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Dolphins Chargers Win

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Chargers

The Miami Dolphins (6-3) continued their ascent in the AFC with a solid win over the Los Angeles Chargers (2-7). The victory marked Miami’s fifth-straight and propelled them to the 6-seed in the conference.

Touted as a duel between two rookie quarterbacks, the Dolphins signal-caller played an efficient game, whereas his counterpart made a critical error in the fourth quarter. The win over the Chargers puts Miami at 6-3 for the first time since 2001. The five-game win streak is the longest for the franchise since 2016, when they won six-in-a-row.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Chargers.

Dolphins’ Tagovailoa Steady in Win Over Chargers

In a game where pundits pit Tua Tagovailoa versus Justin Herbert, Tagovailoa came out on top. Football analysts have lauded Herbert for his statistical prowess thus far, but that’s led to very little winning for the Chargers. Miami, meanwhile, saw their rookie quarterback led them to yet another victory.

Tagovailoa’s now 3-0 as a starter and is the first rookie in Dolphins history to win his first three starts. He finished 15-for-25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. His back-to-back games with two touchdown passes tie him for the third-longest streak of multiple touchdown pass games by a Dolphins rookie quarterback.

Tagovailoa’s the only rookie QB in Dolphins history to not throw an interception in his first three starts. And he’s one of only two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz the other) to win all three of his first career starts and not throw an interception.

Tagovailoa also registered the first tackle of his career after a botched snap from Ted Karras led to a fumble. The young signal-caller’s moxie and confidence continue to grow with each start. He’s been accurate and adept at fitting passes into tight windows. It’s clear he has the confidence of the coaching staff and the team.

Ogbah Continues His Great Play

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Emmanuel Ogbah’s been great. He sacked Herbert on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The sack was Ogbah’s eighth of the season and gave him six consecutive games with a full sack. His eight sacks are tied for fourth in the NFL. The six-game sack streak for Ogbah is tied for the second-longest in Dolphins history, trailing just Jason Taylor’s eight-game streak in 2002.

Ogbah also had two passes defensed, including one pass tipped on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter that forced a turnover on downs.

His continued productivity has elevated this Dolphins defense. The pressure players like Ogbah generate helps the team’s secondary. It was clearly evident in Xavien Howard’s fourth quarter interception of Herbert. With that interception, the Dolphins defense has now registered at least one turnover in each of the last 15 games.

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Dolphins Special Teams Elite in Win Over Chargers

The first big play of the day came from Miami’s Special Teams. Andrew Van Ginkel got free rushing up the middle and blocked LA’s punt. Jamal Perry recovered the fumble on the one-yard line. It was the first blocked punt by the Dolphins since Brandon Bolden got one on November 11, 2018 at Green Bay.

In addition to that play, punter Matt Haack pinned the Chargers at the five-yard line, flipping field position in a tightening game. Haack is fifth in the league in punts inside-the-20 (17) and eighth in net punt average (42.9). Against the Rams, Haack pinned five punts inside the 20. It was his sixth career game with at least five punts inside the 20, which is a Dolphins record.

Jakeem Grant also helped the team flip field position with his punt returns. His 294 punt return yards lead the NFL. His 14.7 punt return average stands as third-best and he leads the NFL with three punt returns of over 20 yards.

Grant surpassed Tommy Vigorito (830) for fifth place in Dolphins history in all-time career punt return yardage. Grant now has 883 career punt return yards.

Jason Sanders, meanwhile, remains one of the best kickers in the league and arguably the best kicker in Dolphins history. Sanders saw his streak of 20 consecutive makes snapped in this one, but he did net three field goals. His 20 makes are tied for second-most in the NFL so far. His .952 average on field goals is also second-best.

Sanders’ five makes from 50-yards or longer stand as second-most this season. He is 23-for-23 on point-after attempts.

Jakeem Grant Emerges as Offensive Weapon

When the Dolphins lost Preston Williams to the injured reserve, there were questions surrounding who would fill the void. Miami had several options, but Grant stood out on Sunday

Grant caught a three-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to give Miami a 14-0 lead. It was Grant’s first touchdown reception since he had two in a game on September 23, 2018 versus Oakland. Grant led the Dolphins in receiving on Sunday with four receptions for 43 yards.

His ability to create separation on his routes makes him a reliable go-to for Tagovailoa. In his three starts, Tagovailoa has targeted Grant 12 times, which matches the amount of targets Grant received from Fitzpatrick through the first six games of the season.

Grant’s game-breaking speed adds a layer previously absent from this offense. While they’ve yet to incorporate it, Grant is regularly in pre-snap motion, indicating a jet-sweep could be part of the offensive game plan moving forward.

Dolphins in Prime Position for Playoff Push After Win Over Chargers

The AFC East playoff picture remains a logjam after Week 10. Thanks to Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary heave against Buffalo, Miami stands within 0.5 game of the Bills with seven games to go. A win next week in Denver would pull the Dolphins even with Buffalo because the Bills are on their bye.

The Dolphins currently hold the 6-seed in the AFC standings, one of six teams to sport a 6-3 record. Miami holds the tiebreaker over the Titans and Ravens based on best win percentage in conference games. The division tiebreaker keeps the Dolphins ahead of Cleveland (Baltimore wins tie break over Cleveland based on head-to-head win percentage).

The Colts lead the AFC South. Miami trails the Raiders in the standings because Las Vegas sports a better conference win percentage. The Dolphins travel to Vegas in Week 16.

According to Tankathon.com, the Dolphins sport the 12th-easiest remaining slate of games, based on strength of schedule. Miami final seven opponents have a combined .477 winning percentage. The Bills, meanwhile, face a slightly tougher slate, as their final six opponents have a .509 winning percentage.

Three of the other teams vying for an AFC playoff spots hold easier roads ahead: Baltimore (.461), Cleveland (.445) and Las Vegas (.444).

What this means is, Miami needs to win the games in which they are favored and knock off, at the very least, the Raiders in Week 16. The Week 17 matchup against the Bills could very well be for the AFC East division title.

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Dolphins Win Rams

5 Takeaways from the Dolphins Win Over the Rams

The Miami Dolphins (4-3) did something most didn’t expect on Sunday: they dominated the Los Angeles Rams (5-3). The vast majority of football pundits called this a win for the Rams. Local and national media keyed on Tua Tagovailoa’s first career start. But it was the defense that dominated in this 28-17 victory.

The win over the Rams stands as Miami’s third straight victory and has propelled them into the thick of the AFC playoff race. Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the LA Rams.

Win Over the Rams: Dolphins on a Roll

The Dolphins entered Sunday’s game looking to improve their playoff position while breaking in a new quarterback. Much of the discourse ahead of this game surrounded Miami’s decision to go with Tagovailoa and doing so in the midst of a postseason push.

Many questioned the change. Ryan Fitzpatrick had the Dolphins’ prospects looking up and some wondered if going with an unproven rookie may have undercut Miami’s chances. The defense, meanwhile, disregarded those questions and came to play yet again.

With the victory, the Dolphins have now won three games in a row for the first time since 2018. It’s the first time the Dolphins have won three games in a row by 10-plus points since 2014. Miami has won four of its past five and is 9-7 in its last 16 games. The team is above .500 for the first time in the Brian Flores era.

This stretch arrives as Miami’s schedule softens some. Four of the Dolphins’ next five games come against teams with losing records. If Miami can go 4-1 over that span, they’ll enter the home stretch 8-4 and likely in strong playoff position.

Dolphins Defense Dominating

The Dolphins held the Rams to just 17 points in Sunday’s win. With that performance, Miami’s D vaulted to the top of the NFL in terms of scoring defense. This group allows just 18.6 points-per-game, the lowest mark in the league.

What’s helped Miami maintain this defensive dominance is quarterback pressure. On Sunday, the Dolphins registered their 18th and 19th sacks of the season, ninth most. In addition to the sacks, the Dolphins hit Jared Goff another six times.

“The key to the game was just attack Jared Goff,” said Dolphins DE Emmanuel Ogbah after the game. “As a defense we did a good job rushing them, rushing coverage, going head-to-head, rolling all them boys back; that did a great job for us and we got a chance to get back there.”

The Dolphins pressured Goff throughout and prevented the Rams’ QB from finding a consistent rhythm until it was too late. Miami managed four takeaways, intercepting Goff twice and forcing two Goff fumbles. The Dolphins’ 13 takeaways this season are tied for second-most in the NFL thus far.

In addition, Miami broke up 13 pass attempts. The Dolphins now have two players in the top-10 in Passes Defensed. Eric Rowe’s nine pass breakups are tied for sixth-most and Xavien Howard’s eight are tied for ninth-most.

The Dolphins’ dominance on third down continued in this one as well. The Rams converted 7-of-17 third down tries, but many of those came late. For the season, Miami’s 33.3 percent third-down conversion rate stands tied for second lowest in the league.

Dolphins Win Over the Rams: Jakeem Grant Value Trending Up

Jakeem Grant broke the game open with his 88-yard second quarter punt return. For the third time in his career, Grant took a punt for a touchdown. With the score, Grant became the all-time franchise leader in punt return TDs. He’d been tied with Freddie Solomon, Tom Vigorito and O.J. McDuffie prior.

“All credit to my teammates that were on the unit,” Grant said of the return. “I don’t even think I got touched, so like I said, man, it’s all credit to them.”

The 88-yard punt return stands as the longest in Dolphins history. The previous record was 87 yards by Vigorito (9/10/1981 vs Pittsburgh) and Ted Ginn Jr. (11/18/2007 at Philadelphia). His 816 career punt return yards moves Grant to sixth all-time for Miami. He passed Scott Schwedes (732 yards), Jarvis Landry (804) and Solomon (810) up the chart.

But Grant did not just contribute on Special Teams. He made a 15-yard reception on a comeback route late in the first quarter. The first down put Miami inside the Rams’ 10-yardline and helped set up the game-tying touchdown. Grant has a budding connection with Tagovailoa, and his speed could be integrated more into the offense.

Ogbah & Rowe Continue To Play Well

Ogbah continues his dominant play from his defensive end position. Ogbah’s strip-sack of Goff in the second quarter led to a 78-yard scoop-and-score by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel. The Dolphins took the lead on the play and never looked back.

Ogbah has now registered a sack in each of the last four games and has at least a half sack in every game since Week 1. His streak of four-straight games with a sack is the longest since Cameron Wake picked up a sack in five straight in 2016. His sixth sacks in 2020 are tied for sixth-most in the NFL.

Rowe, meanwhile, continued his dominance against tight ends. Against the Rams, Rowe recorded five passes defensed, a career-high, and an interception in the win for the Dolphins. He dropped what would have been a pick-six as well.

“Kind of through the week, we caught wind of ‘Rams defense this, Rams defense that.’ We’re like, ‘man, they need to worry about our defense,’ and that was one of our focuses on mind to show up,” Rowe said after the game.

“People keep sleeping on our defense and that’s fine, but we’re going to show up every week.”

Dolphins Over the Rams: Tua Plays Well Enough to Win

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The fanfare over Tagovailoa’s start remained the headline in the lead up to this one, but it didn’t look great at the beginning. Tagovailoa suffered a strip-sack turnover at the hands of Aaron Donald on his second snap as a starter. To his credit, though, Tagovailoa came back and played well enough for the Dolphins to secure the win over the Rams.

Tagovailoa finished 12-of-22 for just 93 yards and a touchdown, in addition to the fumble. The offensive game plan seemed conservative and Tagovailoa’s receivers dropped at least four passes, including two that would have resulted in a first down.

“I don’t think I played to the standard of what this offense is capable of,” Tagovailoa said after the game. “There were certain plays where I could have stepped up and made the right throw, made the right decision.

“Aside from that, thank God we’ve got a good defense, so when we do start to string good plays together, we know that we can be able to make plays and then get the ball back and continue to try to do the same.”

Tagovailoa admitted he could’ve played better, but he said he also enjoyed the game as well. He particularly enjoyed getting hit.

“I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy getting hit that first time. That was definitely a welcome.”

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Emmanuel Ogbah

Emmanuel Ogbah channeling the power of #91 for Miami Dolphins

When the Miami Dolphins started handing out numbers for their offseason additions, many fans were skeptical about handing #91 to a former second round pick who never lived up to the draft day hype. After all, that number, in the hearts of Dolphins fans, belongs to the one and only Cameron Wake. Wake’s ability to rush the passer for Miami was unmatched. To give it to someone like Emmanuel Ogbah didn’t feel right. But as the season drags on, Ogbah appears to be channeling the magic once used by Wake.

In just six games, Ogbah is close to matching his career high in sacks for a season. His fifth sack of the year came on 3rd and 4 in the 4th quarter against the New York Jets. Notorious Dolphins killer Joe Flacco, who up until last Sunday was undefeated against Miami with a 7-0 record, snapped the football and found himself running for his life as safety Eric Rowe came on a blitz. Flacco managed to spin away, only to come face to face with a charging Ogbah. There was no escape for the former Ravens starter, and Emmanuel Ogbah dragged him down for a massive 28-yard loss, knocking the Jets out of field goal range and ultimately preserving the shutout.

“I know a couple of plays before I know I had missed him on one.” Ogbah said after the game. “I just knew he wasn’t going to get away from me this time, and I knew Eric Rowe pulled him up and he came back around, and I just saw him clear as day so I just took my shot.”

And the rest of the players on defense were very happy that Ogbah took that shot. The Jets were driving down the field, the Dolphins were running out of gas, and he came up big just when the team needed him most, just like the former wearer of #91.

“We were excited we made the play, we were a little mad it was Ogbah because normally we don’t like him like that.” DT Christian Wilkins joked. “We just kind of deal with him on the team. You know, no, that was definitely a big play. We were real hype about that. Ogbah has been working his butt off all year, making plays for us on defense, so it was good to see when he can make plays like that, and we were all dead tired, too, at that point, so it was nice to get a little bit of a rest on that one.”

Of Ogbah’s five total sacks this season, four of them have come in the last three weeks. His predecessor wearing that number had streaks like that. However, one thing that Ogbah can do that Wake didn’t do very well is set the edge. Per ProFootballFocus, Ogbah was excellent against the run against the Jets, earning an 82.3 grade in run defense. Naturally, when looking at PFF, those numbers must be taken with a grain of salt. But there is one stat that can’t be ignored. On top of leading the team in sacks and QB hits (10), Ogbah is also tied for first in tackles for a loss with linebacker Elandon Roberts.

This surge of production seemingly came out of nowhere. Miami’s pass rush was abysmal in the first few weeks of the season. However, now the defense seems to have figured everything out. They are now tied for third place in the NFL in points per game allowed. Their third-down defense is the absolute best in the league.

“The first game we have to get used to working together, so I think it took us a little time.” Ogbah said. “But I think we’re on the right path now. We just got to keep it going, keep building.”

That steady improvement has been the key to Miami’s success so far. When the season started, in week one the defense gave up over 200 yards rushing to Cam Newton and the New England Patriots. In week two, they dared the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen to throw the ball instead. They ended up surrendering over 400 yards passing as a result. The new additions to the team, Ogbah included, appeared to have no impact. All that has changed in the recent weeks. Miami’s defense is coming on strong. The pass rush is igniting, and Ogbah is the spark firing them up.

“These guys like playing together, so when other guys make plays, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, you see a lot of excitement, a lot of energy.” Head coach Brian Flores said. “Guys were excited for Ogbah to make a play. Guys were excited about the situation, of getting a stop and getting them out of field goal range, and they were excited about the potential to get a shutout. That’s what I like to see, guys enjoying kind of the process of working through the week, prep and preparing, walk throughs, meeting, practice, and then going out and executing on a Sunday afternoon.”

It should be noted that Miami hasn’t shutout an opponent since 2014. Cameron Wake recorded a sack in that game against the San Diego Chargers. Now Ogbah is making a similar impact as the Dolphins strive towards greatness once again.

Some superstitions persist due to emerging patterns. The curse of the Indian burial ground under Hard Rock Stadium is one. Many fans consider #19 to be cursed since the drafting of Ted Ginn Jr. in 2007. Jakeem Grant is doing his best to break that curse. But, perhaps, there are gifts attached to numbers as well. Emmanuel Ogbah doesn’t have the same pass-rushing prowess as Cameron Wake, but his production is just as impressive so far. In the end, it’s production that matters. Even the production that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet.

“I think Ogbah has done a good job.” Flores said on Monday. “He’s played multiple positions, he’s smart, he’s tough. I think for a lot of people, the sacks are the big stat for a lot of people but I think he’s doing a good job in the run game, setting the edge, tackling. When he has to deal with a double-team block, he deals with it and has no problem taking on a double and freeing up another guy. Those are the plays that aren’t flash plays, but they are important plays for any team.”

Will Emmanuel Ogbah replace Cameron Wake in the hearts of Dolphins fans? No, he won’t. #91 will always belong to Cameron Wake when all is said and done. Ogbah came in and signed a 2-year, $15 million dollar contract with Miami to try and revive his career. If he can even come close to living up to Wake’s legacy, Ogbah should have a long, productive career as a member of the Dolphins. Remember, he’s only 26 years old. There’s still plenty of football ahead of him, as long as he can keep channeling that same Wake magic.

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

Dolphins Win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins dominated the New York Jets on Sunday. The Dolphins 24-0 win stands as the team’s first shutout since 2014. Improving to 3-3 on the year marks the first time in the Brian Flores era that Miami has been at .500. With the Jets floundering to 0-6 under Miami’s former head coach Adam Gase, it becomes more clear with each passing week that the Dolphins have the right leader in Flores.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.

Dolphins D Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins haven’t shut out an opponent since they blanked San Diego six seasons ago. They hadn’t shut out the Jets since the 1983 AFC Championship game. The defense’s domination delighted Dolphins fans as they shut down the purported “offensive guru” Gase.

Miami’s defense elevated its play on Sunday, limiting the Jets to 2-of-17 on third down tries. For the season, the Dolphins top the NFL in third-down defense, allowing just 31.3 percent of conversions. Miami stands fourth in scoring defense (18.8 points-per-game) and sixth in sacks (17).

In the win over the Jets, the Dolphins held Flacco to 148 net passing yards. Last week, the Dolphins surrendered just 128 net passing yards to San Francisco, making this effort the first since 2010 Miami has limited opponents to fewer than 150 net passing yards in consecutive games.

The defense kept the Jets to just 93 yards in the first half, allowing just five first downs and forcing six punts. This helped Miami build a 21-0 halftime lead.

Ogbah, a Great Investment

Among the other free agent additions for 2020, Emmanuel Ogbah’s name might have been an afterthought. But he’s become a force for this defense in the pass rush.

Ogbah recorded two sacks in the Dolphins win over the Jets. His effort stands as Miami’s first two-sack performance since Cam Wake and Akeem Spence both had a pair of sacks versus the Jets in November 2018. Ogbah’s now recorded five sacks this season, tied for second-most in the AFC. Sunday also saw him register six QB hurries and two more QB hits.

The Dolphins are getting the most out of their two-year, $15 million investment in Ogbah. He’s registered a sack in three straight games and at least half a sack in five straight. He’s just a half-sack shy of his career high (5.5)

Howard Returned to Form

Xavien Howard registered his fourth interception of the season after he picked off Joe Flacco in the second quarter. Howard has clearly returned to his 2018 ballhawking form after a knee injury limited him to just five games last season.

Sunday marked the fourth straight game with an interception for Howard. His four-game streak is the second-longest in team history, behind safety Dick Westmoreland (five straight games with an INT in 1967). Howard’s four picks this season are tied for most in the NFL and he’s ninth in pass-breakups (6). His 16 interceptions since December 2017 are the most in the NFL in that span. He’s made an interception in 11 of his 46 career games.

Adding Byron Jones aided this secondary and Howard specifically, but Howard has elevated his play in 2020. He’s held opposing quarterbacks to 12-of-26 passing (46.2 percent) with just one touchdown and four interceptions.

Gaskin, a Bell Cow?

Seemingly overlooked this offseason with the additions of Matt Breida and Jordan Howard, Myles Gaskin felt like the forgotten man amid all of the Le’Veon Bell chatter this week. Gaskin posted a video to social media of his highlights, then followed that with his best performance as a pro.

Gaskin gained a career-high 91 rushing yards on 18 carries (5.1 average). He added four receptions for 35 yards as well. His 126 all-purpose yards also set a new career-high for the second-year running back. The last time the Miami saw a running back total at least 126 scrimmage yards was Kenyan Drake’s 193 performance versus New England in December 2017. Gaskin’s 91 rushing yards are the most by a Dolphins RB since Kalen Ballage ran for 123 yards versus Minnesota in December 2018.

Gaskin’s emergence as a legitimate NFL starter belies his seventh-round pedigree. He continues to take a larger share of the running responsibilities, and his ability as a pass-catcher helps keep opposing defenses honest. Gaskin’s play has resulted in back-to-back healthy scratches for Jordan Howard.

Bye Week Comes After Dolphins Win Over Jets

The Miami Dolphins saw their scheduled shuffled by the NFL last week. In the wake of COVID-19 positives for the New England Patriots, the league changed the schedules for eight different teams. For the Dolphins, that meant they faced New York in Week 6 instead of Denver. It also means Week 7 becomes their bye, instead of Week 11.

The Bye comes at the right time for the Dolphins, as several veterans are hobbled. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy landed among the inactives after groin and foot injuries limited his participation in practice this week. During the game, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel exited in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He did not return.

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill hurt his hand in the third quarter. In the fourth, wide receiver DeVante Parker (groin) and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (shoulder) also sustained injuries. The early Bye affords these players a week of healing and rest ahead of an important stretch for the Dolphins.

Miami has a slate of six winnable game ahead of them, and they’ll need a 5-1 or 4-2 stretch to set themselves up for the playoffs. According to Tankathon.com, the Dolphins have the 10th-easiest remaining based on strength of schedule. They’ll need to bank wins here over the next few weeks, as their final four games see Miami play the Chiefs and the Patriots at home, then travel to Las Vegas and Buffalo to finish.