The Miami Dolphins said all week they wouldn’t take the Detroit Lions or this seemingly soft stretch in the schedule lightly.
It was clear early why they shouldn’t. But after they couldn’t stop the Lions high-powered offense in the first half, one-win Detroit started looking like one-win Detroit, and the Dolphins kept charging as they didn’t allow the Lions to score in the second half.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was 29 of 36 for 382 yards and three touchdowns, Tyreek Hill went for 180 yards on his 11 receptions, and fellow wide receiver Jaylen Waddle caught two touchdown passes as the Dolphins (5-3) won an inter-conference game with all kinds of early offensive fireworks, 31-27, on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.
Tagovailoa was much sharper than his first game back from missing two recovering from his concussion in last Sunday’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He found Hill and Waddle consistently against Detroit’s last-ranked defense whenever he needed, putting the Lions away with a third-down conversion to Hill with under two minutes to play.
Hill’s fourth game surpassing 150 receiving yards is tied for most in a Dolphins season with Mark Duper in 1984. Hill reaches the mark with more than half the schedule remaining.
The Miami defense struggled throughout against a Lions offense that was high-scoring through its first four games but didn’t get into the end zone in either of its past two outings. Quarterback Jared Goff faced minimal resistance in coverage in the first half but could not find the end zone after halftime, finishing 27 of 37 for 321 yards and a touchdown.
The Dolphins took their first lead Sunday with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter as Tagovailoa found tight end Mike Gesicki for an 11-yard touchdown. It put Miami ahead, 31-27, after twice trailing by 14 points in the first half.
The Lions (1-6) got to the Miami 35-yard line with just under three minutes to play, but going for a fourth-and-1, Goff tried a deep pass to Josh Reynolds against Miami cornerback Kader Kohou and couldn’t connect to turn the ball over on downs.
The Dolphins, after trailing by 10, 27-17, at halftime, went 75 yards over nine plays and 5:49 to open the second half, capping the drive with fullback Alec Ingold sneaking into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown after motioning to take a direct snap from under center.
It was all Lions to start Sunday. They built an early 14-0 lead by scoring touchdowns on their first two drives and forced a Miami turnover in between.
First, Detroit marched 75 yards in five plays with running back Jamaal Williams charging in for a 7-yard rushing touchdown up the middle.
After undrafted rookie wide receiver Braylon Sanders, who was elevated from the practice squad for Sunday’s game, lost a fumble on the first reception of his career and Miami’s first offensive drive, Detroit scored again when D’Andre Swift beat linebacker Jerome Baker by starting his route outside and cutting in for the 7-yard touchdown catch.
The Dolphins then began matching the Lions score for score. Jaylen Waddle capped back-to-back drives with wide-open touchdown catches. First, it was from 5 yards out, with Tagovailoa lofting a pass to the back of the end zone. Then, Waddle got behind the defense as Tagovailoa dropped a throw in for a 29-yard score.
Then, the teams exchanged field goals before halftime. Former Miami Hurricanes kicker Michael Badgley connected on field goals of 42 and 26 yards, the latter as time expired in the first half, while Miami’s Jason Sanders hit one from 45 yards out.
Dolphins safety Jevon Holland, while beat on a long reception by Detroit tight end T.J. Hockenson early, led Miami with 12 tackles. Defensive tackle Zach Sieler had a sack and two pass deflections.
Miami left guard Liam Eichenberg exited on Gesicki’s touchdown deep in the third quarter. He was carted away and quickly ruled out with a knee injury.
The Dolphins are back on the road in the NFC North next week, with a trip to Chicago to face the Bears.
This story will be updated.