Here are some of the top takeaways from the Miami Dolphins’ 30-15 win over the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday:
Tua remains hot, in a way
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (22 of 36, 299 yards, one touchdown) didn’t have a sterling game Sunday like he had in the previous three, when he had a passer rating of at least 135.0 in each game. Tagovailoa had a so-so 96.9 passer rating against Houston. But he did other things well. Tagovailoa threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Durham Smythe that showed off Tagovailoa’s improved decision-making (it also drew “MVP!” chants from the crowd). With no receiver open initially, Tagovailoa used his feet to move around in the pocket and buy himself time and a passing lane. Then he gathered himself, got his feet settled, and threw a dart to Smythe. In another example of good decision-making Tagovailoa smartly winged a third-and-10 pass out of bounds early in the second quarter. He did the same thing later in the second quarter on first-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 12-yard line after evading two pass rushers. Tagovailoa continues to show growth. — Chris Perkins
Right tackle Austin Jackson was off to a good start, but…
Austin Jackson, who left the game with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, made his first start at right tackle since the opener, when he went down with an ankle injury, and got off to a good start in pass and run blocking. He had a bit of trouble handling Houston defensive end Jerry Hughes on a third down pass play in the first quarter, Hughes was a step away from Tagovailoa before the quarterback delivered the pass. Overall, however, Jackson seemed to perform well after a long layoff. We’ll monitor his ankle ailment.
Pass rush trio of Ingram, Chubb and Phillips is productive
The pass rush trio of Bradley Chubb, Melvin Ingram and Jaelan Phillips was effective against Houston with Phillips and Chubb each recording one sack and Ingram providing good pressure. It was usually Chubb lining up over the left tackle (on the defense’s right side), Ingram outside of the right tackle (on the defense’s left side) and Phillips lined up over the right tackle. In the first quarter Ingram got pressure on quarterback Kyle Allen before he went to the ground and linebacker Duke Riley and Phillips arrived on the scene. On a third-and-5 in the first quarter it was Chubb on the right, Ingram on the left and Phillips inside again. On a third-and-11 in the second quarter Phillips and Ingram flushed Allen out of the pocket and Phillips stayed in hot pursuit as Allen scrambled for a five-yard gain. On third-and-5 in the third quarter Phillips was lined up over the right tackle and sacked Allen. The trio probably would have preferred better results in the second half Sunday, but they seem to have a bright future together ahead of them.
Waddle establishes a Dolphins record
Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle’s 22-yard reception in the first quarter gave him 1,926 yards receiving, the new franchise record for receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons with the Dolphins. Waddle entered the game with 1,893 yards receiving. The previous mark was held by Jarvis Landry, who compiled 1,915 yards in 2014-15. But it didn’t stop there for Waddle. He also had a nice block on Tyreek Hill’s 29-yard reception in the first quarter. Yeah, Waddle had a drop in the first quarter but he’s having another outstanding season. Waddle ended with five receptions for 85 yards Sunday.
Morstead remains steady
Punter Thomas Morstead booted a 51-yarder that narrowly ended up being a touchback in the second quarter. It was his first punt since the first quarter of the Chicago game, a span of eight quarters. Morstead, who entered the game 24th in punting at 45.7 yards per punt, ended with six punts for an average of 49.3 yards per punt. The Dolphins’ punt return defense wasn’t as good, allowing an average of 16.2 yards per return.
Dolphins continue turning bad numbers into good numbers
The Dolphins improved to plus-1 on turnover margin with a fourth-quarter interception by safety Verone McKinely, one of two interceptions on the day. The Dolphins got even on turnover margin for the season in the second quarter when cornerback Xavien Howard had a scoop-and-score fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second after Eric Rowe delivered a big hit on tight end Jordan Akins. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel had an interception in the second quarter that improved the Dolphins to minus-1 in turnover margin, and prepared them to flip their final negative number. The Dolphins were upside down in points for/points against but the 39-17 victory over Cleveland two weeks ago flipped that number to a plus-11.
Dolphins’ run defense answers the call
Houston running back Dameon Pierce ended with five carries for 8 yards, a remarkable defensive feat by the Dolphins considering Pierce entered the game with 780 yards rushing, seventh in the league. The Dolphins’ run defense, led by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and linebacker Elandon Roberts, shut down all running lanes. And the Texans had to pass quickly because they fell behind, 10-0, in the first quarter, and 30-0, in the first half. The Dolphins’ run defense entered the game 17th at 116.9 yards allowed per game.
Cutting down on turnovers
The Dolphins didn’t commit any turnovers Sunday, marking the third consecutive game without a turnover. Their last turnover was a lost fumble at Detroit. That’s the Dolphins’ only turnover during this five-game winning streak. The Dolphins began play Sunday with 10 giveaways (seven interceptions, three fumbles), which was tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL.
These guys can score quickly
The Dolphins’ 30-0 halftime lead over the Texans marked the second time the Dolphins have scored 30 or more points in a half this season, joining the 35-point second-half outburst in that 42-38 victory at Baltimore. The Dolphins began play Sunday seventh in scoring at 25.2 points per game.
A good Dolphins season can have wide-ranging effects
There were two halftime marriage proposals at the Texans game. Both proposals were shown on the big screens inside the stadium. For the record, the women said “yes” in both cases. By the way, tennis pro Coco Gauf, who hails from Delray Beach, got the crowd going before the game with a brief, “Let’s go Dolphins!” cheer.
Focus is a tough thing to keep
The crowd at Hard Rock Stadium let out a few short-lived boos in the second half as Houston managed to score a few points and stay in the game. The Dolphins seemed to lose focus for a while as they built their 30-0 lead. Houston was never a threat to win the game but the Dolphins seemed to get a bit sloppy. It’s tough to blame them because it’s hard to stay focused with such a big lead. It’s noteworthy, but there was nothing to see here. No blood, no foul.
Tua Tagovailoa has dominated the teams Miami has been favored against
With his 22-of-36 performance for 299 yards, one touchdown pass and no interceptions, Tua Tagovailoa has an exceptional 106.0 passer rating (365 of 513 for 3,950 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions) in his 15-plus career games against teams who finished with a losing record in the seasons he played against them, or, among this season’s opponents, currently are under .500. — Steve Svekis
The Texans were putrid, but there was one area they were better than any Dolphins opponent since Tua’s return
Even before Terron Armstead exited with a pectoral injury, the Texans were getting much better push with their front four than the Steelers, Lions, Bears or Browns had. Right before halftime, Tua Tagovailoa got folded up awkwardly. In the second half, for the first time I can remember (certainly in situations where the Dolphins didn’t trail in the game) since Dan Marino’s first three snaps of a 1995 Monday Night Football game in Miami Gardens against the 49ers, a Dolphins quarterback was sacked on three consecutive plays. The pass protection was more than a little porous.
Tua’s passes-without-an-interception streak has left all other Miami QBs in his dust
The Dolphins quarterback set a high bar for himself to start his career, throwing his first 152 career passes without one being picked off, but his personal record, and all others in the Dolphins record book were passed on Sunday. Since an interception Sept. 29 in Cincinnati, Tagovailoa has thrown 174 consecutive passes without turning the ball over. That streak broke Dan Marino’s single-season club mark of 156 in 1997. However, the Miami quarterback who had had the longest overall streak (it spanned from the end of one season to the next year) was Ryan Tannehill, who threw 160 such passes spanning the end of the 2014 season and beginning of the 2015 campaign.
Will Terron Armstead snap an odd streak that dates back to the Obama administration?
The last time the Dolphins star tackle was active for Game 12 of his team’s season was almost seven years ago, on Dec. 6, 2015, when his New Orleans Saints were edged in the Superdome by the Carolina Panthers. He limped off against Houston, but if he plays on Sunday in San Francisco, that run is history.
With Hill’s 85 receiving yards against Houston put him at 1,233 for the season, one yard ahead of the Minnesota Vikings’ Justin Jefferson atop the NFL leaderboard. He needs only 157 the rest of the year to set the club record (1,389 by Mark Clayton in 1984) and 732 to break the NFL record (1,964 by Calvin Johnson in 2012). To break Clayton’s record, Hill must average 26.2 yards a game the rest of the way. To break it in the same 16-game frame as Clayton had, he would need 31.4 yards per. To break Johnson’s mark, he would require 122.0 yards a game, and 146.4 to break it on a 16-game frame.
With two-thirds of the season complete, a look at the potential 2023 Dolphins opponents
A first-place Dolphins would play the champions of the AFC South, NFC South and AFC North next year. After Sunday’s action, those variable teams would be home games against the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a road trip again to play the Baltimore Ravens. The remaining docket would have, after the home-and-home games against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and New England Patriots, Hard Rock Stadium games against the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders and road trips to the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.
On Deck: At San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, 4:05 p.m., Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
The Dolphins begin their challenging final half-dozen games by facing the red-hot 49ers on the West Coast in what amounts to quite a reunion among Dolphins personnel who were paid by the 49ers last year. The list includes coach Mike McDaniel, running backs Jeff Wilson Jr., and Raheem Mostert, receiver Trent Sherfield, along with a few assistant coaches and other personnel. … San Francisco, heading into its Week 12 matchup against the Saints, had gotten its pass rush going, with a combined six sacks, 12 quarterback knockdowns and 21 pressures in the previous games against the Cardinals and Chargers. … Miami, who ripped the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in 2020 behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, will be looking to take a lead in the all-time series of games played in The Bay Area (San Francisco, Palo Alto and Santa Clara). That series is at 4-4 out West, with the Dolphins leading 4-2 in South Florida matchups.