Miami Dolphins Tua Tagovailoa and Trent Sherfield dance in celebration of a touchdown against the Browns.

Pressure Point: First-place Dolphins well positioned for playoff push

Tyreek Hill said he’s going to the Bahamas to “sit by the beach and drink some mimosas” during the Miami Dolphins’ bye week.

The star wide receiver has certainly earned it, a major reasons the Dolphins are 7-3 and alone in first place in the AFC East following Sunday’s 39-17 romp over the Cleveland Browns — and Buffalo’s subsequent loss to Minnesota.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Jeff Wilson Jr. followed Hill all the way to Paradise Island, just as the running back did on the way to the promised land of the end zone Sunday with his speedy teammate waving him through like a motorcycle cop clearing the express lane for a VIP.

That was one of an inordinate number of giddy, feel-good moments in the Dolphins’ fourth consecutive win that featured so much dancing and jiving and celebrating it was as if everyone at Hard Rock Stadium had taken a deep hit of helium and was jabbering with high-pitched glee like Minnie Mouse.

I mean, when have you seen this team so well in sync?

There was Wilson, who seemingly materialized out of thin air in an oh-by-the-way trade deadline deal by GM Chris Grier, running for 117 yards at a 7.0 per-carry average.

Kudos to Dolphins’ O-line

The much-maligned offensive line not only kept Tua Tagovailoa sack free, it paved the way for a team total 195 yards rushing, with Raheem Mostert going for 65 yards while averaging 8.1 a carry including a 24-yard touchdown gallop that broke the game open on the first possession of the second half.

There was the defense overcoming a shaky start and turning in one of the better efforts of the season with newcomer Bradley Chubb beginning to show the impact he can have with half a sack and three quarterback hurries.

And most significant, Tagovailoa summoning chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” with a third consecutive sublime performance of three touchdown passes, no interceptions and passer rating of 135.0 or better.

Not only has he not thrown so much as a near interception in the past three weeks, it’s tough to recall a pass that wasn’t right on target. The absolute dime he delivered to Trent Sherfield in the corner of the end zone was worth watching over and over again.

One other thing of note: the Dolphins didn’t punt in the game.

Dolphins haven’t been 7-3 since 2001

Considering Tagovailoa missed 2 ½ games with a concussion (or two) and there were serious questions about his health and future, the Dolphins arrived at their well-deserved week off sitting about as pretty as anyone could have dreamed.

Then the first round of mimosas was delivered on the house courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings winning 33-30 in overtime at Buffalo in as compelling of a regular-season game as you’ll see this or any season.

That gifted the division lead to the Dolphins, who had already lifted themselves into a rarefied place.

That was noted in the tweet of the day by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, who wrote:

“The last time the Dolphins were 7-3 was 2001.
– 24 starting QBs ago
– 8 head coaches ago
– 7 stadium names ago
– Heat had zero titles
– LeBron was in HS
– iPod came out
– iPhone was 6 years away
– Tua was 3
– Mike McDaniel was a Yale freshman
– Tom Brady was a first-year starter”

Plenty of work ahead for Dolphins

In diverging from the frustrating past two decades (at least to this point), the Dolphins have positioned themselves well for the final seven-game push for playoff position, a stretch that features ample opportunity but is certain to deliver plenty of adversity along the way.

Already some on the horizon. According to various media reports Sunday night, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah suffered a season-ending triceps injury.

Of the four remaining games outside the AFC East, only the Los Angeles Chargers (away on Dec. 11) are over .500.

Ultimately it will be the final round against the three division rivals — Dec. 17 or 18 at Buffalo, Jan. 1 at New England and the season finale on Jan. 7 or 8 at home against the Jets — that will determine whether the Dolphins will be toasting success or drowning their sorrows at season’s end.

At 7-3 entering the bye week, they have good season to feel pretty damn good about themselves for this momentous moment.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Tyreek Hill does a flip in celebration of scoring a touchdown for the Dolphins in the win against the Bears.

Pressure Point: Dolphins count on high-flying offense to keep pace in tight AFC East

The plot has certainly thickened in the AFC East race after the Miami Dolphins held off Justin Fields and the Bears in Chicago and the resurgent New York Jets put the kibosh on Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills in the second half at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

That left the Bills, Dolphins and Jets each with six wins, Buffalo holding a thin grip on first place at 6-2, having played one fewer game. The Dolphins and Jets, each 6-3, have a tiebreaker advantage over Buffalo, as New York does over Miami.

With New England close behind at 5-4, the division couldn’t offer more intrigue entering the second half of the season. All four teams are over .500 after nine weeks of play.

This would be an opportune time for the Dolphins to have a bye week and catch their breath after chasing Fields all over Soldier Field. But first they must face the Browns, with one of the league’s best rushing offenses, before getting a week off to sort out their defensive woes.

Tua, Fields put on memorable show

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are on a three-game winning streak after prevailing in one of the wildest games of the season, 35-32 in what was a showcase of two of the NFL’s most exciting young quarterbacks.

The numbers were insane.

Tua Tagovailoa completed 21 of 30 passes for 302 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks.

Fields not only threw for three touchdowns, he ran for another while setting a regular-season rushing record by a quarterback with 178 yards on 15 carries.
As frustrating as it was to watch Fields run around and through the Miami defense, including a 61-yard touchdown scamper, it sure was entertaining to watch Tagovailoa shredding the Bears’ pass defense, averaging 10.1 yards per attempt.

Can’t cover Tyreek Hill

Tyreek Hill had seven catches for 143 yards and a touchdown, and is now over 1,000 yards receiving for the season. Jaylen Waddle also had a TD grab while catching five passes for 85 yards.

Running back Jeff Wilson, whose acquisition from the 49ers last week was overshadowed by the trade for pass-rush stud Bradley Chubb, ended up leading Miami with 51 yards rushing while averaging 5.7 a carry and caught what proved to be the winning touchdown pass.

Ironically, Tua put the victory in jeopardy by misfiring on fourth-down passes on consecutive drives into Chicago territory in the second half. But the Dolphins defense finally got the game-sealing stop with a sack by Duke Riley followed by two incompletions.

The hope is Chubb’s presence will elevate the defense when he gets fully integrated into the unit — he provided pressure that helped force a punt in the third quarter. But there are more problems in containment and coverage than one player can solve.

Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard isn’t playing at that level as he copes with a lingering groin issue and counterpart Byron Jones still has not played this season and who knows if he will.

Fortunately for Miami, Tagovailoa is healthy and playing the best he has in his career, making full use of the most dynamic receiving duo in the game. Hill is a legitimate MVP candidate.

Dolphins go as far as Tua and Co. take them

The teams Miami is vying with in the division are in sharp contrast to the Dolphins’ strengths. The Jets are getting it done with defense and running the ball; that was a winning formula Sunday against Buffalo. The Bills have one of the league’s top defenses and the sort of running quarterback in Allen that has given Miami fits.

Having to win high-scoring games may not be the classic formula for success. But as long as the Dolphins keep Tua upright and he can keep the offense rolling like the past couple of weeks, they have a chance to make it interesting and entertaining the second half of the season. Sunday’s win at Chicago was all of that.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Tyree Hill and Jaylen Waddle are giving the Miami Dolphins the most dynamic receiving duo in the NFL.

Pressure Point: Dolphins’ offense spectacular in win, but porous pass defense worrisome

The Miami Dolphins’ uneasy 31-27 comeback win Sunday at Detroit brought more relief than satisfaction.

It looks a lot better concealed in a 5-3 ledger — which keeps Miami in the thick of the AFC East race — than it did in the light of day.

Falling behind 14-0 and 21-7 against a 1-5 team (now 1-6) that didn’t score a touchdown and only six points total the previous two games was ominous for a team with playoff aspirations.

Jared Goff shredded Miami’s injury-riddled secondary like soft cheese and special teams got burned on a fake punt during the Lions’ 27-point first half.

Fortunately, the Dolphins have an unstoppable force named Tyreek Hill, who had 12 catches for 188 yards and is on pace to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record and the first 2,000-yard receiving season. The Cheetah had two key catches on the final drive that sealed the win, and was clearly the best player on the field all day.

Tua on target

Tua Tagovailoa turned in one of his best performances: 29-for-36 for 382 yards three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 138.7 rating. The accuracy absent last week in Tua’s return from a concussion (or two?) was back to his standards Sunday.

He threw some beauties, such as the second of two touchdowns to Jaylen Waddle.

Hill’s sidekick Waddle had another 100-yard receiving day (eight catches for 106 yards), and with 727 yards and five touchdowns is tracking toward a 1,500-yard season of his own.

Meanwhile, Mike Gesicki had another TD-grab as he becomes more of a factor in the passing game, and Trent Sherfield continues to contribute timely catches.

All of those gaudy numbers on offense (476 total yards including 107 rushing) are fun to talk about and the replays entertaining. Particularly after the Dolphins failed to score 20 points in the previous four games.

Offensive eruption overdue

Essentially, Tua and Co. finally delivered what has been missing since the 28-point fourth quarter against the Ravens in Week 2. They needed every bit of it to outlast one of two remaining one-win teams in the league.

It was a win to feel grateful for but queasy about after watching Goff and the Lions score on all five first-half possessions.

The Dolphins’ offense consumed most of the third quarter with nearly 11 minutes of possession and the defense got a vital fourth-down stop on Detroit’s final drive of the game.

For the Dolphins, moving on means trying to somehow put together a patch for a secondary that is going to be targeted every week. Brandon Jones and Nik Needham are gone for the season and it’s beginning to look like veteran cornerback Byron Jones may not surface at all. He has yet to practice since offseason ankle surgery.

There just isn’t a cache of viable defensive backs lurking on the waiver wire and practice squads midway through the season.

Odd that veteran Erik Rowe was left inactive Sunday. Supposedly it was for the benefit of special teams, which didn’t exactly justify the decision as it turned out.

Ranks thin in secondary

Surely, some unemployed DBs will be brought in for auditions. Realistically, thought, the current cast is going to have to cowboy up and hope to get more help with pressure up front than we’ve seen.

Good news for Miami is the Dolphins are into the softest stretch of the season: Bears, Browns, Texans, 49ers, Chargers in the next five games. All currently under .500 except the 4-3 Chargers.

Those are winnable games, but by no means gimmees. Sunday’s close call at Detroit was proof enough these Dolphins can’t take anything for granted. Not with a defense that showed vulnerabilities early in the season and is now greatly diminished in pass coverage.

So, celebrate the highlight-reel showcase of Tagovailoa, Hill, Waddle Raheem Mostert and the rest of the playmakers. They put on a spectacular show Sunday.

They’ll need to repeat it every week for this team to remain on a playoff course.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the game on the first play against the Jets.

Pressure Point: Loss to Jets shows how much Dolphins miss Tua

Quick, pass the Scope. This 40-17 debacle Sunday at the Meadowlands has to leave a sour taste in the mouth of everyone with any association or interest in the Miami Dolphins — players, coaches, fans.

That was a game the Dolphins could have and should have won, despite a mountain of adversity that began on their first offensive play when they lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a dubious concussion ruling following a dubious intentional grounding call that spotted the New York Jets a 2-0 lead on a safety.

Yes, it took exactly one play for the NFL’s new amended concussion protocol to open a proverbial can of worms. Ironically, the Dolphins were first to be bitten by it, although those who claimed Miami gamed the previous protocol in handling Tua Tagovailoa’s head knock in Week 3 against the Bills (though the NFL investigation determined they did adhere to procedure) might call it karma.

On Sunday, Bridgewater passed the concussion evaluation but he was prohibited from returning to the game because the ATC spotter in the booth believed he saw the quarterback stumble.

Thus, we had our first brush with the term ataxia, defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue. That’s the new no-go trigger in the concussion assessment.

Concussion protocol still needs work

With that, the Dolphins were down to their third-string quarterback, rookie seventh-round draft pick Skylar Thompson with nobody else in reserve.

If players are going to be a stumble away from being removed from a game — and this isn’t confined to quarterbacks — then the league is going to need to allow more players to be active or at least available for emergency duty.

Still, the show always must go on, and the Dolphins seemed on their way to adding to an impressive resume of resiliency beginning the fourth quarter — despite also losing their best offensive lineman, left tackle Terron Armstead, and falling into a 12-0 hole.

Dolphins squander opportunity

Having cut the deficit to 19-17, they were driving for a go-ahead score to begin the fourth quarter at the New York 36. Running back Raheem Mostert was chewing up big chunks of yardage on the way to his first 100-yard rushing day as a Dolphin (113 yards, 6.3 yards per carry).

A false-start penalty followed by tight end Tanner Conner dropping a would-be first-down reception halted momentum. Jason Sanders missed a 54-yard field goal attempt that would have given Miami the lead.

Then a Jets storm surge swept away the Dolphins with 21 unanswered points. Just like that, Miami plunged from first to third in the AFC East, the formerly 3-0 Dolphins reduced to 3-2 with leaks springing every which way.

Perhaps most alarming, superstar receiver Tyreek Hill had his left foot in a walking boot after the game.

Dolphins defense a concern

Three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard missed the game with a groin injury, and their other star cornerback, Byron Jones, has yet to play this season.

The defense, which was regarded as such a strength of the team that it was kept virtually intact from 2021, has been looking more like unit that struggled the first half of last season than the one that earned that much respect during the second half. The pass rush has been paltry all season and coverage issues were magnified by Howard’s absence.

Next week they face the Vikings and Kirk Cousins, a top-10 quarterback who lit up the Bears on Sunday.

Most notably, the losses the past two weeks have shown how much Tagovailoa means to this offense. That was evident after Bridgewater replaced him against the Bengals. Then Thompson, who gained a cult following with an impressive preseason, demonstrated how different it is for rookie quarterbacks when pressed into emergency service in the regular season.

When will Tagovailoa return to action? That is the great unknown for a team that has fallen quickly off course.

While Mike McDaniel and his staff have plenty of concerns to deal with this week, it is clear that the hopes for a season that started so promising now hinge on Tagovailoa’s health.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

I Still Believe in a Place Called Hope

Some of you might get the reference in the title, as it echoes out of my childhood.

Bill Clinton, from Hope, Arkansas, famously ended his acceptance speech for the 1992 Presidential Campaign by saying, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”

Former President Clinton played an outsized role in how I grew to love this country, and always continue to believe in it. I even read his 1000+ page autobiography. He not only believed in a place called Hope, he made me believe in a place called Hope.

And as I found myself stunned, watching Middle Tennessee score touchdown after touchdown, watching the preseason positivity disintegrate, I shook a little. How could this be happening again? This 20 year nightmare we appear to be watching on repeat, this endless cycle of never getting it right, of never seeming to have things go Miami’s way.

Even the most optimistic of fans must have had their faith tested.

Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be

This weekend, as Alabama flipped a switch to pull away from Arkansas, my sister-in-law commented on how it must be strange to go to a school that just expects to win every game.

That was Miami at one time.

And while no one expects to get back to that, it’s hard to believe that this was once THE program. The default Top 5 ranking, the expectation that they’d win every game, the shockwaves at any loss, the opponents storming the field if said loss happened on the road.

What we experienced against Middle Tennessee was radically different. Yes, it made national waves. The Canes, after all, were still ranked. And a ranked team getting dominated by Middle Tennessee at home is always going to make headlines.

Of course, the community has to own that loss. We took it on the chin. Everyone made fun of us, the coach had to stand in front of everyone and try to explain what happened. Explain the inexplicable.

Nope, none of that was any different from what it would have been 15-20 years ago. The difference, however, was in the word “again.”

FIU, Louisiana Tech….now Middle Tennessee. It happened…again.

I don’t think anyone expected to be the program that Miami was in the 80s and early 2000s, to essentially be Alabama. And we knew it would take time to build the program into perennial contenders for the playoffs and for ACC titles.

But this wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. All told, you could easily argue the 4 worst losses in program history were in the last 4 seasons (2019 to FIU, Louisiana Tech, and Georgia Tech and 2022 to Middle Tennessee).

Not only do the Canes appear to not be on the always promised but never delivered upward trajectory, but they appear to be sinking as time and distance separates them from past success. 

The only thing left is to once again pull up youtube, find some old clips (in Standard Definition, of course), and reflect.

Reflect on the way life used to be. Reflect on the love they took from us. All alone with only memories.

Back in My Arms Again

The thing is this…as depressing as that gloomy day against Middle Tennessee was, this program is still bigger than any one game. And yes, bigger than any 2 decade drought.

I fully understand that we might be waiting forever to scale the mountain once more. That it might never happen, that we might be perpetually oscillating between unrequited dreams of success and the nightmares of reality.

I wish I had enjoyed the highs of yesteryear more. That is my one regret.

But give up? Why would we do that?

This dream can’t be allowed to die, however delusional it might appear in the context of the last 20 years.

Some things are too important, and extend beyond the playing field. South Florida without the Miami Hurricanes as an example for what the community can accomplish transforms a vibrant community into a rudderless ship.

While the program has appeared to drive aimlessly for 20 years, it still serves a purpose.

Monitoring social media during the 2nd half of that Middle Tennessee debacle was like watching  an obituary being written in real time. Long suffering fans giving up on the program, going numb.

There is an element of that in us all. The thought of getting national champions back in our arms again but a distant dream, waiting to be satisfied.

The Choice

That cliche is that it is always darkest before the dawn. But what if dawn never arrives?

Perpetual darkness?

In real life, the sun always rises. But in sports there is no guarantee.

Why is it that we can watch Nebraska fumble around and definitively, confidently state they will never be back and then look at ourselves and say eventually, we’ll ascend the mountaintop once more?

I’ll tell you why.

BECAUSE WE’RE MIAMI.

Miami still means something to me, to everyone. Whether it is obsessive “financial reporters” on twitter using any random news story to whine about Miami and NIL or national media waiting to pounce on the slightest transgression, Miami matters.

And it matters much more to South Florida.

So, as we reach the fork in the road. Do we accept what we’ve seen for the last 20 years as a permanency? Is this just Miami football now and forever?

Or, do we dare to dream? Dare to believe in the future? That a brighter Miami is always on the horizon. It’s a decision we all have to make. Do we risk pain for the potential payoff of joy, knowing that payoff may not arrive?

Miami has been too good to me and meant too much to me. I can’t extricate myself from this program and wouldn’t want to. I choose to believe.

I believe in the majesty of South Florida.

I believe that the tide can turn.

I believe that great things can be accomplished here.

I believe they can take it to North Carolina on Saturday, and many opponents out into the future.

I believe that eventually Miami will win big again.

I believe in Mario Cristobal

I believe in this U.

In the end, I know what I most believe.

I still believe in a place called Hope.


Vishnu Parasuraman is a journalist for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers the Miami Hurricanes for Sixth Ring Canes and Formula 1 for Hitting the Apex. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

Miami Dolphins Melvin Ingram picks up Josh Allen's fumble

Fresh Perspective: Miami Dolphins veteran leadership paying early dividends

Looking back on the past few seasons for the Miami Dolphins, one of the main things that was missing was true veteran leadership. In 2021, the oldest player on the roster was 34-year-old defensive back Jason McCourty, and he was placed on season-ending IR at the end of October.

After McCourty, the only player left over the age of 29 was utility offensive lineman Jesse Davis. Needless to say, there was a distinct lack of veteran leadership on that roster. It showed in how the team played. In spite of going 9-8 in 2021, the team often seemed unprepared for who they were facing. Simple things baffled the young players, they were taken advantage of by wily veterans.

Raw athleticism can only get a team so far.

Now, three games in to the Mike McDaniel era, and the Miami Dolphins are already seeing major improvement across the board. The added veteran leadership has a lot to do with that.

For example, take veteran pass rusher Melvin Ingram. He was signed to a 1-year, $4 million dollar contract, presumably to be a situational pass rusher. Ingram has been anything but situational so far. In three games, Ingram has two sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. More than that, however, is how he’s making that happen.

Ingram has been in the NFL for 11 seasons. He knows what it’s like to face adversity, and he knows the taste of success. He’s learned how to use all sorts of tricks to accomplish his goals. And he’s earned the respect that a veteran should have.

“You can’t tell me nothing bad about Melvin Ingram ever in life.” Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins said after the win against the Buffalo Bills. “After seeing what he did on the last play, he has the ultimate respect. An 11-year pro beating a rusher, missing a sack, then making a play 10, 15, 20 yards down the field, that’s just a dawg mentality. That’s leadership. That’s ‘want-to.’ That’s will.”

It’s those kinds of plays that inspire a young team to greatness, and a fanbase to reach new levels of excitement.

“The atmosphere was amazing!” Ingram said. “We thank every fan that was out there screaming and everything that had us feeling the matchup. It was electrifying, and it is something that you love to play in. We feed off of them – without them, there is no us.”

But it isn’t just Ingram. Offensive tackle Terron Armstead is also proving he’s worth every penny of the 5-year, $75 million deal he signed with Miami. On top of being a top level player, he’s also showing that he can be invaluable in a mentorship role. During the remarkable comeback against the Baltimore Ravens, Miami was driving down the field after the two minute warning. And as the Dolphins rushed back to the line, it was Armstead who signaled Tagovailoa to stay settled and not let the rush throw him off his groove.

It seemed as if Tagovailoa visibly responded to the signal, as he made sure everyone was set and the drive continued until the eventually go-ahead touchdown was scored.

Armstead took on that role a second time during the Bills game, as he noticed the playclock ticking down and took it upon himself to call timeout. What was most telling is that no one questioned his decision. Tagovailoa did not argue with Armstead, nor did head coach Mike McDaniel. They trusted that Armstead made the right decision, and ultimately it was.

That sort of trust is not afforded to just anyone. Terron Armstead has earned the right to have that type of power in the huddle, and it’s making a massive difference for the younger players around him. His maturity is rubbing off, and the team looks much more prepared than in past seasons.

“It’s an emotional game.” Armstead told Five Reasons Sports’ Ethan Skolnick after the game. “Lot of energy going around. Lot of momentum, ebbs and flows. So it’s up to guys like myself, Tyreek (Hill), Melvin Ingram, the guys that have been around a while, been in high level games, playoff games, NFC Championship, to keep the emotions in check, keep the focus where it needs to be. It’s important just to have that, that calmness. You never want to get too up or down.”

Having that kind of anchor does wonders for a young team with so much developing talent. Instead of being forced to figure it out all on their own, they can look to their veteran mentors for guidance in real time. The previous Miami Dolphins coach withheld that luxury from his players.

Even little things like playing through injuries sets an example for others to follow. Armstead has been struggling with a toe injury for two weeks straight, and yet he keeps fighting on. Young players take notice of that, and figure if an older player like Armstead can do it, then so can they.

“There’s a lot of inspiring – our guys are really taking leadership and following leadership appropriately. Our captains, specifically, had done an unbelievable job setting the tone.” Coach Mike McDaniel said on Monday. “When you have two captains like that do everything they possibly can to contribute as much as they can to the team, there’s a trickle-down effect that I think really it’s hard to just say their own play. Not only did they play very well – both of them – but I think you’re also setting a tone for your teammates to follow. And I think there’s a lot of straining, a lot of grit, a lot of battling in that game that is a function of a lot of captains really scratching and clawing.”

That scratching and clawing has paid off. The Miami Dolphins are currently 3-0 and are on top of the AFC East. They’ve beaten two Super Bowl winning coaches in Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh. And with Sunday’s victory over their AFC East rivals, the Dolphins have beaten the early Super Bowl favorites.

Last year’s Miami Dolphins don’t manage this feat. Last year’s Miami Dolphins would not have perfected the techniques and the little tricks that can make or break a football game. Those things are learned over time. Several years worth, in fact. But it can be helped along when there’s someone who can help you learn those tricks.

Coaching is crucial, make no mistake. But there’s no substitute for having someone in the huddle who can be looked up to and offer guidance in crucial moments. That is the unmeasurable factor that the likes of Terron Armstead, Melvin Ingram and Tyreek Hill bring to the Miami Dolphins.

And clearly, it’s making a drastic impact.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for eight years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

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Tua Tagovailoa consoles rival QB Josh Allen after the Dolphins' win against the Bills.

Pressure Point: 3-0 Dolphins may be building something special

There are so many enduring images from the Miami Dolphins’ most unconventional of victories against their AFC East nemesis, the Buffalo Bills.

The final one, of Tua Tagovailoa consoling Bills all-everything quarterback Josh Allen, was due to the one that finally brought the Allen tsunami to a halt.

That was the one of the never-quit Dolphins defense exemplified by veteran linebacker Melvin Ingram on the final play Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. Ingram, after just missing a sack on Allen on the blitz, turned and dashed 17 yards to tackle Isaiah McKenzie before the Bills receiver could get out of bounds, effectively killing the clock.

After time expired, Allen slammed his helmet on the turf and McKenzie dropped down onto his side. A few seconds later Ingram also flopped down on his back. All of them literally run down to empty, totally, utterly spent.

Dolphins win rope-a-dope

That told the story of a brutally searing September Sunday in South Florida. Rarely, if ever, have we seen so many players leave everything they have literally on the field, exhausted.

The Bills offense was like a revolving door of players leaving the field to be treated for cramping because the Dolphins defense couldn’t get them off the field all day.

Somehow the Dolphins ended a seven-game losing streak to the Bills 21-19 to improve to 3-0 despite Buffalo possessing the ball for nearly 41 minutes and piling up 497 yards to 212 for Miami.

This should be remembered as the Dolphins’ rope-a-dope win. Muhammad Ali would have been proud. They withstood all the punches Allen threw at them, and they seemed endless.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Dolphins defenders have visions of Allen in their sleep for a week. He accounted for 447 yards passing and rushing. He threw 63 passes and rushed eight times.

Dolphins overcome unlikely obstacles

The Dolphins came out of the epic struggle as the lone unbeaten team in the AFC (including 2-0 in the AFC East).

There was no way anyone could have scripted it, but for the second week in a row the Dolphins pulled off a win against a quality opponent that defied explanation.

More of those head-scratching images:

Tagovailoa wobbled off late in the first half after getting thrown down like a ragdoll. He returned after halftime and made one of the best throws of his career on third-and-22 for 45 yards to Jaylen Waddle to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Then the ridiculous “butt punt” by Thomas Morstead off the backside of Trent Sherfield for a safety that gave the Bills one more chance to drive for a potential winning score. Credit Morstead with a quality punt after the safety to pin the Bills back at their own 23 to start that final possession.

Two weeks in a row the Dolphins have prevailed in games they really had no business winning — the 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Ravens and then over a Bills team that kept on coming like a gang of zombies. It tells you there is something very different and potentially very special about this Dolphins team.

There is talent on offense that they haven’t had since the Marino years, a creative and unconventional young coach and a never-quit spirit shown by Ingram on the final play, and by the collective all day.

Which left the Bills exasperated, especially offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, who had an epic meltdown in the coaches’ booth after Ingram’s final tackle:

Tua’s back a concern

But it is just a building block. As Tyreek Hill said, “A lot of people are gonna look at this like the Miami Dolphins are here. This is just another win.”

There are also concerns, notably Tagovailoa’s back, which he hurt on a quarterback sneak and was given as the reason he stumbled and fell after the bump on his head.

That will be evaluated further on Monday. The next game is Thursday night at Cincinnati. So no rest for these weary Dolphins. But being 3-0 helps.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

 

More from Five Reasons: Tua, defense help Dolphins slip past Bills, lead AFC East

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led a comeback win from a three-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens.

Pressure Point: Tua, Dolphins merit raves for shocker over Ravens

Just savor it, Dolphins fans.

We’ve never seen the likes of the Miami Dolphins’ 42-38 comeback thriller Sunday at Baltimore.

But after Tua Tagovailoa threw for 469 yards and a Dolphins-record-tying six touchdowns, including two each to Tyreek Hill (190 yards) and Jaylen Waddle (171 yards), there is reason to look ahead with hope.

Like to next week when Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills come to South Florida.

Tua and his speedy band of playmakers showed the tangible promise of Mike McDaniel’s offense. And you’ve gotta love this unconventional young coach, who doesn’t bat an eye in going for it on fourth-and-short in his own territory in the first half — and makes it.

Still not quite sure I believe what we just witnessed.

Dolphins’ comeback a rarity

Down by three touchdowns to what for three quarters looked like a thoroughly superior Ravens team, much-maligned Tagovailoa fired four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for the most outrageous of comebacks. On the road.

It was the first time in 12 years any NFL team has overcome a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The only similar in Dolphins memory was that wild comeback against the Chargers in the 1981 playoffs. Yes, ancient history. Except instead of losing at the end, the Dolphins won this time on Tagovailoa’s sixth touchdown pass of the day with 14 seconds left.

For a regular-season victory, only the 1985 upset of the Bears comes to mind as more impactful than this baffler in Baltimore.

Consider, they won despite allowing Lamar Jackson to throw a 75-yard touchdown pass and run 79 yards for another. They also spotted the Ravens seven points on a 103-yard return of the opening kickoff.

Fins looked beaten in Baltimore

It would have been easy to throw in the towel, down 28-7 at the half. Admit it, at that point you’re thinking, “Same-old Dolphins. Still can’t match up with the better teams. Just not good enough.”

That’s what I was thinking.

Tagovailoa had thrown two interceptions. The defense had offered little resistance except for the valiant goal-line stop at the beginning of the second quarter — that sure loomed large at the end.

Still, nobody could have foreseen the fireworks that would come in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins haven’t had a cast pile up points like this since Dan Marino was letting it fly to the Marks Brothers, Clayton and Duper.

Per @ESPNstatsinfo: “This is the first time the Dolphins have had two 150-plus yard receivers in the same game since Clayton and Duper in 1986.”

On Sunday, Tua was slinging a heaping portion of shut-the-F-up to his detractors. While Hill and Waddle each had 11 catches, Tagovailoa had completions to 10 different receivers.

Concerns? Yes, these Dolphins have plenty of flaws. The big deficit was a combination of porous pass defense, a nonexistent pass rush, a special teams disaster and shaky decision making by Tua in the first half.

Leading a 28-point fourth-quarter rally changes everything for Tua. Rest assured, the quarterback has the complete confidence of his locker room now.

Can Tua’s offense match Allen’s Bills?

That won’t make next week’s challenge any easier. The Bills are rightfully regarded as a Super Bowl contender.

But if this Dolphins offense can win a high-scoring affair against Jackson and the Ravens, no reason they can’t give Allen and the Bills a run for the AFC East.

As for Dolfans, you’ve seen your team pull off the nearly impossible. Maybe they can do it again — or something like it.

For the moment, just enjoy it.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Miami Hurricanes

Play Like a Hurricane

Big game weeks are different.

The pulse quickens, tension mounts.

We all know the feeling.

Usually, for Miami fans, that is Florida State week. And, on the off chance that Florida agrees to play Miami, that week is special too.

This week? It has those vibes.

SEC! SEC! SEC!

There are several reasons for excitement this week.

The first is this is a road game at a highly regarded SEC opponent. Even after losing to Appalachian State, Texas A&M is favored to win this game. The second is that it is winnable. No one is afraid of the Aggies. Even before the Appalachian State debacle, they are primarily living off an Alabama upset last year.

It’s not to say the Canes will win, but they surely can win.

Who Cares If Miami is “Back”?

A recurring theme over the last 20 years has been a continuous judgment on whether Miami is “back.” I can’t be the only that is not only tired of this question, but also doesn’t care about the answer.

Surely, there are those, in particular nationally, that will view this weekend’s game as a referendum on Miami. Win, and the praise rolls in, lose, and the Canes are out of sight and out of mind.

But in terms of season and program trajectory, this game is actually not that important. Whatever your seasonal aspirations are, whether they are ACC Coastal, ACC Championship, or College Football Playoff, this game will not eliminate the Canes from consideration nor guarantee their participation in any of those games. And in terms of the program, well, even being undefeated in November and blowing out Notre Dame on National TV was not enough to actually fundamentally change the program trajectory.

Everyone keeps waiting for that one moment, that one proof point, that shining light that shows the U is “back” without considering what that would even look like or how you’d ever really know.

Real growth takes time, it takes failures in addition to successes. We learn more about people from how they respond to failure than how they deal with success.

This will not be a program defining win, or a program crippling loss. This program is on the start of a long journey that I do believe will ultimately lead to the Promised Land. You could easily argue that while high profile, the 3rd game of the 1st year of the Mario Cristobal Era is surely going to be a mere footnote long-term.

I could easily advise the community to just enjoy the game, enjoy the spotlight, don’t worry about the result. Enjoy a rare out-of-conference matchup.

There Is An Issue With That

And then I see Jimbo Fisher’s smirking face and all that goes out the window.

We need to win this game.

There is an opportunity here to make a statement, how fleeting it might end up being. There is an opportunity to stomp our old nemesis’s face in. There is an opportunity to rise to the occasion.

There is an opportunity to be Miami Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes aren’t a team, they’re an attitude, a way of life, a swagger. And on this stage in Texas, the Hurricanes can blow into town and leave victorious, with Jimbo in tatters.

Life is full of moments and opportunities. But there are very few “big” games college players will be able to play in. This is one. This is the moment to step up, put the chips in the center of the table, stand up, and be counted.

It might “just mean more” in the SEC, but it means most for our community, for long suffering Canes fans, longing for that beacon of hope to reemerge, that symbol of “U”nity that binds us all. There is nothing quite like that orange and green in all its glory.

Under the lights on Saturday, a tradition built in South Florida heat, forged in National Championships, can deliver euphoria to a community that has suffered a scarcity of joy since Terry Porter threw his flag 20 years ago.

Vanquishing Jimbo is merely icing on the cake.

The time is now, the team is ready, the opponent is there for the taking. On Saturday, the Hurricanes will rise, and with them, they take all our aspirations.  

U Gotta Believe.


Vishnu Parasuraman is a journalist for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers the Miami Hurricanes for Sixth Ring Canes and Formula 1 for Hitting the Apex. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

The Town That I Know So Well

The concept of home is a tenuous one at best. It has a textbook definition, no doubt, often centered around the physical dwelling in which one resides.

But what does it really mean?

Is it the place you were born? The place you currently live? The place you identify with?

As the Miami Hurricanes travel to College Station, TX to play Texas A&M, I’m confronted with this question, although for me it is easy to answer. Because while I was born in Bryan, TX (College Station’s sister city. When I was born that is where the only hospital was located, but we lived in College Station), home always has and will forever be Miami. Even before I laid eyes on Biscayne’s Wondrous shore, Miami was for me.

The Texas Side

This is not a situation where I was technically born in Texas but moved to Miami as a baby. I lived in College Station for 13 years.

I do have fond memories of College Station. Some of my best friends which are more like family are from there. I’ll be seeing some of them this weekend.

And the people are incredibly friendly, something Hurricanes’ fans are sure to encounter. It was the place I went to elementary school.

From March 2022, myself, my sister, and my brother (L to R) in front of our elementary school in College Station, TX. 

College Station is an interesting place. Everything centers around Texas A&M University. The name “Aggie” is affixed to buildings, store fronts, and businesses. Pretty much everything in town is directly or indirectly tied to the school. They almost speak a different language, with “howdy”, “y’all”, and “Gig ’em” in the vernacular.

When we were growing up, Texas A&M was still in the Southwestern Conference (SWC), a conference compromised almost entirely (until Arkansas left, then entirely) of Texas schools. It was a Texas thing, and where my love of college football first gestated. We’d watch the Aggie game every Saturday, nothing else mattered in the world.

And on rare occasions, generally when Rice was in town, the local Dairy Queen would give out cheap tickets, and we could actually go to Kyle Field and watch the Aggies play.

Without College Station, without Texas A&M, my love of college football might not exist. And while I’m enchanted by the idea of an alternate reality where I don’t know who Al Golden is, I do owe TAMU a debt of gratitude for one of the great joys of my life.

Head East

So how did I end up in Miami? Well, actually, the same way I ended up in College Station. My father is a (retired-ish) professor, and Texas A&M hired him. And then, 15 years later (I was born 2 years after my parents and older brother moved to Texas), the University of Miami came calling.

And that changed my life forever.

If you’re wondering how I didn’t end up an Aggie fan, and how I don’t identify more closely with College Station, it’s because I didn’t belong there. You won’t see me trash the place, because that isn’t warranted. And I won’t dismiss it as just another place for me, because it is important in my life, and I do have ties to the area.

But going back to that word, it was never “home.”

Miami is.

The second I set foot in the insanity of the 305, it fit me like a glove. Well, full disclosure, the first time I was in Miami was actually in the Miami Airport when we still lived in Texas. My family was traveling back from India on Pan-Am and had a layover in Miami. I got off the plane, air sick, and promptly threw up all over the Miami Airport. Home-sweet-home. I guess I was marking my territory.

Miami is Home

The thing with college football is that it is about so much more than the game on the field. It’s about the community, the ties between the team, the rest of the school, and everyone surrounding it.

And I never felt that bond in College Station.

Miami, on the other hand… I didn’t fall in love with the sun, the palm trees, the beaches…it was the people. The glorious melting pot of every culture and background you can think of, co-existing. Not harmoniously. Let’s be real, we’re nuts. But still, co-existing nonetheless.

Coming from Texas, Miami truly was the Magic City. And the University of Miami was the fulcrum that changed me from a college football fan into a University of Miami fan, fostering a deeper understanding of my community, of my home. You cannot understand Miami without understanding the University of Miami football program. 

Some families have a family business. For our family, it’s the University of Miami. My dad taught there, my brother went there, I went there, my sister went there and now works there.

And it represents the entire community. And it was the place where I found home.

That is why I’m so defensive of this team, this program, this school. It’s more than those things for me. It’s my extended family, mi gente. We can make fun of and criticize it, but no one outside la familia is afforded that opportunity.

I was recently in College Station for a wedding. The Rehearsal Dinner featured a cultural night, where you wore clothing representing your culture. I wore a guayabera and a Cuban hat, and found myself hunting for a cigar shop before the night was over.

 

To say there will be a culture clash in College Station this weekend is an understatement.

Two-step meets booty dance.

Boot meets chancleta.

10 gallon hat meets canotier.

Howdy meets buenas.

Y’all meets bro.

And I’ll meet the what could have been which fortunately isn’t. The pride that will fill my chest as our boys take the field, the U on their helmets, in their glorious orange and green will be immeasurable, representing us all. The family will be on stage, the country watching. Regardless of result, el orgulloso de Miami never falters.

We will be a sight to see.


Vishnu Parasuraman is a journalist for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers the Miami Hurricanes for Sixth Ring Canes and Formula 1 for Hitting the Apex. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003