Tua Tagovailoa has thrived in coach Mike McDaniel's offense with the Miami Dolphins.

Pressure Point: Dolphins alter script, follow gritty path to 2-0

Lately when the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots get together, the final act tends to be outlandish.

Such as the Miami Miracle when the Dolphins used several laterals for a you-gotta-be-kidding victory on the final play in 2018.

Sunday night the Patriots were trying to pull off an improbable comeback of their own and instead got a ‘Strange Ending’ when former Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, coming up short on fourth down, pitched the ball back to guard Cole Strange.

It took seemingly everyone at the Dolphins’ disposal, including the driver of the team bus, to bring the bull elephant down an inch or two short of a first down and preserve a 24-17 Miami win and improve to 2-0 (both on the road).

Replay reversal got it right on ‘Strange Ending’

It was even tougher than it sounds, as it took a replay review to reverse the initial call. The reversal was clearly correct, though it left all of New England and NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth in disbelief.

It helped square the ledger on some head-scratching officiating that went against Miami earlier.

It also left Dolfans strung out, thinking, that was a lot tougher than seemed necessary when the Dolphins’ offense was clicking on the way to a 17-3 halftime lead.

The second half was a different story as the Patriots made things uncomfortable for Tua Tagovailoa and his high-flying receivers.

O-line paves way for Mostert

The Patriots brought the Miami offense down to earth, and that’s a good thing in the bigger picture for the Dolphins’ season. It showed they have the resources to win gritty as well as gaudy, which they will need to do more often than once.

Unlike last week when Miami put up fantasy league passing numbers to outscore the Chargers, this time it took running the ball and the defense making some impact plays to fend off the Patriots.

The offensive line, which has done an admirable job of protecting Tagovailoa in the first two games, cleared the path for Raheem Mostert to rush for 121 yards (6.7-yard average) and two touchdowns, including a 43-yard runaway for Miami’s only points in the second half.

Good to see the zone-blocking scheme find traction, springing Mostert to the outside on the first touchdown and inside on the long gallop.

Van Ginkel stands out in stand-in role

The Dolphins’ defense, embarrassed a week ago when shredded by the Chargers for more than 200 yards rushing, held the Patriots to 88 yards on the ground (3.5 yards per carry) and had two takeaways in the passing game.

The national TV audience was introduced to linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who filled in for injured edge rusher Jaelan Phillips (back) with a Herculean effort, recording a sack, three quarterback hits and six tackles, including meeting Strange head-on on the final stop.

The key to that game-ending stop, though, was safety Jevon Holland having the good sense to go low and take out the big man’s legs.

But Van Ginkel’s effort was eye-opening. Hopefully, it showed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who moved Van Ginkel to inside linebacker this season, that he is much more effective working from the outside.

The other defensive standout was Bradley Chubb, who had his best game as a Dolphin. The veteran linebacker, acquired at a steep price at the trade deadline last season, forced a fumble in the first half and had a sack on the final drive. David Long Jr., in his second game for Miami, also had a sack and finished with seven tackles.

X-man still has Parker’s number

Star cornerback Xavier Howard, picked DeVante Parker’s pocket for an interception, as he often did in practice during Parker’s seven seasons in Miami.

On the flip side, Eli Apple continued to be a liability filling in at the opposite corner while Jalen Ramsey rehabs. Can we try another stand-in?

On offense, early in the game the Dolphins gave another indication of how good they can be when operating Mike McDaniel’s system efficiently. With Tyreek Hill starting in motion and Tagovailoa getting passes off in just over 2 seconds, they are formidable.

In two games the Miami offense has put up 60 points and averaged 7.34 yards per play, which would be a record over a full season, as Travis Wingfield noted.


But Sunday also showed that Tua and Co. aren’t infallible. Patriots coach Bill Belichick employed three deep safeties to blunt the deep threat and rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez demonstrated that Hill can be covered.

Tua 5-0 vs. Belichick

For all the progress Tagovailoa has made, he is still susceptible to getting frustrated and making bad-decision throws, such as the one he underthrew to a well covered Hill and Gonzalez picked off.

In a fair assessment, McDaniel said, “I was happy with a lot of the stuff that Tua did, you know, but I think that forced throw to Tyreek in the second half is something that he was trying to win the game after a couple frustrating drives. And that’s something you have to learn from. You know, you don’t force the hand.

“But overall, I was really happy with how he bounced back from things that, you know, I know frustrate him. Any time he’s off on any sort of throw, you know, in the past, that frustration has really bled into multiple drives.”

So definitely room for growth and improvement. But tough to quibble too much with two quality wins on the road to start the season.

As Tagovailoa pointed out, “I think our team is 5 and 0 against Bill Belichick. It’s never a me thing. It’s never a me thing. And I don’t think we ever look at it as, ‘oh, we beat them once, we beat them twice, we beat them five times in a row.’ Every time we face Coach Belichick’s team, it’s always a challenge.”

There will be another challenge next Sunday when the Dolphins open at home against the Broncos and the following week when they face a bigger road obstacle at Buffalo.

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

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