Here are some takeaways from the Miami Dolphins’ astonishing comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens:
Tua leads comeback
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got off to a rough start but rallied his team in the second half and ended up tying a franchise record with six touchdown passes (tied with Bob Griese and Dan Marino). Tagovailoa was 12 of 20 for 150 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half for a 60.4 passer rating. He finished 36 for 50 for 469 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions for a 124.1 passer rating. Tagovailoa didn’t force any passes in the second half and his decision-making and accuracy were strong. Amazing performance. — Chris Perkins
Wide receivers come alive
Dolphins wide receivers Tyreek Hill (11 receptions, 190 yards, two touchdowns) and Jaylen Waddle (nine receptions 161 yards, two touchdowns) combined for 22 receptions for 351 yards and four touchdowns, showing their value. Hill got behind the defense twice for deep touchdown receptions of 48 and 60 yards in the fourth quarter. The passing game is starting to take focus with Hill and Waddle leading the way but with players such as tight end Mike Gesicki (four receptions, 41 yards, one touchdown) and running backs Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Alec Ingold contributing.
Tyreek is human … and amazing
Hill, the six-time Pro Bowl selection and human cheat code, missed part of the second half with leg cramps but came back to be a difference maker with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Hill, who came back to score deep touchdowns of 48 and 60 yards, had to go to the locker room for part of the third quarter. But the dude was money when he returned.
Dolphins rediscover tight end Mike Gesicki
Gesicki, the subject of trade rumors sine the offseason, found a spot in the offense Sunday with his four receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Gesicki had one reception for 1 yard last week and only played 42% of the offensive snaps. But his role in the offense was notably increased against Baltimore. Gesicki went up high for his rousing 14-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.
Tua’s first interception was a poor decision, second was even worse
Tagovailoa, on a bad decision, but not such a bad throw, when he tried to squeeze a pass to Hill in the first quarter and safety Marcus Williams tipped it, rolled over on his back, and then caught the ball in the air about an inch off the grass. Spectacular. The decision was probably worse than the throw, which didn’t lack zip or accuracy. It was a good defensive play. Normally such a play results in an incomplete pass, not a dramatic interception. Williams’ second interception, coming in the second quarter, was a nice toe-drag on a deep pass intended for Waddle, a ball that was a poor decision and overthrown.
Defense’s goal line stand was huge …
Credit Miami’s defense for that goal line stand after enduring an energy-draining 18-play, 74-yard drive that consumed 10:53. Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson fumbled a snap on fourth-and-goal from the 1-foot line early in the second quarter to end the drive. Jackson, not accustomed to taking snaps under center, might have been too worried about defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and linebacker Elandon Roberts, who might have been in position to make a stop. Nice defensive showing. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.
… But Dolphins’ defense was insufficient overall
The Dolphins’ defense, the strength of the team, according to coach Mike McDaniel, struggled at Baltimore despite the early encouraging goal line stand. Even All Pro cornerback Xavien Howard, the defense’s best player, was substandard, allowing a 75-yard touchdown reception by Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman. And Jackson had the 79-yard touchdown run. The defense made a big fourth-and-one stop in the fourth quarter, however, to open the door for the comeback attempt. But Howard failed to secure a potential interception that could have tied the game at 35 (although the Dolphins later tied it at 35). Below average performance in a rousing victory.
Speed kills, opponent’s version
You know the Dolphins specifically added speed in the offseason, and it surfaced with Hill’s two touchdowns as he got behind the defense. But Baltimore’s speed surfaced Sunday. Kickoff returner Devin Duvernay, a Pro Bowl selection last season, was the fastest ball carrier speed of the season at 21.6 mph when he scored on his 103-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the game, according to NFL NextGen Stats. And Bateman was the season’s second fastest ball carrier speed at 21.48 mph on his 75-yard touchdown reception. Miami appeared slow at times against Baltimore, largely because of assignment busts/confusion. Waddle now ranks eighth in the league with last week’s 42-yard touchdown reception (20.8 mph). Hill (20.33 mph last week) is 16th. By the way, these rankings might change as more games are played this week.
Going for it twice on fourth down in first half
McDaniel won’t catch people by surprise by going for it on fourth down for the remainder of the season. He went twice in the first half against Baltimore after going for it once against New England. Ingold got a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the Dolphins’ 34-yard line, and later Tagovailoa gained 1 yard on fourth-and-1 from the Dolphins’ 45-yard line. The possessions resulted in a punt and an interception, respectively. But the trend is there. McDaniel is a bit of a gambler.
Blitz not working
At the two-minute warning of the first half the Dolphins had blitzed Jackson on 10 of his 11 dropbacks but had not gotten to him, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Jackson, by the way, ended the first half 11-of-13 passing for 210 yards, three touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The relentless blitzes, of course, were key to the Dolphins’ 22-10 victory over Baltimore last season. The Dolphins, however, had no sacks Sunday even with the blitzes.
Jevon Holland’s role in humongous 14-point play
The Dolphins were struggling. The Ravens, ahead 7-0, had, on the first play of the second quarter, a third-and-goal from the Dolphins’ 1. Lamar Jackson, who has had more runs for gains of at least 1 yard than can be easily counted, took the snap. He looked to squeeze into the end zone to the right of his center. However, the Dolphins’ rising-star safety Jevon Holland, all 209 pounds of him, got in front of 338-pound pulling guard Ben Powers. As Powers decelerated, Jackson’s leg collided with him, blunting his forward momentum, and helping cause him — upon review — to be short of the goal line after an excellent finish to the tackle by Sam Eguavoen, who had deftly moved from the left edge across to the right. On the next play, the Ravens botched a snap on fourth down. The Dolphins took over and went 94 yards to tie the score, 7-7. Holland’s part of the play, while not showing in the stats, was big. — Steve Svekis
Dolphins are on the verge of a club high-water mark with the frequency of their defensive scoring
When Howard saw a sure pick-six slip through his hands in the fourth quarter, it prevented the defense from logging its sixth defensive touchdown in the past 10 games. It would have crushed the team record for the fewest games to register a half-dozen defensive six-pointers. With Brandon Ingram’s fumble-return touchdown last week against the Patriots, the Dolphins scored their fifth defensive touchdown in the past nine games.
In franchise history, the only time Miami had scored five defensive touchdowns in a shorter time span was from Dec. 16, 1983 till Oct. 7, 1984, seven games. However, the fewest number of Dolphins games played where Miami has scored six defensive TDs has been 16 (1983-84, 2001, 2021-22). So, if another defensive house call is registered in the next five games, that will set a new standard there. Amazingly, the Dolphins, starting with the penultimate game of their second NFL championship season (1973) and ranging all the way through the 1978 season opener had a 59-game regular-season streak where they didn’t have a defensive touchdown (they also didn’t have one in their four playoff games in that stretch). Conversely, in 2004, during a 12-game span, opposing defenses broke the plane an incredible eight times, and nine overall for that season which saw five pick-sixes tossed by A.J. Feeley.
Yeah, might as well start the Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle co-watch
The Dolphins’ shiny new Ferrari receiver Hill and their fleet second-year riser Waddle are off to the sort of start that, especially in the era of the 17-game season, leads the natural at-this-pace discussion as it pertains to the Dolphins’ season record for catches (112) and yards (1,389). After Game 2 against the Ravens, Hill has 19 grabs for 284 yards and Waddle has 15 for 240. That pace would extrapolate to 161 catches and 2,414 yards for Hill and 127 and 2,040 for Waddle. And, Waddle’s three touchdowns would extrapolate to 25 scores. The Dolphins’ records in those categories are Jarvis Landy’s 112 catches in 2017, and Mark Clayton’s 1,389 yards and 18 touchdowns in 1984. All folly at this point. But, wow.
On deck: Buffalo Bills, Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday, 1 p.m.
As dominant as Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been against the Dolphins for his career (7-1 with a career 106.8 passer rating against Miami along with 430 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground), Miami actually held him down for long stretches last year as he trudged to an 89.2 passer rating, while still gouging the aqua-and-orange on the ground for 90 yards and a touchdown.