Well, we’ve reached a fun milestone around these new-look Miami Dolphins.
Their offense was electric again in beating Chicago, 35-32, on Sunday.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns and hasn’t thrown an interception in the three games since returning from concussion protocol.
Receiver Tyreek Hill surpassed 1,000 yards receiving Sunday, and had his fifth game over 100 yards in just the ninth game of the season.
Even newcomer Jeff Wilson Jr., who hadn’t scored a touchdown this year while with San Francisco, scored a touchdown in his first Dolphins game, diving as Tagovailoa said, in that “Reggie Bush pose.”
All those big numbers and defining moments and no one seemed to notice too hard. No one sees the fun enough. That’s the milestone, too.
It’s like after years of watching offenses shake and cough like a bad engine people somehow think a 30-point day is an expected part of a Dolphins ticket, like Zac Brown singing, “I’ve got my toes in the water,” or Morgan Freeman’s character dropping a line of wisdom.
Oh, it hasn’t reached the ho-and-hum stage to scoring just quite yet. Tagovailoa, for instance, was asked about being in a game where Chicago answered their scores to the final drives.
“We were playing 60 minute and, offensively, we weren’t looking at the scoreboard,” he said. “Every time we got the ball, we wanted to score.”
He was then asked about the state of the playing field considering he slipped a couple of times. And then about his first big miss of the day, on fourth down in the fourth quarter to tight end Durham Smythe on the doorstep of a game-cementing touchdown.
“I’ve got to do better,” he said.
Sure, that play mattered. But here’s the point: This is fun to watch. The Dolphins (6-3) had six red-zone trips Sunday on drives of 75, 75, 64, 75, 20 and 68 yards. It’s telling, too, that after a season after the Dolphins couldn’t even name their offensive coordinator that coach Mike McDaniel’s X’s and O’s have receivers running free all day.
Chicago quarterback Justin Fields, meanwhile, had trouble finding anyone open. Sure, he then just tucked the ball and ran. And ran. He had 178 yards rushing — and only 123 yards passing — in lighting up the scoreboard.
This hometown point is the Dolphins defense hasn’t traveled well this year: 38 points allowed at Baltimore, 27 at Cincinnati, 40 at the New York Jets (admittedly not all the defense’s doing), 27 at Detroit and now 32 at Chicago.
If you want to say that’s not good enough, I’m with you. There’s a late-1980s feel to this for older Dolphins fans, of Dan Marino’s offense only able to take a team so far. But there’s time for this defense to emerge.
If you also want to say dragging a couple of bad defenses like Detroit and Chicago up and down the field the past two weeks isn’t the measuring stick, I’m with you there, too. The offense didn’t close out Sunday’s win as Tagovailoa missed a couple passes.
But that league-worst Detroit defense the Dolphins torched last week? Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers put up only nine points against it on Sunday.
Chicago defense, too, isn’t exactly the Monsters of the Midway after losing two key players to trades. But the bottom line is the Dolphins won again on the road. Buffalo lost on the road to the New York Jets on Sunday to make the AFC East race interesting as the page flips to the second half of the season.
If the Dolphins make the playoffs, the defense must improve and the trade for Bradley Chubb has to show something more than it did with one tackle on Sunday. But it’s clear this passing game will pace the way.
This team scored more than 30 points in consecutive games the past two weeks for the first time since 2016. McDaniel has delivered the offense he talked about last spring, the one built on Tagovailoa’s accuracy and receiving speed, the one that seemingly has open receivers all game long on some Sundays.
Like this latest one in Chicago.
“We’ll look at the films and then get ready for … who do we play against?” Tagovailoa said afterward.
Cleveland, he was told.
“And then we’ll move on to the Browns,” he said. “Sorry, I legit forgot.”
One big game at a time, right? They aren’t going to score like this every Sunday. They can’t. But the way they’ve moved the scoreboard of late gives this defense time to find some answers — and shouldn’t be ho-hummed like it’s been around for years.