Things we learned in Miami Dolphins’ 35-32 victory over the Chicago Bears – The Denver Post


Here are some of the top takeaways from the Miami Dolphins’ 35-32 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday:

Tyreek Hill is a red-zone option

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who had his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season Sunday with seven receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown, caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa in the second quarter, which gives him his red-zone threat credentials. The reception was Hill’s third touchdown of the season. His previous touchdowns were 48 and 60 yards, both against Baltimore. Hill, a 5-foot-10, 191-pound ball of muscle and speed, has been targeted all over the field in almost every instance, and now defenses have to have a bit more awareness in the red zone looking for Hill. — Chris Perkins

Cedrick Wilson is an option. Period.

Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson has seen his role on the team steadily increasing. He had a 14-yard reception in the second quarter Sunday and ended with two receptions for 23 yards. Wilson entered the game with two receptions for 20 yards, with both catches coming against the New York Jets. Wilson started getting regular playing time two games ago as the punt returner. Wide receiver River Cracraft has missed the past two games, opening opportunities for others. Last week it was undrafted rookie Braylon Sanders.

Running back Jeff Wilson Jr fits in nicely

Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. had a nice debut with nine carries for 51 yards and three receptions for 21 yards and one touchdown. He had a 10-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter to give the Dolphins a 35-25 lead. He got his first carry on a 4-yard gain on first-and-10 from the 14-yard line in the second quarter. He also caught a pass for a 4-yard gain that also included a roughing the passer penalty in the second quarter. Wilson had a key block on a 22-yard completion on the first play of the third quarter, protecting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa from a possible sack or hit. He followed that with a 28-yard carry on the next play. The Dolphins finished with 77 yards on the ground. Miami entered the game 28th in the league at 88.1 yards per game.

Special teams come through. And then they didn’t come through

Special teams can make game-changing plays. We saw it in the second quarter. And then we saw special teams sputter later in the second quarter. As for the good stuff, linebacker Jaelan Phillips broke through from the right side to block a punt that fellow linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel returned for a 25-yard scoop-and-score touchdown. It marked the first time in a while special teams contributed a game-changing play. And, yes, that includes the infamous butt punt against Buffalo. As for the bad stuff, kicker Jason Sanders missed a 29-yard field goal attempt wide left shortly before halftime. It was his only miss of the season inside of 50 yards. He was 11 of 11 inside 50 yards and 19 of 20 on extra point attempts.

Secondary gets new face

Safety Elijiah Campbell got playing time Sunday, giving the secondary yet another look as it truly goes by game-by-game matchups. For example, last week safety Jevon Holland was down in the box for much of the game with rookie Verone McKinley III deep. Against the Bears, Campbell played lots in the box leaving Jevon Holland as the single deep safety. The Dolphins, who started cornerbacks Xavier Howard and Kader Kohou along with Holland and Campbell at safeties, also used Keion Crossen and safety Eric Rowe, who was surprisingly inactive last week. In the previous few games the Dolphins used defensive backs such as safeties Clayton Fejedelem and cornerbacks Noah Igbinoghene and Justin Bethel extensively.

Dolphins OK not scoring first

Sunday marked the sixth time Dolphins opponents scored first this season. The Dolphins were 3-2 in such instances entering Sunday’s game. Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, the New York Jets, Detroit and Chicago all scored first. The Dolphins lost Cincinnati and the Jets. The Dolphins scored first against New England, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, only losing to Minnesota.

Penalties were brought under control

Remember last week when TV cameras caught coach Mike McDaniel turn to someone on the sideline and said something along the lines of “Get those penalties fixed!”? Well, someone got them fixed. Yeah, perhaps Crossen grabbed wide receiver Chase Claypool by the waist on a crucial third down pass play at the Dolphins’ 22-yard line that wasn’t called a penalty. But the Dolphins ended with just three penalties for 38 yards. Crossen was called for a 28-yard pass interference penalty in the first quarter. Left tackle Terron Armstead was flagged for illegal player downfield, wiping out a modest 7-yard Trent Sheffield completion. The Dolphins were flagged for illegal participation late in the second quarter at the Chicago 18-yard line when they broke the huddle with 12 men. But overall it was a good showing in that regard.

Chubb moves from side to side

New Dolphins edge rusher Bradley Chubb moved from right to left on the defensive front, lining up across from left tackle Braxton Jones and right tackle Riley Reiff. Chubb had some close calls and near misses getting to quarterback Justin Fields. The big one was in the fourth quarter when Fields broke free for a 13-yard gain on third-and-7 from the Bears’ 29-yard line. Chubb ended with one tackle.

Running quarterbacks are problematic

Bears quarterback Justin Fields had 15 carries for 178 yards to establish a NFL record for regular season rushing yards by a quarterback in a game. The previous record was 173 yards by Atlanta’s Michael Vick against Minnesota on Dec. 1, 2002. The Dolphins have allowed the longest two touchdown carries by quarterbacks this season. Fields broke loose for a 61-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson had a 79-yard touchdown run against the Dolphins. Miami’s run defense entered the game sixth at 100.6 yards allowed per game. The Dolphins hadn’t allowed a team 100 yard rushing since the New York Jets totaled 135 five games ago.

Tua was sharp. Again.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had another precision-passing performance, going 21 of 30 for 302 yards, three touchdowns and a 135.7 passer rating. The one flaw was throwing short to tight end Durham Smythe on fourth-and-1 from the Bears’ 15-yard line with 7:50 remaining and the Dolphins protecting a 35-32 lead. He had red-zone touchdown pass to Hill, Wilson and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa made good decisions, including running out of bounds once and throwing balls away at least three times (to the ire of Bears fans in the fourth quarter who thought it should have been intentional grounding), including once in the red zone. You could say Tagovailoa misfired on a fourth-and-6 pass to tight end Mike Gesicki but in reality Gesicki was well-covered and the completion probably didn’t have a chance of happening, so the blame on Tagovailoa is minimal. The offense’s four touchdowns approached the season best of six established against Baltimore.

The Tyreek meter

With Hill at 1,104 receiving yards for the season, he needs only 286 the rest of the year to set the club record (1,389 by Mark Clayton in 1984) and 861 to break the NFL record (1,964 by Calvin Johnson in 2012). To break Clayton’s record, Hill must average 35.8 yards a game the rest of the way. To break it in the same 16-game frame as Clayton had, he would need 40.9 yards per. To break Johnson’s mark, he would require 107.7 yards a game, and 123.0 to break it on a 16-game frame. — Steve Svekis

Did defenses get spooked from blitzing after Tyreek Hill’s first touchdown of the season?

In Week 2, on the fourth-quarter play in Baltimore where Tyreek Hill blew past the Ravens secondary and hauled in his 48-yard touchdown pass, making it 35-28 Ravens, Baltimore had blitzed two from the left side — the direction where quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has made the most hay during his career. However, Hill was streaking down the middle of the field. While that blitz got ample push, and would have been effectively in Tagovailoa’s face if he were throwing to the left half of the field, it was picked up enough to keep him clean as he surveyed the landscape in Hill’s direction and let it fly. Up to that point, defenses had blitzed the Dolphins quarterback 29 times in his first 80 dropback (36.3%). But since the Ravens’ game-turning, unsuccessful six-man rush, Tagovailoa had faced 16 extra-man rushes in Miami’s 119 dropbacks (13.4%), entering the Bears game (giving him a cumulative 22.6% blitz rate for his first six games). The percentage shrunk against the Bears, with the unofficial count being four blitzes in Tagovailoa’s 31 dropbacks (12.9%). By comparison, these are the blitz rates against some of the NFL’s top quarterbacks through Week 8: Lamar Jackson, 95 blitzes in 272 dropbacks (34.9%); Jalen Hurts, 85 in 254 (33.5); Geno Smith, 82 in 281 (29.2); Patrick Mahomes, 82 in 290 (28.3); Josh Allen, 77 in 302 (25.5); Justin Herbert, 68 in 328 (20.7); Joe Burrow, 50 in 347 (14.4). So, at that line of demarcation, Tua went from the most-blitzed quarterback in the NFL with at least his 199 dropbacks to, after that game-turning bomb to Hill, the least.

The Dolphins club-record-long road win streak against the Bears continues on, likely into a fifth decade

The Dolphins haven’t lost to the Bears at Soldier Field since 1988. The next-longest span without a loss at the home stadium of a given team has been against the Rams franchise, a 2001 defeat in St. Louis. Interestingly, the Rams are the team with the longest drought of winning a game in South Florida, last beating the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl in 1976. The last year the Dolphins lost a game at the home stadium of a given NFL team:

1988: Bears; 2001: Rams; 2007: Eagles, Commanders; 2009: Falcons; 2012: Cardinals, 49ers; 2013: Saints; 2014: Lions; 2015: Jaguars, Chargers; 2016: Seahawks; 2017: Ravens, Panthers, Chiefs; 2018: Packers, Texans, Colts, Vikings; 2019: Browns, Cowboys, Giants, Steelers; 2020: Broncos, Patriots; 2021: Bills, Raiders, Buccaneers, Titans; 2022: Bengals, Jets.

The Patriots’ win over the Colts made history for the AFC East

The AFC East has all of its teams with a winning record going into Week 10 for the first time in its 57-year history.

This would not be the first time the Dolphins haven’t had a first-rounder in consecutive drafts

After the Bradley Chubb trade, 2023 is on track to be the fourth time in Dolphins history where they haven’t had a first-round pick for consecutive seasons. The 2022-23 span would join 2002-03, 1999-2000 and 1970-71 in that realm. Yes, Miami — partly because of getting Ricky Williams — had one first-rounder in a five-draft span, and the first-rounder was a 26th pick at that (DB Jamar Fletcher in 2001).

Not that it is easy, but…

The Dolphins’ tally against running quarterbacks this season is unsightly. Justin Fields (15 runs for 178 yards), Lamar Jackson (nine for 119) and Josh Allen has (eight for 47) jaunted for 344 yards on 32 carries (10.8 yards a run).

Duke Riley had a play that may be forgotten, but it was big

Justin Fields had been running roughshod on Miami, and on the Bears’ final possession, the Chicago quarterback sprinted right with designs on getting yet another running first down, but the linebacker Riley set the sharpest of edges on him and forced him out of bounds for a 2-yard sack. It set up a third-and-10, and two plays later, the Dolphins had won the game. Big, big play.

On deck: Cleveland Browns, Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday 1 p.m.

The Browns, who looked very impressive in hammering the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, will be coming back from a week off. Jacoby Brissett, the Dolphins backup quarterback last season, had a 133.7 passer rating against the Bengals, tacking on a key rushing touchdown. He also is 10 for 11 in gaining at least 1 yard in third- or fourth-and-1 situations. On the flip side, he has absorbed 11 of his season’s 16 sacks the past three games. Meanwhile, Myles Garrett — arguably the best edge player in the NFL — has caught fire since escaping grievous injury in a one-car wreck after Week 3 — piling up 4.5 sacks as part of his 21 pressures the past three games, adding in four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Additionally, edge bookend Jadeveon Clowney is expected back starting after the break.



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