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Dolphins Return to .500 And May Have Just Found A New Wrinkle To Make Playoff Push

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They’re still in the group of “in the hunt” teams and need to continue winning to be in contention for a wild card playoff berth at season’s end, but the Miami Dolphins just won their sixth consecutive game to pull their record even at 7-7.

And there’s reason to believe Miami is better equipped to make that final push than it was before Sunday’s 31-24 victory over the New York Jets began because the team suddenly has found a running game.

The Dolphins, who’ve averaged only 79 rushing yards per game, ran the football to the tune of 183 yards against New York.

The performance left the team feeling optimistic the offense can be more balanced and, yes, more effective down the road.

“I definitely think it’s something we can build off,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said.

Duke Johnson, who joined the team Oct. 26 and had carried only four times since then, had a breakout game with 107 yards on 22 carries to lead a productive Dolphins run game. Johnson also scored 2 touchdowns.

Johnson is the first 100-yard rusher for the Dolphins this season and this marked the first time since December of 2020 the Dolphins got such a performance.

The best part of all this is Johnson grew up maybe 15 minutes from Hard Rock Stadium and went to high school 10 minutes away. He was a star at the University of Miami so the familiar crowd reacted to him like it did in his college days, chanting “Duuuke” whenever he touched the ball.

“It means a lot,” Johnson said. “Growing up in the area and being able to play well here, it means a lot but more so because we got the win.

“It reminded me of college. It felt like my college days again. I enjoyed it.”

Johnson got his opportunity because both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed spent time on the Covid-19 reserve list previously and Johnson earned the greater workload in practice despite the fact both other runners were off the list and active for the game.

And, yes, it’s only one game. But it’s going to be difficult for the Dolphins to hand over the lead back role back to Gaskin and diminish Johnson’s role after this performance.

“I really prepare each week like I’m going to be the guy whether I’m the guy or not,” Johnson said. “For me it’s about doing what the team needs from me.”

The Dolphins got a great effort from their defense in this game as well. The Jets came out seemingly more prepared to play against a Dolphins team that stumbled coming off their bye week.

The Jets held a 17-10 lead at halftime.

It was the first time this season the Jets led a game at halftime.

The story of that half was how the Jets threw every crazy play they could think of at Miami. The Jets had a double pass, they had a completion followed by a lateral to Braxton Berrios.

New York had pre-snap motion, laterals and seem well prepared for Miami’s blitz packages.

It was if the Jets were the team that had a bye week to study Miami and install special plays last week when it was actually the Dolphins who were coming off their bye.

But, unfortunately for New York, it’s a four-quarter game and the Jets were stifled by Miami’s defense the second half.

The Dolphins allowed only 54 total yards in the second half after New York gained 174 in the first half. Miami sacked Jets’ quarterback Zach Wilson six times.

The only Jets points in the second half came on a pick six of a Tagovailoa pass.

“Terrible decision on my part, obviously with the pick six,” Tagovailoa said. “But you got to move on. The game’s not over. You got to put some points on the board and that’s what we did.”

Tagovailoa did finish with 2 touchdown passes to go with his 2 interceptions.

So here they are, out of the hole they dug with their 1-7 start. What led to the climb out?

“Just being around the guys, I really think its the communication, guys being in the building when we have off days,” Tagovailoa said. “Guys wanting to work, stay back, do extra. I think all those play factors to our success on the field.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

 

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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