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Yes, Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins offense that came to Foxboro on Sunday night arrived with something of a reputation and riding an amazing season-opening performance. And, yes, that outing made the Dolphins seem virtually unstoppable.
But this was going to be the real test.
This was against Bill Belichick. Against his mind. It was against his stout defense.
Against his scheme and philosophy of not getting beaten by anyone’s best player.
Last week the Dolphins feasted against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that curiously, ridiculously tried to cover Tyreek Hill man-to-man.
And when that didn’t work, Chargers coach Brandon Staley didn’t really adjust, or change, or do much of anything except watch Tagovailoa throw for 466 yards, with 215 of those going to Hill.
But Belichick wasn’t going to allow that. He was going to be the real deal test.
Tagovailoa, Dolphins Answer The Challenge
Test results in.
The Dolphins finished Sunday night with 925 yards their first two games of the season. That is a franchise record.
The Dolphins left Belichick, well, speechless.
“Not too much to say after that one,” Belichick said. “Tough loss. Gotta learn from it. And just keep working harder and move on.”
The Dolphins offense is not just for real but, when it isn’t shooting itself in the foot, it’s a real nightmare for any team trying to match up. The Dolphins are not just for real contenders in the AFC East but they’re actually leading the division with a 2-0 record.
And Tagovailoa has started five games against Belichick’s teams in his career. And he’s now 5-0.
“Well, I think our team is 5-0 against Bill Belichick,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s never a me thing.
“I don’t think we ever look at it as 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.”
Dolphins Get Plays When They Need Them
It was challenging. It was scary to any Dolphins fan who watched because the Patriots were perpetually one or two plays away from turning the tide in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins hopes of picking up the coach Mike McDaniel offense where it left off last season while Tagovailoa was healthy are not only real, they’re manifesting before our eyes.
The Dolphins didn’t blow out the Patriots. Not by any means. They had to survive a late rally by New England. They needed to survive a crazy lateral from Mike Gesicki to an offensive lineman that seemingly went for a drive extending first down. It was luckily for Miami not a first down.
A replay overturn sealed Miami’s victory.
It ended a game in which Tagovailoa passed for 249 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. But it also put a capper on a game in which the Dolphins rushed for a season-high 145 yards. Raheem Mostert did most of the damage with 121 rushing yards.
The Miami offense had to find other answers when Belichick did his thing and limited Hill. He caught five passes for 40 yards. But Jaylen Waddle had 86 yards on four receptions.
And the Dolphins had six chunk plays of 15 yards or more.
In the first half.
Dolphins Put Speed On Display
It wasn’t perfect. The Patriots did manage to sack Tagovailoa for the first time this season. That one by Matthew Judon.
They also intercepted him. And Tagovailoa also had a fumbled snap on a key third down. So it was a battle.
But the Dolphins are relentless in how they come at opponents with great team speed.
There simply is no one that gets in and out of the huddle so quickly. There is no one that boasts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside running sub-4.3 speed. Each.
There simply is no team that gets the ball out of the quarterback’s hand as fast as the Dolphins.
The Dolphins had Raheem Mostert start at running back and that means they have a track star who runs a 4.3 in the 40 in the lineup. And when Salvon Ahmed went out of the game with a groin injury, the Dolphins brought in rookie De’Von Achane.
And he’s probably faster than anyone else in the Miami backfield.
Dolphins Defense Also Shows Up
This wasn’t all about the Miami speed and the Miami offense and the Miami play-calling.
The Dolphins got good work from their defense a week after the unit struggled in that fateful opener against the Chargers.
The unit didn’t have pass rusher Jaelen Phillips but substitute Andrew Van Ginkel responded with a couple of QB hurries and a tackle for loss.
Cornerback Xavien Howard, who struggled last week, collected his first interception of the season. That one came inside the Dolphins 20-yard line.
And when the Dolphins offense suffered its worst moment — a Tagovailoa interception — the defense answered in a sudden change situation. Miami forced the Patriots to go three-and-out in a one-possession game.
The defense did give up a TD drive inside 6 minutes to play to make it a one-possession game.
So the Dolphins are 2-0. Next week they finally open at home for the first time in 2023.
And they do so as the AFC East leaders.