookie free agent Kader Kohou. The 1st year cornerback played a strong game forcing a fumble, knocking down a pass on 4th down and making a strong tackle on a play that could have gone for a long gain. He may be in line for more playing time with starting cornerback Byron Jones out for at least 3 more games.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – The Dolphins made a point of getting Hill involved early. He finished the game with 8 receptions for 94 yards plus 1 rush for 6 yards. Fellow speedster Waddle didn’t see any targets in the 1st quarter, but he had the offensive play of the game with a 43-yard touchdown reception 18 seconds before halftime that put Miami up 17-0. He ended with 4 catches for 69 yards plus 8 yards on his lone rushing attempt.
Despite a 13-point win, there were definitely some areas Miami needs to work on improving heading into week 2. The first one you will be intimately familiar with.
The Offensive Line – The Fins O-line continues to be the albatross around their necks. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was sacked 3 times and was frequently under pressure, but the bigger problem was a lack of holes for the running game.
Miami was held to 65 yards rushing on 23 carries. Three Dolphins wide receivers accounted for 22 of those yards on 3 carries meaning the Fins running backs only had 43 yards on 20 carries for a paltry 2.1 yards per carry. Chase Edmonds was held to 25 yards on 12 carries. McDaniels is a run first coach, so you can be sure he will focus on the run game in practice this week.
Tua Tagovailoa – Tua played a decent game finishing 23-33 for 270 yards with the one passing touchdown to Waddle and zero turnovers. But he missed open receivers a few times and could have done a better job reacting to the Patriots pass rush. He seemed to panic a few times and put the ball in jeopardy instead of just throwing the ball away or dumping it off to a safety valve.
Where’s Waldo aka Mike Gesicki? After a pre-season where Gesicki had minimal involvement in the passing game, he had only 1 reception for 1 yard vs. the Patriots. I realize McDaniels likes tight ends who can block, but he needs to find way to get one of the better receiving TEs in the league more involved.
The Overall Offense – The offense only scored 1 touchdown and put up just 13 points. That just won’t get the job done most weeks in today’s NFL. They need to run the ball much better and Tua needs to hit the receivers when they are wide open.
Injuries were also part of the game story. For the Patriots, QB Mac Jones had X-rays taken on his back after the game. There has been no update on the severity of the injury.
For the Fins, they had trouble keeping right tackles on the field. In the 2nd quarter Austin Jackson injured his right ankle and never returned. Greg Little replaced Jackson. Little was then injured in the 3rd quarter and replaced by Robert Jones. Little later re-entered the game. There has been no update on the extent of Jackson’s injury.
Week 1 is in the books for Miami with the all-important checkmark in the win column. Week 2 brings a tough road game vs. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in Baltimore. The Ravens throttled the Jets 24-9 today, so Miami will need to bring their A Game next Sunday in order to notch win #2.