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Dolphins Loss Chiefs

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Loss to Chiefs

The Miami Dolphins (8-5) took more than one tough loss on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1). Despite battling back from a 20-point second half deficit, the Dolphins dropped a meaningful game to the defending Super Bowl champs. Along the way, the team also lost several players to injury.

Although Miami maintained hold of the last playoff spot in the AFC by Week 14’s end, the path to the postseason has narrowed considerably. The Dolphins still control their playoff destiny, but there’s little margin for error. Miami may very well need to win-out to secure a Wild Card spot at this point.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins loss to the Chiefs.

Dolphins D Came to Play in Loss to Chiefs

The matchup between Miami and Kansas City highlighted a strength-on-strength tug-of-war. The Chiefs feature one of the most potent offenses in the league, while the Dolphins sport one of the NFL’s top defensive units.

Miami’s D held the upper hand early, picking off a pair of Patrick Mahomes passes. The Chiefs entered with only eight turnovers all season long, but by the time the game ended, the Dolphins added four to that tally.

Byron Jones nabbed his first interception as a Dolphin in the first quarter after Andrew Van Ginkel tipped a Mahomes offering. Safety Eric Rowe picked off his second pass of the year later in that quarter. Mahomes had thrown only two interceptions all season entering this one.

Later in the game, Jones added a forced fumble to the tally before Xavien Howard came away with an interception of his own.

All told, the Dolphins defense held the league’s highest scoring offense to just 24 points, six below their season average. (Special Teams surrendered a punt return TD and the offense gave up a safety.) Miami’s 25 takeaways this season now leads the league.

There’s no other offense in the league scarier than that in KC, so this performance should prove, when fully healthy, this defense can play with anyone.

Howard Makes His DPOY Case

Howard’s stellar play continued in this one. Some questioned if he would be up to the challenge, considering Mahomes and the offensive weapons at his disposal. But Howard showed not only that he’s at an All-Pro level but also that he should be the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Consider this: In 2019, Patriots’ CB Stephon Gilmore won the award on the back of six interceptions, 20 passes defensed and 53 total tackles. In 2020, with three games to play, Howard leads the league with nine interceptions and 17 passes defensed, and has 40 total tackles. When targeting Howard, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 53.4, second-best among cornerbacks with at least 30 pass targets.

Howard’s nine interceptions puts him within striking distance of the single-season franchise record of 10, held by Dick Westmoreland who set the record in 1967. No NFL player has had at least nine interceptions in a season since Chicago’s Tim Jennings in 2012. No one’s had at least 10 since Antonio Cromartie picked off 10 passes in 2007.

Dolphins Exit Loss with Injury Issues

One of the big concerns for Miami in the wake of this loss remains the health of its frontline players. The Dolphins started the game without a pair of starting linebackers in Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, but the injury list just got longer from there.

DeVante Parker exited in the second quarter of the game with a leg injury and did not return. He did not make a catch on his two targets. Jakeem Grant also went down with a leg injury as well. Parker and Grant, the team’s top wideouts, played just 27 and 31 snaps respectively.

Another huge loss came midway through the fourth quarter when Mike Gesicki sustained a shoulder injury after a short reception. Gesicki, who had five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns, emerged as Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite target in this one.

There’s a good chance the Dolphins will be without both Gesicki and Grant come Sunday’s contest against the Patriots.

Safety Bobby McCain sustained an ankle injury during the game but was able to return. Unfortunately, his replacements Clayton Fejedelm and Kavon Frazier both gave up big plays in McCain’s absence, including a 44-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill.

Bowden Emerges as Slot Option

One of the positive takeaways from this spate of injuries might be the emergence of Lynn Bowden Jr as a slot receiver. Bowden has earned more playing time over the last several weeks and led Dolphins receivers in snaps in this one. He played 59 of 83 possible offensive snaps.

Bowden led the team with seven receptions for 82 yards, an 11.7 yards-per-reception average. Each of those set a new career-high for the rookie receiver. He was targeted nine times and six of his catches moved the chains. Bowden also carried the ball once for two yards and attempted one pass.

Bowden has emerged as a utility offensive weapon for the ‘Phins and has developed some positive chemistry with Tagovailoa. That chemistry will be necessary if the receiver corps continues to be thinned out.

One reinforcement this week could be the return of Isaiah Ford. Miami traded Ford to the Patriots for a conditional draft pick earlier this season, only to see New England cut the third-year wideout shortly thereafter. Ford has experience as a slot receiver and in Miami’s system.

Tagovailoa Nearly Pulls Off Epic Comeback

Tagovailoa completed 28-of-48 attempts for a career-high 316 yards in this one. He added two touchdown passes and his first career rushing touchdown. As the game unfolded, Tagovailoa lost most of his go-to offensive outlets, but the rookie quarterback still managed to make this interesting in the end.

Missing the top-8 skill position players (in terms of yards-from-scrimmage) by game’s end, Tagovailoa kept the Dolphins within striking distance. The team put up 17 points in the fourth and were an onside kick recovery away from making it even more compelling.

Perhaps the most impressive drive came after Gesicki was lost for the game. Tagovailoa navigated the offense 73 yards for a touchdown with Bowden and Mack Hollins as his most reliable receivers. The first touchdown drive of the fourth went 80 yards, capping with a 29-yard toss to Gesicki.

Dolphins fans can come away from this one that Tagovailoa has that “it” factor absent from Miami’s backfield since Dan Marino.

Dolphins Chiefs

5 Keys to Dolphins-Chiefs in Week 14

The Miami Dolphins (8-4) enter their Week 14 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) coming off the soft section of their schedule. The Dolphins have won seven of their last eight games and now face their stiffest test of the season.

The Dolphins largely hold their playoff destiny in their own hands. Most assume the game against the defending Super Bowl champions is a loss, but if Miami manages a win this week, it will go a long way toward snapping their four-year playoff drought.

Here’s a look at five keys to the Dolphins-Chiefs matchup in Week 14.

Dolphins-Chiefs: Bend, Don’t Break

The Dolphins sport one of the top defensive units in the NFL. Miami allows the second-fewest points-per-game this season (17.7). They’ve allowed the second-fewest points total (212) and have surrendered just 23 points over the last three game. But this week, they matchup against a high-octane offense helmed by former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs are second in scoring offense (30.8 PPG), first in total offense (427.6 YPG) and passing (314.4 PYPG), and 16th in rushing (113.2 RYPG) with the second-best third-down conversion rate (49.0 percent).

Kansas City will move the ball against the Dolphins. For Miami, it will be a matter of locking down in the Red Zone. The Dolphins Red Zone defense ranks ninth this season, surrendering a touchdown 58.3 percent of the time. Over the last three weeks, though, Miami’s Red Zone D is tops in the league, allowing touchdowns only 12.3 percent of the time.

The Chiefs are going to score, but if Miami can manage to hold them to field goals instead of allowing an avalanche of touchdowns, they’ll be in this game.

Keep the Offense Up-Tempo

The Chiefs strength is clearly on the offense, but that doesn’t mean their defense is bad. Kansas City ranks sixth in scoring (21.2 PPG) and 17th in total defense (358.2). They’ve won their last seven games in a row, but in three of their last four, they’ve surrendered 24 points or more.

What this means for Miami is they should have the opportunity to move the ball and put up points. And if they’re going to do that, they need to continue what started to work last week: up-tempo offense.

Miami went up-tempo in the second half versus the Bengals last week. Their first drive in the third quarter covered 70 yards in less than three minutes. Tua Tagovailoa zeroed in during that drive as well, connecting on all four pass attempts for 71 yards at the faster pace. After a touchdown to Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins came right back on their next drive moving in a similar fashion. All told, Tagovailoa completed 9-of-12 attempts for 137 and a touchdown on those two drives.

Another wrinkle could be the empty backfield looks. During Sunday’s win, 10 of Tagovailoa’s 39 passes were out of the empty package. He completed nine of those for 106 yards.

Dolphins-Chiefs: Pressure from the Front Four

The Dolphins defense has made a name for itself this season with big plays. What’s helped that effort is the pressure Miami pass rushers have put on opposing quarterbacks. The Dolphins rank in the top-10 in both total sacks (31) and quarterback hits (83). That pressure has led to strip sacks, fumbles and interceptions.

That pressure, though, largely comes thanks to a blitz-happy scheme. The Dolphins blitz on 41.1 percent of dropbacks, second-most in the league. They’ve masked their extra rushers in a variety of ways and they’ve sent the house, using a Cover Zero look, many times.

Sending extra rushers at Mahomes, though, hasn’t been a good idea this season. He’s faced a blitz on 104 dropbacks, which is the third-fewest among quarterbacks with at least 11 starts this season. What’s more, Mahomes has connected on 12 touchdowns and put up a 138.8 rating against the blitz, best in the NFL. He’s thrown zero interceptions in those situations.

This means the Dolphins should probably approach pressuring Mahomes with just their front four. Kansas City runs at least three wideouts out there more than 70 percent of the time, which will dictate Nickel or Dime packages from the Dolphins. Miami should probably flood the field with defensive backs in an effort to mitigate Mahomes’ weapons.

Generate Turnovers

This will be easier said than done. The Dolphins defense has secured a takeaway in 18 straight games, the longest current streak in the league. Miami’s 21 takeaways this season rank second in the NFL and it’s been the key element to the Dolphins’ success this season. Xavien Howard leads the league with eight interceptions, and he’s picked off a pass in four straight games.

Kansas City, though, takes care of the football. The Chiefs are tied with Tennessee for the fewest giveaways this season (8) and Mahomes has thrown just two interceptions in 463 passes this season. His 0.4 percent interception rate is lowest in the league.

Mahomes’ had some close calls, but Miami will need a takeaway or two to turn the tide in this one. Setting up Tagovailoa with a short field and swinging the momentum in Miami’s favor will go a long way to earning this win.

Dolphins-Chiefs: Don’t Abandon the Run

The Dolphins offense struggles to gain consistent traction on the ground. Miami’s 96.5 rushing yards-per-game ranks in the bottom third of the league. Their 3.7 yards-per-carry average is worst. But even though it’s been a struggle to run, the Dolphins must maintain some semblance of balance against KC.

Myles Gaskin’s return to the lineup helped last week. The second-year back gained a career-high 141 yards from scrimmage, 90 of those on the ground. A similar 4.3 yards-per-carry average would go a long way to helping Miami move the ball against the Chiefs. Last week, Miami gained 110 yards on 28 carries against the Bengals, including an 11-yard run from rookie Lynn Bowden Jr.

A creative approach to the run game, with jet sweeps featuring Bowden or Jakeem Grant, and outside zone runs, which were successful last week, will only help Tagovailoa. And Kansas City can be run on. Their rushing defense allows 132.4 yards-per-game (27th). Against the Broncos in Week 13, Kansas City allowed 179 rushing yards, including a 65-yard scamper from Melvin Gordon.

Keep the clock running and winning time-of-possession will also help Miami’s defense against Mahomes and the potent Chiefs offense. If the Dolphins can establish run and methodically move the ball, that will limit Mahomes’ opportunities to score.

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Dolphins win Bengals

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Bengals

The Miami Dolphins improved to 8-4 with their win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. A lackluster first half gave way to a brawling second half. But after managing just six points, the offense came alive in the third quarter.

The win maintained Miami’s position in the AFC playoff race and gave Dolphins fans hope for what’s to come with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. And while he’ll never admit it, head coach Brian Flores’s heated response to the hit that sparked the brawl also engendered hope and confidence, not only in the fans, but also the players.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins 19-7 win over the Bengals.

Dolphins-Bengals: Despite Ejection, Xavien Howard Remains Elite

In the first quarter, Xavien Howard intercepted a Brandon Allen pass, giving him a career-high eight interceptions this season. Howard became the first Dolphin since 1998 to intercept eight passes in a season. Both Terrell Buckley and Sam Madison had eight picks that year.

He’s now intercepted a pass in four consecutive games, tied for the second-longest streak in Dolphins history. It’s the second time this season he’s picked of a pass in four straight. The team record remains five consecutive games with an interception, and that’s held by cornerback Dick Westmoreland, who did it in 1967. Westmoreland also set the single-season team record of 10 INTs that year.

Howard’s play this season has propelled him into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. He leads the league in INTs (8), is tied for the league lead in pass breakups (16) and QBs targeting Howard have a passer rating of just 48.9 this season. Great plays in the coming matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs could cement Howard’s DPOY claim.

Up-Tempo Offense Got Going

During Ryan Fitzpatrick’s time at QB this season, the Dolphins called the eighth-most No Huddle plays in the NFL. With Tagovailoa under center, Miami called the seventh-least No Huddle plays. In the second half, though, searching for a spark, the Dolphins offense incorporated the up-tempo style to much success.

According to Three Yards Per Carry podcast host Chris Kouffman, the Dolphins ran 15 No Huddle plays against the Bengals. That’s a major departure from previous games started by Tagovailoa. From Week 8 through the third quarter of Week 11, all with Tagovailoa at QB, the Dolphins ran five No Huddle plays total.

This move to the up tempo helped the Dolphins offense find a much-needed rhythm in the second half. Miami piled up 263 total yards in the second half, more than half of the 406 total yards on the day. Although they only scored 13 points in the second half, the movement and pace provided a tantalizing glimpse at the potential for this group.

Dolphins Defense Dominates (Again) in Win Over Bengals

The Dolphins limited the Bengals to just 196 yards of offense Sunday. It was the fewest yards allowed by a Dolphins defense since Oct. 8, 2017, when Tennessee gained just 188 yards.

Miami’s defense was even more stingy in the second half, surrendering just 25 total yards. It’s the fewest yards allowed in a second half by the Dolphins since at least 2000 and tied for the third-fewest allowed by an NFL team this season.

The Dolphins registered six sacks today, the team’s most in a game since Dec. 23, 2018 vs. Jacksonville. Miami’s 31 sacks this season are tied for 10th in the NFL. It’s the team’s most through its first 12 games of a season since 2014 (33.0).

Kyle Van Noy was particularly disruptive versus the Bengals. He recorded a career-high three sacks, as well as eight solo tackles and three additional QB hits. His tipped pass led to a Nik Needham interception in the fourth.

Interceptions by Howard and Needham pushed the team’s takeaway streak to 18 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Miami’s 21 takeaways are second-most this season.

Gesicki and Gaskin Came to Play

The Dolphins have struggled at times to find game-breaking skill position players. The lackluster offense bogs down without those difference makers, but on Sunday, a pair of young performers played a pivotal role in this win.

Mike Gesicki nabbed nine of the the 10 targets that came his way and gained 88 yards in the process. His nine catches tied Randy McMichael’s team record for most tight end receptions in a single game. His 537 receiving yards this season are fourth among tight ends and his 13.8 yards-per-catch rank third. Gesicki’s one-handed grab in the second half provided a highlight-reel moment and if he’s able to develop this positive chemistry with Tagovailoa, the Dolphins really have something.

Myles Gaskin returned to the field for the first time in four weeks during this win over the Bengals. He totaled 141 yards from scrimmage, a season-high for a Dolphins player and a new career-high for him. Gaskin gained 90 yards on 21 carries, good for a 4.3 yards-per-carry average. He also ripped off a 26-yard run, though he did fumble. Gaskin caught both his targets for 51 yards, gaining 39 of those after the catch. He’s clearly the best running back on the roster and it helped the offensive to have him back on the field. He played 71 percent of the offensive snaps in this one.

Tagovailoa Shines in Dolphins Win Over the Bengals

Although the first half left some cause for concern regarding Tua Tagovailoa’s performance, the rookie QB excelled in the second half, helping lead the Dolphins to the comeback win over the Bengals.

Tagovailoa had the most productive game of his career, notching career highs in completions (26) and passing yards (296). His 26 completions tied the Dolphins’ rookie record, which was set by Ryan Tannehill on Sept. 30, 2012 at Arizona.

Tagovailoa improved to 4-1 as a starter and has yet to throw an interception. (He had one called back thanks to a penalty.) He tied a team record for most consecutive starts without an interception, regardless of experience (Jay Fiedler, 2000) and he’s now the third QB in the Super Bowl era to not throw an INT in his first five starts (min. 100 attempts).

Tagovailoa was particularly good against the Bengals’ blitz. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against the blitz. He sported pocket presence and maneuverability, particularly on one play where he evaded a free rusher and completed a pass to DeVante Parker in a tight window.

Tagovailoa’s ability to move the offense in the second half provided fans with a glimpse of this team’s potential moving forward. Although he made mistakes (questionable throws, misreads on RPOs), he was able to handle the up-tempo element and was largely on target. Had Jakeem Grant not dropped the perfectly placed bomb in the first half, the game might have unfolded very differently.

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Tua, Dolphins Bounce Bengals after Brawl, now 8-4

Just when you think the Miami Dolphins are back to the same old team you’ve agonized over for the last 20+ years, they get into a benches-clearing brawl with the Cincinnati Bengals, lose 3 players to ejection, and turn into a completely new team at halftime. Stephen Ross may as well rename the team because these boys ain’t the same.

The first half of the Dolphins’ home game versus the Bengals was a hot mess. Even with Cincinnati starting their backup quarterback, Brandon Allen, who isn’t exactly known for his grace under pressure, the Dolphins looked absolutely lackluster opposite them. Both the offense and defense struggled enormously. The one TD, a sneaky trick play that punter Matt Haack ran in on the field goal attempt, was called back due to penalties. A team usually touted for their lack of penalties ended the day with eight for 54 yards, and penalties weren’t the only mistakes being made.

The one bright spot of the first half was Xavien Howard, who picked off Brandon Allen on his second possession of the game. But then Howard was ejected for a couple of playground-style blows exchanged with Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd (who was also ejected), and the Fins lost their best player down 7-6 at the half. Boyd was arguably the only bright spot of Cincy’s offense up until his ejection. He snagged the only score for the Bengals off a catch and run TD that went for 72 yards—and don’t give Brandon Allen any credit for that, please.

Kyle Van Noy was the only productive defensive player that didn’t get into trouble in the first half, handing out a couple of sacks on Allen. It was a poor outlook for the Dolphins, with many calling for Tua to be benched and replaced with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

We don’t know what Bill Belichick used to say to his team after bad first halves during the Patriots’ dynasty, but whatever it is, Brian Flores apparently knows. The Dolphins opened up the second half on a beautiful no huddle drive that totaled 75 yards in eight plays and three and a half minutes. Tua looked vintage, Alabama-style, slinging balls to Mike Gesicki in between and over the heads of a totally lost Bengals’ secondary. From there, the Dolphins scored two more field goals to secure the game and held the Bengals to 0 points (although kicker Randy Bullock did miss one from 53 to end the first half).

Just as the offense stepped up, Brian Flores’ defense did the same, totaling six sacks, 11 QB hits, and two interceptions. Emmanuel Ogbah and Christian Wilkins teamed up on a strip sack touchdown that was ultimately called back, something Christian Wilkins is apparently still upset about. Shaq Lawson had two sacks himself and Kyle Van Noy added a third in the second half, along with Zach Sieler.

After one of Lawson’s sacks Brandon Allen was ruled out with a chest injury and Ryan Finley stepped in for the rest of the game. He was immediately pummeled by the Dolphins’ defensive line and secondary when Nik Needham came up with the Fins’ second interception of the day.

It was a game to remember, primarily because of a brawl that Brian Flores himself instigated and ended with four players ejected. After an early hit by Mike Thomas on Jakeem Grant, who was violently laid out while returning a punt, Flores had to be physically restrained by his own players, which then resulted in a benches-clearing brawl. Devante Parker and Mack Hollins were both ejected for the Dolphins after exchanging blows with Shawn Williams and William Jackson III. Surprisingly, Grant returned to the game just a few plays later.

The biggest takeaways from this game are the sheer grit of this team, which bounced back after an incredibly disappointing first half performance (something you could never say about the Dolphins before), and the unity in the locker room. Multiple players were quoted calling the team “a family,” and insisting that they stand up for their teammates.

The Heat might not have a monopoly on “culture” in Miami anymore, thanks to Brian Flores.

Dolphins Cardinals

Tua’s agent may have just leaked who the Dolphins starting QB will be

The 2020 NFL season has been anything but ordinary.

Which could explain why the Dolphins have won 6 of their last 8 games and currently hold the 6th seed in the AFC.

Again, this has been a crazy year. But being a Dolphins fan never comes easy.

And after patiently waiting for The Franchise Tua Tagovailoa to supplant Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team’s starting quarterback, we’re now right back where we started.

Tua was unable to play last Sunday vs the New York Jets. And despite countless Twitter doctors misdiagnosing this as ‘JuSt A JaMMeD tHuMb’ , it appears that there is legit uncertainty surrounding who Miami’s quarterback will be Sunday vs Cincinnati.

Friday morning, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Tagovailoa’s status was in doubt for Sunday’s game.

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We later heard from Brian Flores that the team would not be making a decision until IMMEDIATELY AFTER HE MET WITH THE MEDIA. Flores is treasure and is very much at the forefront of the Coach of the Year race. But this left a lot of Dolphins fans wanting to know more. And after roughly 24 hours, we may finally have our answer.

RUMOR: Tua Tagovailoa to start for the Miami Dolphins on Sunday (Not confirmed)

Minutes ago, Tua Tagovailoa’s agent Leigh Steinberg posted this on Facebook. And thanks to many diehard Dolphins fans, we may now have our answer as to who the quarterback is for Sunday’s game.

He later edited his post to say “Dolphins” instead of “Tua”. This was later confirmed by Twitter detective, Jimmy. Thank you, Jimmy.

What does this all mean? I really don’t know.

Maybe, Flores is trying to get back at Steinberg for leaking the news that Tagovailoa was going to be the starter earlier in the year. (Note: This has not been confirmed but we can all see the writing on the wall) Or, and more likely, Tua is going to be the starting quarterback Sunday vs the Bengals. A matchup that many believe Miami should win convincingly. But as we saw a few weeks ago in Denver and countless times throughout a league year, Any team can win on any given Sunday.

Final Yard

I’m not going to sit here and tell you with 100% confidence that Tua Tagovailoa will be the team’s starting quarterback Sunday, but it definitely seems that way. If reports are true that he practiced all week, why wouldn’t he be ready to go Sunday vs the Bengals? We’ve heard time and time again this is Tagovailoa’s team and if your plan is to have him play the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills with the playoffs on the line–you have to let him get back out there vs the Bengals.

Furthermore, if you want to allow Tua to develop and build chemistry with the wide receiver, live game reps are of the upmost important. Oh, and can we please open the offense up a bit more and #LetTuaCook?

I don’t know if Tua will be the Dolphins starting QB tomorrow afternoon, but I do know one thing. Brian Flores is on his way to the airport to have a ‘talk’ with Leigh Steinberg.

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Dolphins Bengals

5 Keys to Dolphins-Bengals in Week 13

The Miami Dolphins (7-4) enter Week 13’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) largely in control of their playoff destiny. Miami may have quarterback questions, but regardless of who starts for the ‘Phins, he’ll be better than his Bengals counterpart.

The Dolphins look to build on last week’s successes against the Jets and solidify their postseason position. Here are five keys to the Dolphins-Bengals game in Week 13.

Dolphins-Bengals: Continue Defensive Dominance

The Dolphins sport one of the league’s top defenses. Miami’s D trails only the Pittsburgh Steelers in points-per-game, allowing a paltry 18.6 per contest this season. The Dolphins are tops in third-down D. Opponents convert just 32.8 percent of their those tries. Miami comes in third in takeaways with 19.

The main weakness for Miami has been defending the run. The Dolphins are in the bottom third of the league, allowing 129.9 rushing yards-per-game. But Sunday, their match up is with a Bengals squad missing starters at running back (Joe Mixon) and quarterback (Joe Burrow).

Cincinnati rushed the ball just nine times in their Week 12 loss to the New York Giants. They relied heavily on backup QB Brandon Allen to little affect.

The Bengals manage 96.3 rushing yard-per-game (29th, but the Dolphins allow 4.8 yards-per-carry, tied for second-most. If Miami can limit the Bengal ground game and make them one dimensional, they’ll be in good shape.

The Dolphins should be able to push their takeaway streak to 18 against Cincy. The Bengals’ 17 turnovers, including three last week, are ninth-most in the league this season.

Attack Allen

The Bengals turned to Allen after Joe Burrow was lost for the season in Week 11. Allen’s offensive efforts resulted in just 155 total yards during the loss to the Giants. The offense managed just 10 points.

Allen completed 17 of 29 passes for 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked twice and lost a fumble in the process. The Bengals allow 3.5 sacks-per-game, second-most in the league.

The Dolphins defense, meanwhile, ranks 14th in the NFL, getting 2.3 sacks-per-game. And attacking stationary quarterbacks like Allen has been the team’s bread-and-butter on defense all season.

Consistent pressure on Allen should lead to the fourth year QB, who’s making just the fifth start of his career, to make multiple mistakes.

Dolphins Need to Limit Bengals’ WRs

The strength of Cincinnati’s offense remains their wide receiver corps. Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green and Tee Higgins have played well and managed to stress opposing defenses throughout 2020. Boyd leads Cincy with 72 receptions and 725 receiving yards.

Higgins is having a solid rookie campaign, with 48 catches, 673 yards and a team-leading five touchdown receptions. Green’s bounce back season has seen him make 35 catches (on 80 targets) with just one touchdown.

What helps here is it’s a strength-on-strength matchup. Miami’s secondary remains the top unit on the team. The Dolphins’ 11 interceptions are tied for fifth-most this season, and Xavien Howard’s seven lead the league. Miami comes in fourth in both passer-rating-allowed (84.3) and completion-percentage-allowed (62.3).

The Bengals offense ranks 26th in scoring (20.9 points-per-game), 24th in total offense (331.5 yards-per-game) and 18th in passing yards-per-game (235.2).

Find an Offensive Rhythm

Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick started in place of the injury Tua Tagovailoa. While there’s been no word yet on who will start Week 13 for Miami, the offense needs to find a rhythm. Against the Jets, Fitzpatrick put up 257 passing yards and threw two touchdowns, but Miami managed just 20 points against the league’s worst defense.

Cincinnati’s D doesn’t scare anyone either. The Bengals allow 26.3 points-per-game (22nd) and 390.5 yards-per-game (26th). They’re 30th in sacks (13) and manage pressure on just 16.4 percent of pass plays.

The Bengals can be run on. They allow 136.7 rushing yards-per-game (30th) and 4.8 yards-per-carry. The return of Myles Gaskin could finally allow the offense to find some balance and rhythm. If Fitzpatrick starts, DeVante Parker may have another busy day. Last week, Fitzpatrick targeted Parker 14 times, resulting in eight catches and 119 yards.

If Tagovailoa gets the clearance to play, hopefully he can demonstrate similar chemistry with the receivers.

Dolphins-Bengals: Keep in Mind the Playoffs

The Dolphins vaulted back into the AFC playoff picture with their win last week. Miami enters Week 13 as the 6-seed and if things break right for the ‘Phins, they could get as high as fifth in the standings. At this point, Miami maintains a hold on their playoff destiny.

The Dolphins need this win, considering the coming slate of games. Miami hosts the Chiefs (10-1) next week, then the Patriots (5-6). After that, they close out the season with pivotal road matchups against the Raiders (6-5) and Bills (8-3).

Miami must enter that final stretch at 8-4. Anything less would jeopardize their playoff chances. The Dolphins are clearly the superior team this week and must dominate Cincinnati. They can’t afford mental mistakes and turnovers. A win this week, and wins against Las Vegas and New England, would all but guarantee a playoff berth.

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It is time for Tua Tagovailoa to start at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

What is Tua’s Status After Injury?

The Miami Dolphins had a great win from their march with Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday with an ending of 8-4. With that, the team was able to maintain its position in the AFC playoff race ladders and the team’s fans are just now more looking forward to seeing their play now that Tua Tagovailoa is back on the game.

Tagovailoa’s availability for the last game of the Dolphins was questionable due to his thumb injury but he was still able to play last Sunday. His left thumb injury happened when he hit his teammate’s helmet on a follow-through as he attempted to make a pass during the team’s match on November 25. Since then, he was only able to participate in practices with a limited capacity. 

During the match against the Bengals last week, the athlete appeared to have a slow start in the first half of the game with the Bengals but he seems to have been able to ramp it up in the second half.

Even if he is still limited in practice participation for the next game, he will likely be involved in all of the upcoming Dolphins’ schedule. On Wednesday, he was no longer wearing a black splint on his left hand for his injury but coach Brian Flores said that Tua is already feeling better.

Flores said, “Like everyone else, he’s got bumps and bruises he’s attained over the last few games. He’s feeling better as far as the hand. He’s preparing as best he can for a very, very strong opponent. They do a lot of things from a disguise standpoint, a front standpoint. He shed that on his hand but he’s got other issues dealing with the Chiefs.”

As Tua’s injury completely heals, he may be able to play with more ease in the coming weeks. Tua recently talked about the whole experience with the NFL. He said, “It’s a continuous learning process in the NFL. You learn day to day, week to week. There’s always something to learn because defenses aren’t going to stay the same.”

With his return, he was also able to work closely with the veteran offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey. When asked about Gailey, he said, “I’d say I’m comfortable with what I’m given, whatever plays that I’m given, I’m comfortable with them.

“Mind you, we talk about these things, me and Chan, we talk about what I like, talk about what I don’t like. I have as much input as anyone else does in our quarterback room and that’s what makes me feel comfortable to tell Chan, you know, ‘Hey, can we run this, or ‘Can we not run this?’ So, yeah, I would say I’m pretty comfortable with what I’m given.”

There are a few great reasons why Tua will feel more comfortable with being back on the game. He was not sacked last Sunday as he was able to perform solidly. He has also been using up-tempo plays that he enjoys. 

He also explained how seeing the defense helps the team perform. He said, “It helps to see the defense and see what the defense is going to give us.  they want to blitz or if they’re checking out of a blitz into coverage, that helps. That’s the biggest thing — indicator formations.”

Coach Flores also spoke about how Tua has been doing in the professional league. Flores said, “He’s kind of learning on the fly how to be a professional in this league, the things you’ve got to do in meetings and walkthrough and practice, to have success in games. I think he’s improving every day, getting better, and hopefully, we just continue to get better. We are about developing players.”

The coach also said how Tua is a tough and resilient athlete. He’s been accurate and continuously improving. He said that the fact that the athlete did not wear a splint or some sort of brace on this left hand to protect his thumb injury during the practice that is open to the media is a positive act.

Tua is also great inside the locker rooms as he appears to have good relations with his teammates. Raekwon Davis shared how fun Tua could be. Davis said, “Oh, he’s got this little weird dance he does. I recorded him doing it one time. It’s so funny. I don’t know where he got it from, a Hawaiian thing, I guess. He’s got some moves. But I’ve got (Jerome Baker). Bake is the best dancer on the team right now.”

Dolphins win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins (7-4) rebounded from a tough loss last week with a resounding defensive effort against the New York Jets (0-11). The Dolphins defense stymied any offensive output from Sam Darnold and Co., romping their way to a 20-3 victory.  The win, coupled with key losses by other teams, propelled the Dolphins back into the AFC playoff picture.

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

Dolphins Defense Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins defense returned to its dominant ways Sunday. Miami limited the Jets to just three points, 10 first downs and 260 total yards. In 25 possessions this season, the Dolphins held New York to just 0.12 points-per-possession.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the three total points allowed is the fewest by an NFL team in two meetings against the same opponent since 2009. The three points allowed is the second-fewest by the Dolphins against an AFC East opponent in one season. Miami shutout the Baltimore Colts in both games played against them in 1972.

Miami extended its takeaway-streak to 17 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak. The Dolphins’ 19 takeaways this season are third-most in the league.

Miami improved its scoring defense to just 18.6 points-per-game this season, which is second-lowest in the NFL. And the Dolphins have the best third-down defense in the NFL after limiting the Jets to just 3-of-13 on third downs. Miami’s 32.8 third-down percentage allowed leads the league, and the Jets’ 10 first downs were tied for the second-fewest in a single game this season.

No QB Controversy

Much of the discourse leading up to this game surrounded which quarterback gave Miami the best opportunity to win. Tua Tagovailoa was coming off of his worst professional outing, but he’s yet to turn the ball over through four games played. Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, coughs up the ball at an average of once per game.

A thumb injury shelved Tagovailoa against the Jets, robbing the rookie of a bounce-back performance. Instead, Fitzpatrick helmed the offense. And although some argue for the veteran to replace the youngster, there was no Fitzmagic Sunday.

Sure, Fitzpatrick piled up yards (257), but he provided just two touchdowns against the league’s worst defense. He flashed his chemistry with DeVante Parker, who finished with eight catches and 119 yards, but little else. In the absence of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins offense did little to indicate the rookie was the problem.

After the game, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores voiced his support of Tagovailoa going forward.

“If he’s healthy, he’s the guy,” Flores said.

Flores couched the statement by saying: “We’ll see how he does in practice over the course of the week. He’s a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We’ll see how he does over the course of this week in practice.”

If he can go, Tagovailoa will face a Bengals defense that allows 26.3 points-per-game and 253.7 passing yards-per-game.

Dolphins Rushing Attack Leaves Much to be Desired in Win Over Jets

While the Dolphins defense continued to shine, the offense’s lackluster rushing attack reared its ugly head as well. Miami’s ground game lacked rhythm and was largely absent in the second quarter. While some of that falls on offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, as well as the offensive line, what’s clear is Miami doesn’t have a difference-making running back.

The Dolphins split 22 carries among three running backs and watched the trio gain 94 yards but cough up two fumbles. Matt Breida and Patrick Laird both saw their chances limited after the third quarter miscues.

DeAndre Washington submitted the best performance of the three, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for 11 yards. He may have earned himself a few more snaps moving forward, even with the eventual returns of both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

What’s become abundantly clear is that Miami needs a difference-maker in the backfield and that player is not currently on the roster. It’s particularly important to add one, considering one of Tagovailoa’s strengths is RPO. The “run” needs to be an option.

Xavien Howard, NFL’s Best Cornerback

Xavien Howard continued his All-Pro play, too. He nabbed his league-leading seventh interception, picking off Darnold in the fourth quarter. Howard matched his career-high with seven INTs and has five games to go. He became just the second cornerback in team history with multiple 7-plus interception seasons, joining Sam Madison (1998-1999).

Howard’s 19 interceptions since 2017 also pace the NFL. What’s incredible about Howard’s ball-hawking prowess is that he missed 16 games over that span. His career 0.37 interceptions-per-game is fourth-highest among players who made their debut in the Super Bowl era, per Elias Sports.

It’s not just interceptions, either. Howard broke up three other pass attempts, giving him 50 pass breakups for his career. He has 15 passes defensed this season, tied for second-most in the league and one behind the league leader.

Darnold was 3-for-10 for 37 yards and an interception when throwing at Howard. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 50.3 passer rating when testing Howard this season.

Dolphins Win Over the Jets Propels Team Back into AFC Playoff Picture

The Dolphins dominated the Jets to the tune of 44-3 this season. Those wins helped the Dolphins keep pace in the AFC. After Week 12, Miami remains just one game behind the Bills in the AFC East. With the win Sunday, coupled with keys losses by Indianapolis and Las Vegas, the Dolphins vaulted to the 6-seed in the conference.

Miami’s move up the standings comes thanks to a superior conference record (4-3) than both the Colts (3-4) and Ravens (4-4). But with five games to go, the Dolphins have a difficult task ahead.

The Dolphins will need to secure another win next week against the floundering Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1). Minus Joe Burrow, this matchup has been robbed of its potential headline, but it remains as a must-win for Miami.  The final four games lack any easy opponents for the ‘Phins.

A win versus Cincy would put the Dolphins at 8-4 for the home stretch. Then comes the team’s stiffest test yet, a date with the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1). After that, the Dolphins host New England (5-6), who could be playing for their playoff lives at that point.

What follows is another must-win: a road matchup with the Raiders (6-4). This could be a postseason play-in game. The regular season finale comes in Buffalo (8-3), and, considering the Bills have a stiff remaining schedule as well, it might very well be for the AFC East title.

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Tua Tagovailoa

5 Keys to Dolphins-Jets in Week 12

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) enter Sunday’s Week 12 contest against the New York Jets (0-10) coming off a difficult loss in Denver. The Dolphins offense lacked rhythm and ultimately saw rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa pulled from the game. Miami’s defense couldn’t stop the run despite managing a pair of turnovers.

The Dolphins playoff hopes took a hit with the loss, but Miami can get back on track with a win over New York on Sunday.

Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins versus the Jets in Week 12.

Dolphins-Jets: O-Line Must Bounce Back

The Dolphins offense submitted an anemic performance last week. Tagovailoa was under siege from a Broncos defense that was missing its top pass rusher. Denver racked up six sacks and eight quarterback hits.

Rookie Solomon Kindley entered the game with a sore foot and exited in the second quarter. The line shuffled Jesse Davis to right guard at that point, but the play didn’t improve. Each lineman allowed pressures and sacks in what was the worst performance by the line all season.

They couldn’t protect their QB and couldn’t open holes for the running game. Miami managed just 56 rushing yards, one off the season low (55 against the LA Rams).

But not all of the blame lands on the linemen though. Tagovailoa held the ball too long on a number of occasions. He needs to be more decisive in the pocket and drive the ball to receivers that may not immediately seem open.

The line will have its hands full against a Jets defense that sends an extra rusher 30.9 percent of the time (10th-highest). Last week, Miami’s line struggled with stunts and twists, something they’ll need to sort out ahead of Sunday’s game

Get to Darnold

The Jets announced that Sam Darnold will start against the Dolphins. Darnold missed the last two games with an injured right shoulder. He also missed the game in Miami earlier this season.

The Dolphins defense will need to get back on track, a week after failing to sack the quarterback for the first time this season. And that’s the biggest difference for this defense.

In their six wins, the Dolphins piled up 133 quarterback pressures. In their four losses, just 46 pressures. The last time they played the Jets, Miami managed a season-high 29 pressures and three sacks.

Emmanuel Ogbah was a force against the Jets in Week 6, registering 10 pressures and two sacks against Joe Flacco. Both Flacco and Darnold struggle when pressured and are prone to mistakes. Darnold has thrown 34 interceptions in 32 games with the Jets and six this season in six games.

In four career games against the Dolphins, Darnold has four touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s been sacked 11 times.

Dolphins-Jets: Get the Ball Downfield

Tagovailoa struggled in Denver despite not throwing an interception. Although he’s protected the ball well, Tagovailoa has yet to make very many plays down the field. Against the Broncos, he managed just 83 passing yards and 4.2 yards-per-attempt.

Too many of his throws are short. In three of his four starts, his yards-per-attempt has been under 7.0. After being pulled from last week’s game, Tagovailoa acknowledged his shortcomings and witnessed how Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly doubled his statistical output in a fraction of the plays. Some of that is play calling and situation, but the general point holds. Tagovailoa needs to challenge opposing secondaries with throws on target downfield.

Though Tagovailoa has been limited in practice this week with an injured thumb, this game against New York provides him the opportunity to take the next step in his development. The rookie has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 602 yards and six touchdowns.

In Week 6 against the Jets, Fitzpatrick put up 191 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. If Fitzpatrick gets the nod in this one, he’ll lean on a stonier chemistry with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, but he’ll need to take care of the football.

The Jets defense comes in after having allowed another rookie quarterback (Justin Herbert) to throw for 366 yards and three touchdowns. New York’s passing defense allows 288.3 yards-per-game (9th-most). The Jets start three rookies in their secondary and allow 30.2 points per game.

Stop the Run

The recent five-game win streak masked defensive deficiencies for the Dolphins. Although Miami sports one of the top secondaries in the league, the run defense has left much to be desired. The Dolphins surrendered a season-high 189 rushing yards and 5.7 yards-per-carry to Denver.

For the season, Miami’s run defense allows 4.8 yards-per-carry (27th) and 134.2 yards-per-game. The good thing is, the Jets don’t feature an overwhelming run game, but that’s mostly because they’ve been forced to pass. The Jets offense ranks 32nd in scoring (14.9 points-per-game) and total yards-per-game (268.6). Their 98.6 rushing yards-per-game rank 26th in the NFL.

The Dolphins welcomed back defensive tackle Christian Wilkins this week, which should help the run D. Wilkins missed the last two weeks while on the COVID list.

Dolphins-Jets: Next Man Up

Miami enters this Week 12 contest with a number of key injuries. The team has already listed recent starter at running back, Salvon Ahmed, as out. Kindley, too. Wide receiver and returner Jakeem Grant is listed as ‘questionable’ and Tagovailoa has been downgraded to ‘doubtful.’ Miami elevated QB Reid Sinnett from the practice squad.

Although Myles Gaskin, Miami’s leading rusher with 387 yards, returned to practice this week, he’s still on the injured reserve and would need to be activated before the game.

This uncertainty could affect the Dolphins pursuit of offensive consistency. The combination of youth and inexperience led to a number of difficulties last week. The team hopes to solve those issues against the Jets.

“Sometimes it’s protection, sometimes it’s holding the ball too long, sometimes it’s guys not getting open,” Chan Gailey said of the Dolphins difficulties in Denver. “I have to do a better job of calling plays where he doesn’t have to hold it.”

Rookie receiver Malcolm Perry, who saw 51 offensive snaps last week, could get more run if Grant’s out. Antonio Callaway, who played eight snaps and caught one pass versus Denver, could also see an uptick in opportunity. Recently acquired running back DeAndre Washington may also see more time should Gaskin remain unavailable. Washington’s played 14 snaps in two games, gaining five yards on two carries last week.

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Dolphins add star power in latest Tankathon Mock Draft

Let’s take a look at what Tankathon has the Miami Dolphins doing in their latest three-round mock draft.

Yes, I know. It’s way too early to start talking about the 2021 NFL draft.

And how strange is that to say? Despite last week’s loss to the gritty Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins are currently 6-4 with the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals on the horizon.

Nevertheless, as the season plays out we’re starting to see the pieces the Dolphins are missing–primarily on the offensive side of the football.

Which is okay.

First, Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out. #Respect

Then Preston Williams went down with an injury, that could put an end to his 2020 season.

And who can forget the Dolphins HELPING OUT THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS and trading away Isaiah Ford. Which, say whatever you want about his long-term future in Miami, he was widely considered the smartest receiver in the room before his departure. He also had success in the slot, which is where the Dolphins need someone to step up.

But this isn’t about the 2020 Miami Dolphins.

This is about those four top-50 draft picks the team currently holds in next year’s draft–five in the top-81. And in year three of a rebuild, Chris Grier and Brian Flores know exactly what’s needed. And as I’ve said throughout, it starts with the offensive side of the football.

Let’s take a look at the latest Tankathon three-round mock draft!

 

First Round

The first few picks in the latest Tankathon mock draft is what you would expect to see in any mock. Trevor Lawrence goes #1 to the New York Jets followed by Justin Fields to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell lands in Cincinnati to protect Joe Burrow’s blindside #GetWellSoon and a personal favorite of mine lands in Dallas. Washington takes BYU quarterback Zach Wilson to round out the top-5.

But enough about the other teams.

What do the Miami Dolphins do to add firepower to their offense?

As things currently stand, the Miami Dolphins have the #9th overall pick thanks to Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans. Miami could go a couple different directions with this pick but since Micah Parsons and Ja’Marr Chase have already been selected, the Dolphins turn their attention to another dynamic wide receiver.

With the 9th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver, Alabama.

If there is one thing that we’re quickly starting to learn this season it’s that the Dolphins offense is in dire need of playmakers. And the type of speed and big-play ability that Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle would bring to this offense is immense. And we can’t overlook the chemistry he already has with Tua Tagovailoa. Yes, Waddle suffered an injury earlier in the season that could potentially affect his draft stock. But with whispers that he could try to make a comeback later in the season, top-10 might be his floor.

With the 17th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Creed Humphrey, Offensive Lineman, Oklahoma

 

 

I’m not going to sit here and talk negatively about Ted Karras, because I don’t think we get a full sense of what a center’s responsibilities really is without being on the field/in the huddle. But much like Daniel Kilgore last season, it’s clear the Dolphins could use an upgrade at the position. Which is why if Creed Humphrey is available with the 17th pick in the draft, you run to the podium. Humphrey is a mauler and if reports are true that Miami had interest in Cesar Ruiz last season, the writing is on the wall.

(Note: Yes, I am a huge fan of Travis Etienne and believed he was RB1 last season. As tempting as that would be–and I wouldn’t be upset–I think Humphrey would be the RIGHT move, especially based on what the Dolphins do in the next round.)

Round 2

The first pick in round 2 is going to make readers a bit upset. Because despite Miami Hurricanes pass-rusher Quincy Roche sitting ripe for the picking, Tankathon has other plans.

With the 40th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh

In the limited time I’ve spent watching Patrick Jones, you can see that he is a freak that can attack the quarterback in a variety of different ways. He’s also proven to be stout against the run, which is a trait the Dolphins so desperately need when looking for their future EDGE players. Adding Jones to the mix of young, impactful players in the house will open things up for Brian Flores and his staff and give them new ways to attack opposing QBs.

But that was only the first of the Dolphins’ two second round picks.

 

With the 50th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama

As I alluded to above, the Dolphins pass on my RB1, but that’s okay. There are plenty of backs that are more than capable, and as we’ve seen with other positions, the scheme and the supporting cast has everything to do with a player’s success. With Etienne off the board, that leaves the perfect running back to pair with Tua Tagovailoa. Harris can do it all. And as easy as it is to compare him to the once-great Derrek Henry, you’d be crazy not to see similar players. What may be most impressive is Harris is a better receiver than Henry (IMO). Nevertheless, he’s exactly what Miami needs at running back to compliment the Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmeds of the world.

 

 

3rd Round

The fifth and final pick in Tankathon’s three-round mock draft is another versatile defensive back that could play all over Coach Flores defense.

With the 81st pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Ar’Darius Washington, Safety, TCU

This will change many more times between now and April 23, 2020. With that said, how do you feel with Tankathon’s latest mock draft?

Josh Houtz (@houtz) is a die-hard Dolphins fan that believes Chan Gailey needs to #LetTuaCook.

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