The Dolphins' Jaelan Phillips has an Achilles tendon give out as he began to rush the passer in the second half against the Jets.

Pressure Point: Jaelan Phillips’ injury taints Dolphins’ win, renews turf complaints

What should have been a feel-good win for the Miami Dolphins with a thorough trouncing of the rival Jets instead left a sickening aftertaste due to the loss of a defensive standout to an apparent serious leg injury.

The sight of Jaelan Phillips, who was blossoming into a dominant force as an edge player, being carted off the field after collapsing with an Achilles tendon injury without being engaged in contact turned a 34-13 win into a heartbreaker for the Dolphins on Friday at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands.

Until then the visual of the day was a spectacular 99-yard interception return by Dolphins safety Jevon Holland off a “Hail Mary” throw by the Jets’ Tim Boyle just before the end of the first half.

Curiously, it was 39 years to the day since the most infamous Hail Mary in the annals of Miami football. It was Nov. 23, 1984 that Boston College QB Doug Flutie uncorked a desperation heave that carried more than 60 yards and came down in the hands of his roommate Gerard Phelan with 6 seconds left to snatch victory from the Miami Hurricanes in a 45-41 thriller.

Flutie’s Miracle in Miami is often referred to as the “Hail Flutie”.

Jets flop with ‘Fail Mary’

Boyle’s ill-fated fling was quickly being referred to on social media as a “Fail Mary.” It was indicative of the failings of an inept Jets offense that has been reeling without direction since losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to an Achilles injury in the season opener.

Rodgers’ injury occurred on the same Met Life Stadium artificial turf that been derided by players as a dangerous surface. There have been quite a few serious injuries attributed to the unforgiving surface there.

“It’s tough, especially playing on this turf,” Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert said after the game. “You saw what happened to Rodgers in the first game. We’ve got to do something about this turd. Obviously, it’s still a major problem. It just has to change.

“The reason why guys are against the [artificial] turf is there’s no give to the turf.”

Losing Phillips is a tough blow to a Dolphins defense that continued its resurgence with another dominant performance. The injury is devastating for Phillips who overcame injuries that nearly ended his football career in college.

Phillips’ injury stirs emotions

Before the injury, Phillips was having another outstanding game with four tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits, and three tackles for loss.

Later, Phillips tweeted: “Absolutely devastated, but I feel strength in knowing that this is all a part of God’s plan, and that I have an incredible team and support system around me. I’ll be back stronger than ever.”

Phillips, who the Dolphins drafted in the first round after one season at the University of Miami, has merged as a favorite not only of Dolphins fans but of teammates.

“He’s going to know that he’s loved and he’s missed, but we’re going to go out there and ball for him,” ~ Holland said in a TV interview immediately after the game.

Meanwhile, the signature play of the game was Holland picking off Boyle’s pass and weaving through through futile pursuit by the Jets. Vital because it followed Tua Tagovailoa throwing a pick-6 that cut the Miami lead to 10-6, putting the Jets back in the game despite managing only two first downs and 47 yards of total offense in the half.

Another Tua interception then set up Boyle’s ill-fated heave with 2 seconds remaining. Instead, Holland’s coast-to-coast dash made it 17-6 Miami at the intermission and the outcome was never in doubt after that.

“That was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen,” Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle said. “That was a crazy play that we needed.”

“That was very reminiscent of [hall-of-famer] Ed Reed,” coach Mike McDaniel said.

The Dolphins improved to 8-3 and are sitting pretty in the AFC East lead and as one of five three-loss teams in the conference.

Dolphins one of five three-loss teams in AFC

They were also 8-3 at this point last season before losing five in a row.

There is plenty of reason to feel better about their position right now. The next three weeks they face the 4-8 Commanders away, and the 3-7 Titans and the 4-7 Jets at home.

Miami’s fate in the regular season figures to be decided by the closing gauntlet of Cowboys, Ravens and Bills.

As in recent weeks, the Dolphins defense continued to impress more than the offense that was the talk of the NFL early in the season but has been erratic lately.

The defense had seven sacks and limited the struggling Jets offense to 2.9 yards per play.

Fins have things to fix on offense

Offensively, the turnovers were troubling and the health of the line continues to be a concern.

Star left tackle Terron Armstead left the game early with another injury. With backup Kendall Lamm also ailing, they had to call on the third choice of Kion Smith.

Nonetheless, I was glad to see McDaniel stick with the rushing game even though room to run was sparse against a tough Jets defense. The Dolphins averaged a mere 3.3 yards a carry in the first half. But they ended up with 167 yards and an average of 4.5, including two second-half touchdown by Mostert.

Most impressive was the 15-play, 92-yard drive that consumed nine minutes and put the game well out of reach at 27-6.

It must be a good sign that the Dolphins has progressed to where even lopsided wins get picked apart. But it’s tough to feel bad in any way about a rout of the hated Jets on the road.
Unfortunately, the injury to Phillips left a deep pain in the gut to the team and its fans.

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

Jalen Ramsey seals the win for the Dolphins with a leaping interception, his second of the game.

Pressure Point: Rise of defense bodes well for Dolphins’ late-season hopes

The most positive aspect of the Miami Dolphins’ gritty 20-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders was that the players most responsible for the outcome weren’t named Tua, Tyreek or Raheem.

Instead it was a superlative defensive effort led by Jalen Ramsey, Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips, Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler. But really, there were honorable mentions throughout defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s unit, which repeatedly bailed out a mistake-prone offense, that won the day.

The defense limited the Raiders to two field goals off of three Dolphins turnovers, two of them in Miami territory.

It took fourth-quarter interceptions by Phillips (aided by Wilkins hitting quarterback Aidan O’Connell) and Ramsey to finally put away a Raiders team that has been revitalized under interim coach Antonio Pierce.

It was arguably the most significant result so far for the 7-3 Dolphins. Much more than the 70-20 shellacking of the Broncos or any of the other one-sided wins in the first half of the season.

It bodes well for Miami in what lies ahead over the final seven games of the season. Because a stalwart defense is going to be essential during a stretch run that includes the Jets (twice), Cowboys, Ravens and Bills, as well as the Titans and Commanders.

Ramsey saves day for Dolphins

There is every reason to have faith in a Miami defense that has been trending upward in recent weeks, particularly since the return of Ramsey, who showed All-Pro form with two interceptions, including a spectacular acrobatic grab in the end zone that finally extinguished Vegas hopes.

“I’m really hoping they throw at him, honestly. I mean, both interceptions were out of control in difficulty level,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said of Ramsey. “I think the whole team has gotten a little bit better to a degree since he’s been on our team or since he’s been back and that’s the type of effect that players of that caliber can have on people.”

It was all needed on an uncharacteristic day for the offense. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns. But he also lost a fumble and threw an interception.

Tyreek Hill dazzled as usual, with 146 yards on 10 receptions, including a 38-yard runaway touchdown.

But Miami struggled to get the running game going. Exciting rookie De’Von Achane was lost early to another knee injury. Starting right guard Robert Hunt was out with an injury.

Raheem Mostert averaged a subpar 3.9 yards a carry in grinding out a tough 86 yards. But he couldn’t make enough headway on the final two drives when the Dolphins could have put the game away, and instead punted both times.

Mistakes hamper Dolphins offense

In fact, Miami punted on all three of its possession in the fourth quarter before the game-ending kneel down.

It was the defense that got the job done in impressive fashion. In the second half, Raiders possessions ended with three punts, three interceptions and a failed fourth down.

No wonder I felt most confident in Miami’s chances when the defense was on the field. The only blemish was allowing Davante Adams to get deep for a 46-yard touchdown pass from O’Connell. Otherwise, the Dolphins limited Adams, a likely future hall-of-famer, to 36 yards on his other six catches.

It sure helps having elite cornerbacks Ramsey and Xavien Howard, with 10 Pro Bowl selections between them, finally on the field together and performing as envisioned.
No. 3 corner Kader Kohou had one of his better games, including breaking up a third-down pass for Adams and a tackle for a loss.

Standout emerge on defense for Dolphins

Meanwhile, linebacker Bradley Chubb has emerged as a major disrupter and dominant force of the front seven, effectively quieting criticism of his lackluster performance in his first partial season with Miami after being acquired from Denver and given a $110 million extension in November 2022. Reunited with Fangio, Chubb has five sacks in the past five games.

“I think that there’s a lot of very prideful, very high-quality players on that side of the ball, and you figure it’s just a matter of time with the way that our defense is orchestrated from a coaching perspective, starting with Vic [Fangio],” McDaniel said about the improvement of the defense.

Cohesive defensive effort stymies Raiders

What stood out Sunday was an overall cohesive effort by an improving Miami defense that came into the game ranked 12th in the NFL in total defense, allowing an average of 322.4 yards per game. They limited the Raiders to 296 yards.

But most important, the Dolphins defense pitched a much-needed shutout in the second half while the offense managed only two field goals after the intermission.
Ramsey was asked after the game if he feels this is a defensive team now?

“No, no, I don’t never like to say nothing like that. It’s just a team. We’re all together. At times they’re going to have our back, at times we’ve got to have their back,” Ramsey said. “We do have to play a little bit better complementary football at times, and we’ll continue striving to do that and be that team that we feel like we can be.”

That is what it will take to hold onto the AFC East lead and with the division for the first time in 15 years in the face of a challenging finish to the season.

Dolphins can’t quell doubts as comeback fizzles in Frankfurt

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

Pressure Point: Dolphins can’t quell doubts as comeback fizzles in Frankfurt

Nobody delivers a letdown quite like the Miami Dolphins.

Even by their standards they outdid themselves Sunday with a resounding final fizzle in Frankfurt.

With a dramatic comeback attempt from a 21-0 deficit within reach at the Kansas City 31-yard line but down to its last gasp, the fourth down snap clanked off Tua Tagovailoa’s hands. Hope ended with a resounding Pfftttt!

Game over. Chiefs 21, Dolphins 14.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel was well aware how the outcome would be viewed: “We lose, we can’t beat good teams. We win, we’re going to win the Super Bowl,” he said last week.

His team had a chance to change the view of being pretenders who build impressive stats against underwhelming opponents and for the third time were found wanting against a playoff-caliber team.

The Dolphins go into their bye week at 6-3. All is not lost, but nothing notable has been gained.

Defense a positive sign for Dolphins

They still haven’t beaten a team with a winning record, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs joining the Bills and Eagles as providing reality checks to Miami’s visions of grandeur.

Following the game, McDaniel said, “We shouldn’t feel entitled to high opinions from the masses. We have to earn that confidence … if you want the narrative to change, change the narrative.”

They still will have ample opportunities to flip the narrative and achieve their lofty ambitions. The final month gauntlet of Jets, Cowboys, Ravens and Bills (only Baltimore on the road) will determine the final verdict.

It’s understandable that right now there are plenty of empty seats on the bandwagon of believers.

The best sign to cling to was the performance of the defense in holding Patrick Mahomes and the potent Chiefs’ offense to 14 points. For the second half, the Chiefs had three punts and lost a fumble prior to the final kneel-down.

The 267 yards and 174 passing yards for Kansas City were both the Chiefs’ fewest in a regular-season game since Nov. 7, 2021 vs. Green Bay (237 and 160, respectively).

Linebacker Bradley Chubb forced a fumble by Mahomes that set up the Dolphins’ second touchdown — he deflected a pass a couple of players earlier.

Chubb also applied pressure that prompted Mahomes to misfire on third down and give the Dolphins a final chance for a tying touchdown drive.

The Miami secondary, with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey playing together for the first time did a commendable job of containing Kansas City receivers. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce was a non-factor with three catches for 14 yards.

Rough day for Tyreek Hill

What was disturbing from a Dolphins perspective was how unprepared and inept the offense performed for more than a half.

The league’s top-rated offense managed a mere 110 yards in the first half while going 0-for-5 on third down. Miami didn’t convert on third down until six and a half minutes remained in the third quarter.

The problem was repeatedly facing third-and-long due to an inability get the running game going (only 28 yards rushing in the half), penalties and an assortment of unforced errors.

Most significant, the Chiefs got physical with Tyreek Hill and kept the star receiver bottled up much of the day. Check that, they embarrassed the Cheetah, stripping him of the ball and returning it for a touchdown late in the half.

It was the pivotal play as the Dolphins were driving in a bid to cut into the Chiefs’ 14-0 lead before halftime. Instead it made it 21-0 and stamped the opening 30 minutes as an absolute debacle for the Dolphins’ hopes of shedding the label of frauds.

Hill finished with 62 yards on eight catches. He had two other passes slip through his hands that should have been significant gains. It certainly wasn’t the result the MVP candidate had in mind in his first game against his former team.

Dolphin’s rally falls short

Nonetheless, the Dolphins gave the international audience its money’s worth in an impressive comeback. They even received a gift first down from an unnecessary roughness penalty on Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones and scored on the next play to cut the deficit to 21-14.

The Dolphins’ final possession, beginning with 4:22 remaining, started promising with Raheem Mostert runs of 25 and 19 yards behind solid blocking up front.

Just as there seemed reason to think the Fins might actually pull off something special, it blew up quickly with three incomplete passes and the final bungled shotgun snap.

On third down, Tagovailoa, facing a blitz, and Cedrick Wilson Jr. were in disagreement on the route and the pass fell short. Tua took responsibility for that and the fumbled snap from Connor Williams, which he absolutely should have handled. It appeared he began to pull away early.

Discussing what went wrong, Tua actually said, “Sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles and that’s how the games go.”

As it has so often in these types of situations for the Dolphins. It’s been the recipe for their undoing too many times over the years.

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

Jalen Ramsey discusses his Miami Dolphins debut iwth an interception.

Pressure Point: Ramsey returns with interception, elevates Dolphins defense

As the exodus of the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line via the medical tent left few able bodies up front, it was clear what was needed.

The Miami defense needed to make some plays to lend a hand and fend off the New England Patriots on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, in his much-anticipated Dolphins debut, delivered as hoped with a key interception late in the first half that kept Miami on course for a 31-17 win and a season sweep of the Patriots.

The first sweep of an AFC East opponent since Mike McDaniel became the Dolphins coach kept Miami in first place in the division at 6-2 going into next week’s showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany.

Certainly an ideal time to add a six-time Pro Bowl corner going into that matchup.

Ramsey beats recovery forecast by more than a month

With Xavien Holland and Jevon Holland missing Sunday due to injuries, Ramsey’s presence was a big boost to the Dolphins secondary.

Miami’s major offseason acquisition had to wait nearly half the season to show the difference he can make after injuring his left meniscus on the second day of training camp in July. His return to action was at least a month sooner than the most optimistic forecasts for his recovery from surgery.

Ramsey made it back 94 days after what he said was a full repair of his damaged meniscus.

“They told me late December. I wanted to beat that at least by a month,” Ramsey said. “It got to a certain point where I kind of circled this game. …. When I put my mind on certain things I just go all out.”

The veteran, who won a Super Bowl with the L.A. Rams, made it clear that it was a group effort that got him back on the field, praising Dr. John Uribe who performed the surgery as well as the trainers, weight training staff and everyone involved in his rehab.

Ramsey called his interception

But once back on the field, he wasn’t messing around. In fact, he predicted the interception in his first game back.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones didn’t target Ramsey until late in the half. When he did he probably regretted it.

The Patriots were driving to a potential tying touchdown when he read a sideline route for Kendrick Bourne. Ramsey hung back, then jumped the pass for the interception at the Miami 10 and returned it 49 yards before stepping out of bounds.

“I should have scored. I’ve got to find a way to do that,” he said.

The Dolphins cashed in the turnover for a field goal and a 17-7 lead at the half.

McDaniel joked, “He totally disappointed me. He told me he was gonna come back and have a pick six, not a pick field goal.”

Ramsey inspires Dolphins teammates

Ramsey also forced a fumble on running play, though the Patriots retained possession.

His impact on the team drew effusive praise from his teammates.

“It was awesome to have Jalen out there,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “It was one of the coolest walk-outs I’ve seen here when he walked out through the smoke. Then he topped it off with an interception. The hype is real when it comes to someone like Jalen Ramsey.”

Ramsey revealed that he suffered the injury while locking up with superstar receiver Tyreek Hill in practice.

Hill called Ramsey “next level. … It’s dope to see him back doing it already, like forcing fumbles and just locking down the whole side. I like that. It’s dope to see it. For him to add that to his story, it’s even better. That makes it even better.”

As usual, the Miami offense did much of the heavy lifting despite more injury setbacks to the O-line, which included right guard Robert Hunt (hamstring) and left tackle Kendall Lamm (abdomen) exiting in the first half.

Lamm, himself filling in for Terron Armstead, returned in the second half. But right tackle Austin Jackson was the only regular in action.

Dolphins offense back on track

Tagovailoa threw touchdown passes to Hill, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Jaylen Waddle. He finished 30 of 45 for 324 yards, including a 42-yard TD to Hill.

Hill had eight catches for 112 yards, Waddle had seven for 121.

It was a solid bounce-back effort after last week’s 31-17 loss to Philadelphia.

But Ramsey’s interception was one of several keys plays by the defense in one of the most impactful games for Vic Fangio’s unit, which limited New England to 218 total yards and 1-of-9 third-down conversions. They sacked Jones three times.

A fumble by Raheem Mostert on the opening possession of the second half set up New England at the Miami 19. But the defense forced a three-and-out, with Christian Wilkins’ sack on third down making the Patriots settle for a field goal.

Holland, Howard expected back soon for Miami

Safety, DeShon Elliott, subbing for Holland, delivered a jarring hit on DeVante Parker to prevent a pass reception and knocked the former Dolphins receiver out of the game.

Bradley Chubb had a sack on Jones that kept another Patriots possession from gaining traction.

The Dolphins did allow an 81-yard drive that cut their lead to 24-17 midway through the fourth quarter. At that point Tua and the offense put matters to rest with a 75-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard touchdown pass to a totally uncovered Waddle for a 31-yard TD.

Next week in Germany, a duel of explosive offenses is expected with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Hill said he is looking forward to matching up with his former teammates.

But Ramsey’s triumphant return gives hope for slowing down the explosive Kansas City offense. Particularly if Howard and Holland are able to return and finally unite Miami’s vision of a championship caliber secondary.

Here are some key moments throughout the game:

First quarter

Dolphins forced a three-and-out on opening possession.

Dolphins’ first possession, Tua completed fourth-and-1 to Waddle. But drive stalled in Patriots’ territory. Chase Claypool was targeted for the first time but didn’t connect.

After getting sacked on second down, Tua threw a bad interception to Kyle Dugger giving New England the ball at the Miami 30. Mac Jones threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne over the middle on third down to take a 7-0 lead. Justin Bethel was badly beaten on the play by Bourne.

Dolphins answered with a 42-yard strike to Tyreek Hill. The Cheetah ran past two defenders on the streak. Fins got the running game going on the drive with Jeff Wilson carrying three times for 19 yards. First notable work of the season for Wilson since returning to action.

It was the seventh time the two have connected on a 40+ yard pass this season. Nobody else in the NFL has more than three.

Second quarter

(tied 7-7)

Tagovailoa scrambled on fourth down as the middle opened up to continue Miami’s next drive. They converted another fourth down on a short pass to Hill to the NE 6.

Right guard Robert Hunt went out with a hamstring injury to his left leg as the beleaguered O-line took another hit. The Dolphins are left with only one starting lineman on offense.

Tua threw 1-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson Jr. after a pass interference all in the end zone kept the drive alive. Dolphins took a 14-7 lead. 14 plays, 53 yards on a drive lasting 7:25. Two fourth-down conversions and a pass interference kept it going.

Jalen Ramsey, in his first game for the Dolphins, halted a NE bid for a score late in the half with an interception.

eturned 49 yards before stepping out of bounds. He jumped a pass intended for Bourne at the Miami 10.

Left tackle Kendall Lamm went out with a abdomen injury. Kion Smith replaced him as injuries pile up for the patchwork I-line.

Waddle made leaping catch at the NE 16. Sanders made a 30-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in the half.
Dolphins 17-7.

Third quarter

Mostert fumbled on the exchange from Tua, giving NE the ball at the Miami 19.

Christian Wilkins sacked Jones on third down and the Patriots settled for a 38-yard field goal. Both NE scores have come off turnovers.

Dolphins 17-10.

Waddle dropped a pass, than caught the next one for a 23-yard gain.

Claypool made his first catch as a Dolphin, 15 yards for a first down on the NE 14. The big-body wide receiver broke some tackles after the catch. Mostert scored two plays later from the 1 for a 24-10 Miami lead. Nine plays, 77 yards on the drive.

Sack by Chubb pushed the Patriots back to their 10.

Quarter ends with Dolphins up 24-10.

Fourth quarter

Patriots put together a 13 play, 81-yard drive with Jones throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster to cut the Miami lead to 24-17 with 8:30 remaining.

Somehow Waddle found himself uncovered over the middle for a 31-yard clinching touchdown.

Dolphins 31-17 with 2:43 remaining.

Jaelen Phillips added a sack just before the two-minute warning.

Brandon Jones had two near interceptions in the final two minutes. He got leveled on the second one by JuJu Smith-Schuster, prompting a scuffle between the teams. Smith-Schuster was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play.

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

Former Alabama quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts embrace after the Eagles win over the Dolphins.

Pressure Point: Defeat stings for Dolphins; what matters is how they respond to it

The 31-17 loss at Philadelphia was a reality check for the Miami Dolphins and left a sour taste.

It doesn’t have to linger.

Losing on the road in prime time to an Eagles team coming off its first loss of the season wasn’t surprising. Especially given a ridiculously one-sided penalty assessment by the officials that bordered on scandalous.

It wasn’t crippling, though. It was an out-of-conference defeat. The Dolphins woke up Monday holding all the cards in the AFC East, thanks to the Bills’ loss at New England.

What will matter is how they respond to it. Upcoming games in the next month will carry more weight in defining the fate of this season.

Notably, a bounce-back opportunity at home this week against the Patriots followed by the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Germany. The first meeting with the Jets, who defeated these Eagles looms a month away at the Meadowlands.

High-scoring Dolphins humbled

Sunday’s defeat did put Dolphins shortcomings on display to a national audience. Their speed and scheme-driven offense found the going much tougher against a very physical defense.

The Eagles immediately shut down Miami’s league-leading rushing attack, holding it to minus-7 yards in the first half and 45 for the game. They applied more pressure on Tua Tagovailoa than he’s been accustomed to this season and sacked him four times.

This was not, however, a repeat of the humiliation at Buffalo. Though it seemed headed that way until the final drive of the first half when Tua made a remarkable 29-yard completion to Cedrick Wilson, Jr. on third-and-18 and then hit Tyreek Hill streaking past double coverage for a 27-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins were competitive against the defending NFC champions. They showed resiliency in coming back from a 17-3 deficit to pull even despite considerable adversity. They were on the brink of tying it again in the fourth quarter until Tagovailoa made the one regrettable throw of an otherwise commendable performance, tossing up a dying quail that was intercepted.

Tua’s former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts, with a pass rusher bearing down, launched a 48-yard strike to all-world wide receiver A.J. Brown on the game-sealing touchdown drive and the night belonged to Philadelphia.

O-line health major concern for Dolphins

The Dolphins were left to pick up the pieces. Of greatest concern is the health of the offensive line, which had three backups playing most of the night after left guard Isaiah Wynn went out early with a quad injury. His replacement, Lester Cotton, promptly got flagged for holding that negated a touchdown — borderline penalty compared to some that weren’t called on the Eagles.

The officiating, which led to 10 penalties assessed against the Dolphins and none — that’s zero, zilch — against the home team was a disgrace for the NFL. There should be repercussions, but don’t hold your breath.

Miami coach Mike McDaniel was wise to avoid addressing what wasn’t called on the Eagles and focus on how the Dolphins hurt their own cause. Beginning with delay of game on their first offensive play and including defenders lining up offside more than once.

Roughing the passer on Christian Wilkins was tacky-tack, but why shove him after the pass was thrown? It was undisciplined, and the Eagles scored their first touchdown two plays later.

“You can’t just point a finger and say that it’s not fair. That doesn’t make any sense to me,” McDaniel said after the game. “It’s more about looking at ourselves, the stuff that we can control, and what things we can clean up in our game.”

Getting some injured offensive linemen back would help with that, notably center Connor Williams. Fill-in Liam Eichenberg struggles to make a clean snap and looks out of place, which he is. He’s never been a center.

Inexplicably, the Dolphins left themselves without a legitimate backup center when they traded veteran Dan Feeney to Chicago for a late-round draft pick.

McDaniel revealed late Monday that Wynn will be out for “weeks.”

Dolphins’ defense shows encouraging signs

McDaniel said, “We weren’t as crisp as usual coming out of the huddle, which always leads to stuff, and we will take a hard look at that in terms of what we are doing and how we are doing it, and make sure that we get better because it definitely wasn’t good enough to win and to beat a football team like that. It was a shame because I thought our defense gave us a definite chance to win with the way they played and made some serious physical plays that were kind of wasted.”

The Dolphins’ defense played a solid game, for the most part. They limited the Eagles to 2.9 yards a carry rushing.

Having Jaelan Phillips back has greatly improved the pass rush. They put some heat on Hurts, forced him to fumble once and caused him to throw a pick-6 to Jerome Baker off a deflection by blitzing Kader Kohou.

Hurts’ ability to escape trouble and make a productive play is why the Eagles QB was an MVP finalist last season. He repeatedly frustrated the Dolphins in that manner despite playing the second half with a brace on his left leg.

The defense was less effective after linebacker David Long Jr. collided with safety Jevon Holland and left the game and wore down in the fourth quarter.

Miami’s defense needs to be better and there is reason to believe it will be with cornerback Jalen Ramsey close to returning. Especially if Xavien Howard, who missed Sunday’s game, can get past his groin injury.

Turns out that Holland, who returned to the game, entered concussion protocol on Monday, but Long is OK, according to McDaniel.

Dolphins shift focus to AFC challenges

McDaniel will try to get his high-flying offense back on track quickly. He indicated that wide receiver Chase Claypool, who was active for the first time Sunday but didn’t get a touch on offense, is ready to contribute at least on a limited package of plays.

Looking further ahead, super rookie running back De’Von Achane is expected to return following the bye in week 10.

To be sure, Sunday’s defeat felt like so many Dolphins disappointments, going all the way back to the Marino era, of raising expectations only to get slapped down by a top team. To emerge from the pack of pretenders they are going to have to start winning these type of games.

For now, there is no choice but to focus on what comes next — Patriots and Chiefs before the break to regroup.
To be sure, Sunday’s loss hurts, but all is not lost for Miami.

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

Tua Tagovailoa is making a strong case for MVP in 2023 with his best season as a pro.

Pressure Point: Miami Dolphins aim for much-needed signature win vs. Eagles

It was following the 2018 season that Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross announced he was committing to rebuilding the team from the ground up.

Unlike previous failed efforts this was not intended as a quick fix. Ross made it clear he wasn’t just aiming for a winning record or a playoff appearance, the objective was top of the heap, a Super Bowl victory.

Seems forever ago. But when you look past all the rough patches, missteps, embarrassments and controversies since then, six games into this season the Dolphins really are tracking toward the objective.

Look at the accumulation of talent and the remarkable achievements of coach Mike McDaniel’s state-of-the-art offense led by Tua Tagovailoa on the way to 5-1, and this is what was envisioned. A team capable of winning the big kahuna, right?

Except that there is still a great gulf to cross. Because these Dolphins, for all of their fantasy league dazzle, haven’t won anything significant yet.

Dolphins seek first win of ’23 over top-tier opponent

Which is why this week’s Sunday Night Football showdown at Philadelphia is a massive opportunity for this franchise. The McDaniel era is in need of a signature win. It’s eagerly awaited and about time.

It’s been a hoot watching Tua and Co. run rings around bottom-feeding Broncos, Giants and Panthers. But if Ross’ vision really is ready to bear fruit, no better way to prove it than to do it on the road in prime time against an opponent that went to the Super Bowl last season.

They appear ready for this moment. They lead the NFL in every offensive category worth mentioning. They’re lapping the field in most of them.

Tagovailoa, finally rising above all the criticism and doubts about his ability and health, is on pace to pass for 5,315 yards and 39 touchdowns.

Yet the seemingly unstoppable Dolphins remain suspects. Because the other time they went on the road this season against a playoff-caliber opponent at Buffalo, the Bills stopped them cold. Humbled them by 28 points.

Dolphins, Eagles gear up for offensive fireworks

Although the Dolphins are one of five 5-1 teams, most of the notable power rankings have them outside of the top two — Pro Football Talk and The Athletic are exceptions, both ranking Miami No. 1. Yahoo Sports has the Fins sixth, one spot behind the 4-2 Bills.

It’s fair, considering their head-to-head result, and it’s inconsequential anyway. If you really belong at the top of the heap, prove it. Start beating the best of the best.

The Dolphins have yet to defeat a team that entered this week with a winning record. Their five wins came against teams that are a combined 5-24.

Sunday in Philly is a major test for the high-flying Fins, and the most intriguing matchup of the NFL season so far. It features Tua matching throws with former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts, who has his own corps of speedy receivers.

The Dolphins and Eagles rank 1-2 in total offense, though Miami holds an edge of more than 100 yards a game (498.7 to 395.0).

Miami’s vulnerability is with a defense that ranks 20th and got steamrolled by the Bills for 414 yards and six touchdowns. The Dolphins have the sixth-worst passer rating (98.9) against and may have to play with their best cover man, Xavier Howard, out or limited by a groin injury.

Eagles big test for high-scoring Dolphins

So it will be up to Tagovailoa to keep Miami’s high-octane offense rolling against the best defense (Eagles ranked ninth) they’ve faced since Buffalo.

That’s the compelling draw for a Sunday night national audience. That and to pick apart any flaw in Tagovailoa’s performance. The referendum on Tua is ongoing, despite the growth he is exhibiting and success he is having in his fourth season.

McDaniel had an appropriately salty response this week to a suggestion that “there are some folks who believe that many quarterbacks … would excel and flourish” in the coach’s creative offensive scheme with an arsenal of elite receivers and backs at his disposal: “My answer to that would be, ‘who the f cares’ because it is a team.”

He went on to say, “It is a team working together, people working together and myself, Tyreek Hill, Tua, cool but what if no one’s blocking anyone? You know what I mean? Like we’re all connected in that way.”

If you want to see what he’s talking about, watch this week’s installment of “The QB School” (see below) highlighting the sophisticated design of McDaniel’s offense in action in last week’s rout of the Panthers.

Former pro quarterback JT O’Sullivan analyzes how the use of deception and presnap motion puts the playmakers in spots to make big-yardage plays and how skillfully Tua makes it all work.

Interesting to see how various plays unfold. On a short touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa actually had a choice of three open receivers. Rolling to his left to avoid an unblocked rusher, he opted for the toughest of the three possible throws and delivered it precisely to Waddle.

Dolphins eager to prove themselves on ‘big platforms’

Can Miami’s “Greatest Show on Surf” produce similar results in a hostile setting against a much tougher opponent?

It’s a question the Dolphins need to answer and the overriding reason to tune in Sunday night.

“I think the bigger thing is that we’re a football team that’s learning to win different ways, finding some balance. And I think a lot of guys are getting better within the respective systems,” McDaniel said this week. “So we’ll be moving forward the way that we would hope, which is with games that matter, on big platforms.”

For Miami, it’s time to turn eye-opening talent into defining wins. It’s the only route to Ross’ Super Bowl vision.

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

Dolphins continuing to control what they can… and what they can’t

In sports, there’s only so much you can script, and always so much you can’t. Or as Mike Tyson more eloquently stated, everyone has a plan ’til punched in the mouth. That punch can come in many forms, and from any angle, and can sometimes land in spite of all your preparation. Still, the best squads, the ones that stay standing, are the ones that find counters and contingencies, the ones who remain resilient instead of ruffled. The Miami Dolphins of 2023 — who enter Sunday’s game with winless Carolina at 4-1 — are showing themselves to be one of those squads so far. And they must be again, even as they’ve been hit with more unexpected adversity, this time in the form of rookie running sensation De’Von Achane joining projected pillars Jalen Ramsey, Terron Armstead, Connor Williams and others on the sidelines.

They showed their resourcefulness again last Sunday against the Giants, not because the opponent was formidable (it wasn’t), but because not everything went according to expectation. This was evident on the very first drive, a situation that has been a specialty for the coach, Mike McDaniel; his quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the entire offense all season.

As with many teams, the opening drive is typically carefully orchestrated. It is typically a unit’s best foot forward, and the Dolphins have been exceptional in these situations this season, even if they win the coin toss and defer, and take the ball after the other team changes the field position or even takes a lead. Coming into last Sunday against New York, the Dolphins had scored 17 points on their four prior starting salvos, and it would have been three or seven more if not for a fumble on the Chargers’ 2. Tagovailoa was completing more than 75 percent of his passes, easily pushing the ball down the field with tempo and precision.

And he did it again.

On this drive, he completed six of seven passes, for 65, to four different targets, finishing in a Jaylen Waddle 2-yard reception for the score.

“I’m very comfortable, regardless of what Mike has,” Tagovailoa said of the success at the start of games. “Whether it’s on script, off script, of plays that we like. Or plays that are ‘OK, we’re calling this play, I didn’t really like this play throughout the week, but I put myself in the playcaller’s mind frame, and if they go out there, that’s how it ends up happening with how I see the field…..'”

Still, you would think, watching how he did see the field, and saw his receivers break free, that the Dolphins had practiced all week against the identical alignments the Giants had shown.

“It’s so much work, accumulated by players,” McDaniel said. “All the things that are happening, they’re executing, they’re prepared to do it against multiple looks. That speaks to their preparation and their ownership of when we go through, the openers, they’re the ones executing it. And sometimes we get what we were practicing again. Like, today, we saw absolutely, positively an extreme version of the antithesis of the defense that we prepared for.”

Wait, what?

“They came out in a different personnel package and play coverages than they have ever played before, and to be able to do that and have players not even blink, means that they are super prepared,” McDaniel continued. “On top of the fact that their coaches have taught them the appropriate way to digest the defense, so if there is a defense that you haven’t prepared for, they are still able to execute their job. It’s a group effort, and whatever plays that I call, if the players don’t really, really invest in what they’re doing, those plays suck.”

And so, for the Dolphins of late, the plays don’t suck even when they’re not the right play.

Like that 69 yard pass from Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill, just 54 seconds into the third quarter.

When a reporter mentioned that Tagovailoa had executed it by seeing single high coverage, the quarterback couldn’t keep up the ruse anymore.

“Did it look like single high?” he replied. “Like from the beginning of it? It did?”

Then the laughter, of a kid caught with his hands in the candy jar.

“Yeah, um, well that… that was the wrong play call,” he said. “That was the wrong play call. And you can ask Mike about that. I don’t think I should be saying. That was the wrong play call. I just called the wrong play. So you guys might want to ask Mike about that one…”

More reporter repartee….

More honesty.

“Yeah,” Tagovailoa said, smiling. “That sounds weird, just taking the credit for that one… He said a play…. I told him I misheard him. As I was looking at it, I was like, ‘Oh.’ I did mishear him. I did. Yes. Yes.'”

So we did ask McDaniel.

“Yeah, apparently he stole my thunder,” McDaniel said, in his sardonic style. “I wanted to unveil that he’s now a playcaller. No, that’s one of the moments that in his journey, that is indicative of where he’s at. I just know that the way we were able to move the ball a little bit, and then those turnovers, the picks, it would have been hard to get him out of that, just how mad he would be at himself. But the disciplined work that he’s done with mind, body and soul to be in a moment like that, and just take the game into his own hands, that’s what you’re trying to build.”

All for a play like that.

“It was a really cool moment that when you’re watching the formation set up, I am not composed. ‘What, what?” McDaniel said. “You just don’t know. It was hard to actually visualize what play he actually called, because you just think that nine people are messed up. And then that’s the type of stuff you can’t manufacture, to be able to have the wherewithal to say, ‘You know what, let’s put it in mine and Tyreek’s hands.’ I’m just very very proud of him. Sometimes, the messy games are my favorite, with that stuff.”

It was a play reminiscent of Dan Marino, feuding with his coach Jimmy Johnson, once ignoring a call and just telling Oronde Gadsden not nearly as fleet as Hill — to just “f—– go deep” and hitting him for a one-point win against the Colts way back when. Except, this coach and this quarterback are aligned. And Tagovailoa and this offense are doing Marino-like things.

Will it continue today, against feeble Carolina?

It should.

Be sure, McDaniel and Tagovailoa have a plan for it.

Be sure, the plan will go awry at some point. A play will “suck.” A pass will float. A kick will miss.

For a change, when off script, the Miami Dolphins appear capable of staying on track.


Ethan Skolnick is the CEO of Five Reasons Sports Network.

Tyreek Hill tries to get the ball to his mother after a touchdown against the Giants, but fans intervene.

Pressure Point: Dolphins speeding at record pace, but tougher challenges ahead

The Miami Dolphins’ 31-16 rout of the New York Giants reaffirmed that they are the best track team in the NFL.

First it was De’Von Achane hitting 21.76 mph on a 76-yard TD run, then Tyreek Hill reaching a season-best 22.01 mph on a 64-yard gain.

Speed in abundance led to the Dolphins racing to 524 net yards in a bounce-back win from last week’s trouncing at Buffalo.

In doing so, the Dolphins showed they are capable of outrunning their mistakes — two interceptions by Tua Tagovailoa and a lost fumble — at least against poor to middling opponents.

Aside from a dazzling display of offense and solid performance by the Miami defense, which recorded seven sacks, dominating a bottom-feeding Giants team didn’t provide the big-picture answer about where the Dolphins stand among the NFL’s elite.

Dolphins first in AFC East after Bills’ loss

At an AFC best 4-1 (along with Kansas City), their record places them in that group.

This is the Dolphins’ best start in 20 years, when Dave Wannstedt was coach and Jay Fiedler the quarterback. With Buffalo’s surprising home loss to Jacksonville, Miami is back alone in first place in the AFC East.

It should be noted, though, the Dolphins’ four vanquished opponents have a combined five wins.

Their ugly loss to the Bills stands as a glaring blemish at least until they show the ability to defeat quality opponents. That opportunity will come in two weeks at Philadelphia and in the Nov. 5 match-up with defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City at Frankfurt, Germany.

In anticipation of those challenges, the Dolphins finally have a team built for success in the NFL of the moment, with offense, offense and more offense.

Dolphins have most yards ever in first five games

More, in fact, than any team has ever generated through the first five games in NFL history. Their 2,568 yards topped the mark of the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams’ 2,527 yards in 2000.

“Mission accomplished,” was coach Mike McDaniel’s glib response to that news. “Our whole goal this entire offseason was statistical output through five games.”

The objective would be better defined as “catch us if you can.” It’s all built around a bevy of speedy options.

According to Next Gen Stats, Dolphins have posted the seven fastest speeds on offense this season — three by Hill, three by Achane and the other by Raheem Mostert.

Later Achane disputed Hill’s claim to the top spot because he got run out of bounds on the play, contending, “22 but don’t matter cuz he got hawked.”

While Hill continues to be a runaway threat at wide receiver, Archane is putting up historic numbers at running back. In the past three games the rookie from Texas A&M has 455 yards rushing on 37 carries, eight catches for 63 yards, and seven total touchdowns.

The much-improved offensive line is doing its part to provide openings for the running game and to give Tagovailoa time to throw. Kendall Lamm appeared solid filling in for injured Terron Armstead at left tackle.

Lamm, Isaiah Wynn and Durham Smythe opened the running lane that Achane bolted through virtually untouched (one defender got a tap on his shoulder pad) on the long TD gallop.

Dolphins’ offense brilliant but shows blemishes

The Dolphins’ opening touchdown drive, spanning 89 yards in eight plays, was worthy of hanging in a gallery. It involved an array of McDaniel’s pre-snap motion, misdirection and trickery. Five different players advanced the ball, culminating with Tua’s 2-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle.

The day was not all picture-perfect. The three turnovers that came later were troubling, especially the 102-yard pick-6 by Tagavailoa that enabled the Giants to score their first first-half touchdown of the season.

Such mistakes could have been game changers against a better opponent. Considering the Giants never posed a serious threat, it was easy for McDaniel and Tagovailoa to shrug them off.

“Sometimes the messy games are my favorite,” McDaniel said, noting the teaching moments that come out of mess-ups.

Look at it like every great relay team drops a few batons on the way to setting records.

Achane finished the day with 151 yards rushing, Hill with 181 yards receiving and Tua with 308 yards passing.

This Dolphins team is still getting revved up. Sunday it continued to deliver record numbers and high entertainment value.

Don’t mess with Tyreek Hill’s mom

Perhaps most entertaining was Hill climbing into the stands after a 69-yard touchdown to deliver the ball to his mother. Another fan intercepted but then completed the pass to Hill’s mom after being informed what he was trying to do.

Apparently that was wise, as Hill later explained: “Some guy took it. But my mom, she’s a bulldog, she’s like give me my ball, boy.”

It turned out that Tagovailoa called that pass to Hill on the opening drive of the second half rather than the play McDaniel sent in. Supposedly Tua “misheard” the play that McDaniel wanted.

McDaniel said: “The story is whatever we say it was, huh? If Tua has a better thought than I do, I prefer that. He executes, I’m not mad. I’m not upset.”

The story of this day was a convincing Dolphins win against a struggling opponent, with a few stumbles along the way.

It is always fun to watch your favorite team win in lopsided fashion. But this Dolphins team has more serious work ahead in the next month that can bring much more rewarding results.

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

In Mike McDaniel, the Dolphins might have their Spo

No one entirely understood what they were watching last Sunday, as the Greatest Show on Surf swamped the visiting men from the mountains. But perhaps one man had a bit more perspective, sitting in a Hard Rock Stadium booth with his sons, taking photos with former Dolphins such as Shawn Wooden and all-time sporting greats such as Wayne Gretzky.

“I love watching Mike’s offensive plans,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra texted back, as South Florida’s sports fans everywhere continued celebrating a 70-20 Miami Dolphins victory.



Even Spoelstra’s Heat — with their 12 playoff appearances, six NBA Finals appearances and two championships since his ascension in 2008 — have never been quite so overwhelming as Mike McDaniel’s Dolphins were last Sunday. Not even during a 27-game winning streak. Not even with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and now Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

But that’s the thing.

It’s not about the short term, no matter how spectacular, as Spoelstra and his new friend McDaniel know.

It’s about what you sustain.

And so that brings us to today, Sunday in Buffalo, against the only squad that stands in the way of AFC East supremacy — with the Jets and Patriots each in some semblance of disarray.

And that brings us to tomorrow, and whether McDaniel can prove as resilient, resourceful and permanent as Spoelstra has proven, just just for a game or season but for more than a decade.

McDaniel had more working against him than Spoelstra did when each was hired, even though he was roughly the same age. While the Heat have been the model of stability since Pat Riley’s arrival in 1995, with Spoelstra just the third official head coach in that time, McDaniel is the 9th, and 12th if you include the interims. The Heat have been the sturdy ship while the Dolphins have been a pool float over the past quarter-century, and so any hire is met with skepticism, as this one was. Yes, McDaniel was touted as a genius by many who had encountered him, but so was Adam Gase. He hadn’t played professionally, nor did he look the part, not for anything but the IT department. And unlike Spoelstra, whose rise was also unconventional in that he came up from the Heat video room, McDaniel didn’t have anyone of the gravity of Riley, someone who had seen him day after day, anointing him.

But McDaniel and Spoelstra, while somewhat different in terms of personality — McDaniel, for starters, enjoys silly media repartee while Spoelstra loathes any such small talk — share some qualities that may have been overlooked by many initially. It’s not just the willingness to innovate, norms and critics be damned, from Spoelstra’s Pace and Space to McDaniel’s “Cheat Motion” that will is now an NFL rage.

It’s their relatability — each self-deprecating in his own way, each willing to take the bullet for those under their command.

And, mostly, it’s their empathy.

Spoelstra has shown that in spades since he’s become the Heat’s singular voice during the season, with the way he speaks about and treats his players, others in the organization, opponents and even reporters — I have too many stories I could share. I’ll never forget the lengthy message Spoelstra sent a media colleague after his son passed, a message that turned my friends to tears as he showed it to me at the memorial.

McDaniel seems the same.

That quality has allowed his quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, to shrug off all the skeptics and take this satisfying star turn, following all the negative reinforcement from prior coach Brian Flores. McDaniel did more than just believe in Tua. He was vocal and adamant about such belief — again, critics be damned. And he was consistent with his support, not only for what Tua was doing and would do, but what had been done to him by the doubts of the prior regime.

That is a rare quality for a coach, and maybe that’s why McDaniel and Spoelstra have become so chummy so quickly.

A year ago at this time, I was in the Bahamas for Heat training camp and pulled Spoelstra aside to get his view of McDaniel, who was less than a month into his first NFL season. Spoelstra smiled broadly. He likes this stuff more than talking about tired NBA narratives, for sure.

And it was clear how much he liked McDaniel’s approach, from a visit to the Dolphins’ 2022 training camp.

When I noted that McDaniel was about the same age as Spoelstra was in 2008:

“It’s amazing. And he’s way more advanced. And just understands the picture and dynamics of building a team. I was really impressed. Our whole staff was impressed. By the whole vibe up there. During training camp, when we saw it, they were working really hard. And it was one of those South Florida hot days. But they had fun out there too. So they were trying to get something accomplished, they were doing it with joy, I really enjoyed that day, and came away impressed with him. Yes, he looks young. He fits right in. But his maturity and understanding of how to teach football, it belies his years.”

Of their shared unconventional path, Spoelstra said he related, “Just even talking to him. The sports are different. But how you think, I always find that really interesting in talking to people. I tend to now, at this point of my career, learn more from people outside the industry….. You tend to look at things a little bit more differently when you go outside our sport. That’s why I’ve enjoyed those kind of visits….. We had a terrific day, and he was very gracious to give us a couple hours afterwards, and just talk some shop. And you can kind of see how he in general thinks differently, and that leads to innovation. When you’re questioning things, and questioning the norm, and being open to new possibilities. It may be obvious but because it’s not what everybody else is doing, we all tend to fall into that trap sometimes.”

What did McDaniel want to know from Spoelstra?

“You know, I get that a lot of what it’s like to coach teams that are ready,” Spoelstra said. “And to take that real step. That was probably a decent amount of the conversation. He was probably getting frustrated with us, because every time he turned it to us, we flipped it and we were asking more questions about what they do and how they got to that point. I might not understand all the schematics of how they do it, but I loved seeing the process of ‘OK, how did you start with this, and why did you think of it differently to get it to that?’ And if the whole league is zigging and you may be zagging in different pockets, how can that create a competitive advantage.”

Sp9elstra found ways to create plenty of competitive advantages with an undermanned Heat roster this past season, particularly in the postseason, and McDaniel was there to see it, sometimes with Dolphins GM Chris Grier, sometimes with others, watching warmups, sitting in a courtside seat — with Spoelstra strolling and stomping right in front of him — and then spending time in the back tunnels, politely and earnestly chatting up Spoelstra, players and the staff.

Friday, I mentioned that Spoelstra not only was in attendance for the Dolphins’ scoring deluge against Denver, but praised McDaniel on his plan.

Why does McDaniel believe the men — leading two organizations that haven’t always felt aligned — have bonded so much?

Have they spoken about strategy?

“No, I think we’ve talked about the commonalities which we share, and different ways to look at the game,” McDaniel said. “And really the biggest commonality that we’ve shared is we’re in a business where our job is to motivate and curate and get the best out of the players that we have. And you know, it’s a complicated life of the professional athlete, where you have so many people in your ear, there are so many people making money off of you, and to be able to take these highly successful individuals and make them a team, I think there’s a shared experience that we have mostly focused on when we’ve talked. Because it’s some of the biggest problem solving that you really need to undertake.”

No matter the sport.

“I use basketball references all the time, and I think watching the Heat play gave me all sorts of motivation in the offseason, just by team over everything, and what is the saying, ‘The sum is greater than the parts… or whatever,'” McDaniel continued, in his typically folksy style. “That’s what I see from them. And I think that pretty much applies to professional football in general, because you always have talented players across the board, but working together is what generates results. We have a cool relationship. It’s not direct X’s and O’s. Like I can’t help watching basketball and following the ball. And I know that to be wrong from a coach’s perspective, because when I watch football I see all the things moving at once, I’m not just staring at where the ball is going. But I can’t do it in basketball. So I would be very little help. It would be very one-sided. Like, ‘Tell me how you do things again.’ And we have a more equitable friendship, I would say.”

He need not follow the ball in Spoelstra’s sport.

Just the success, and then sustain.

It’s been quite a start.


Ethan Skolnick is the CEO of Five Reasons Sports Network.





Tua Tagovailoa, with Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, had an uncharacteristically poor performance in the loss against San Francisco.

Pressure Point: 3-0 Dolphins ready to take the Achane Train to Buffalo

The most impactful decision Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel had to make Sunday had nothing to do with the outcome the game.

It was whether or not to attempt a field goal in the final minute that would have given the Dolphins the record for most points in an NFL game.

With a 70-20 lead over the Denver Broncos and a 3-0 start to the season assured, it was no surprise McDaniel opted for the kneel-down.

It was the classy choice, the correct choice. It was actually an easy call for McDaniel, who said later, “It’s not really what I’m about.”

So the record stays with Sonny Jurgensen and the Washington Redskins in a 72-41 rout of the New York Giants in 1966.

“I think in this league, it’s all about respect in the NFL,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said in his postgame presser. “We’re not trying to go out there and humiliate teams.”

Certainly not against the team that McDaniel got a start in his unlikely rise to an NFL head coach as a ball boy.

Dolphins shatter franchise records for points, yards

The Dolphins’ offensive made its points and then some. Their 726 total yards were also second-most in NFL history (Rams, 735 in a 1951 game).

Sunday was a feel-good romp that showed how good these Dolphins can be. Next week at Buffalo will give the best indication yet about how good they really are.

They couldn’t have conjured a better confidence builder for that challenge.

Already playing at a gallop in their first two wins with the Thrill-Hill-a-Minute offense, Sunday they unleashed a new weapon in the Achane Train.

In his first complete game, rookie De’Von Achane had 18 carries for 203 yards and two touchdowns and four catches for 30 yards and two touchdowns. In doing so, the third-round draft pick from Texas A&M showed the speed, balance and cutback ability that can elevate this offense to scary good.

The twitchy-quick Achane is as much fun to watch in the open field as star receiver Tyreek Hill, who had 157 yards receiving including a 54-yard touchdown that got the Dolphins’ day off to the races.

All the jitterbug moves and abrupt change of direction shows Achane has some Barry Sanders qualities and instincts.

“He’s a confident young man and he knew for sure he could do this, that he could do it at a high level,” said veteran left tackle Terron Armstead, who made his season debut and threw some blocks that helped spring Achane. “He’s special.”

Dolphins impress with diverse offense

The dominant overall performance by the Dolphins was a big step toward what has the makings of a special season.

The record-setting home opener provided an excess of superlatives.

Veteran running back Raheem Mostert also had four touchdowns — three of them rushing — and totaled 142 yards combined rushing and receiving.

Anyone still disappointed the Dolphins didn’t mortgage their future to sign Dalvin Cook?

Oh by the way, Tagovailoa completed his first 17 passes, one short of Ryan Tannehill’s Dolphins record to start a game. He went on to throw for 309 yards with a near-perfect passer rating of 155.8 before taking the fourth quarter off.

This was all without star receiver Jaylen Waddle, who remained in concussion protocol.

Most impressive was the balance of the offense. The Dolphins ran the ball 43 times while throwing 28 passes. They rushed for 350 yards while averaging 8.1 a carry.

They also unveiled a new conga-line touchdown celebration.

Do Dolphins have room to improve?

Kudos to the offensive line that not only opened running lanes but also kept Tagovailoa sack free and virtually untouched.

The defense did its part with three takeaways. Most important was forcing a three-and-out after McDaniel’s gamble on fourth-and-short in Miami territory failed early in the third quarter. That quelled the Broncos’ last chance to get back into the game.

Afterward, McDaniel said, “I was most proud of the unrelenting nature we had.”

Even with the 50-point margin of victory, Armstead indicated there were aspects of the overall performance that are open to improvement, such as cleaning up penalties and execution of assignments.

McDaniel echoed that when he said: “Shame on us if you put a ceiling on what you’re capable of … It’s amazing what a group of people can do going in one direction. The points don’t carry over but I think this is a meaningful game for a lot of guys.”

Focus on wins, not records

As for declining to go for the scoring record, McDaniel said, “I will be fine getting second-guessed for turning down NFL records. … I would hope that, if the shoe was on the other foot, the opponent would do the same.”

It is the professional perspective, and it should enhance McDaniel’s growing stature in the league.

He is well aware, the grandiose numbers from Sunday’s rout will ring hollow if the Dolphins don’t follow it with a similarly unrelenting effort next week at Buffalo.

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