Dolphins show they can win even without Tagovailoa and Hill going deep

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — After Miami’s defense gave up 234 yards rushing against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1, coordinator Vic Fangio said his unit was good enough to win a high-scoring contest, but “not good enough to win a lot of games.”

The Dolphins turned it around in Week 2 at New England, limiting the Patriots to 88 yards rushing and stopping them on a late drive that could have tied or won the game.

“When you give up 34 points it’s a terrible feeling,” linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel said after Sunday night’s 24-17 win. “Obviously the Chargers have a good offense, but it left a sour taste in our mouths. And we definitely came out with something to prove tonight.”

Miami (2-0) won its opener thanks to its high-powered offense led by Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill. Against a Patriots team that limited that connection — Hill had five catches for 40 yards — the Dolphins won with defense and a balanced offense that featured an effective run game.

Miami ran the ball 30 times for 145 yards and had 30 pass attempts for 249 yards, an approach that coach Mike McDaniel said was dictated by the Patriots’ defensive adjustments.

“I knew line-of-scrimmage play was going to be important,” McDaniel said, “but you have to kind of let the game play out and see what the defense is doing. If they’re taking something away, something else is vulnerable, so you just kind of have to have equity in your game plan.”

On defense, Van Ginkel moved from inside to outside linebacker to replace Jaelan Phillips, who injured his back in practice.

Van Ginkel had one of Miami’s four sacks and a tackle for loss. The Dolphins produced eight tackles for loss, twice as many as they had against the Chargers.

Still, the Dolphins had to hold on at the end. McDaniel said his team made some mistakes that should be easy to correct early in the season.

“I told the guys in the locker room that they’re going to feel like it didn’t need to be a nail-biter,” McDaniel said. “And that happens a ton. You’re fortunate to get the win in that learning process of how to make sure that that’s not the case. But overall, on the road, prime time, division opponent, those are very, very valuable games to be able to come up with a win.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Tagovailoa’s poise has been essential. The Patriots had three deep safeties on the field early to try and take away the deep passing game, but he adjusted. Tagovailoa spread the ball to eight different receivers. Jaylen Waddle had four catches for 86 yards.

According to NextGen Stats, Tagovailoa, who is known for his quick release, averaged the fourth-fastest time to throw (2.08 seconds) of any quarterback in a game since 2020.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The quarterback-center exchange between Tagovailoa and Connor Williams has been an issue dating to the preseason, and it cost Miami a potential third-down conversion in the fourth quarter with the team trying to protect a seven-point lead.

Tagovailoa said he was “changing up” pre-snap, which caused the miscommunication.

STOCK UP

Raheem Mostert had 121 yards rushing on 18 carries. The 31-year-old also had a pair of rushing TDs, his first game with multiple rushing scores since the NFC championship game with San Francisco in the 2020 season.

STOCK DOWN

Jason Sanders had a field goal blocked and missed a 55-yard attempt that gave New England one last chance to win. Sanders was 2 of 6 on attempts of 50-plus yards last year.

INJURIES

Waddle is in the concussion protocol following a helmet-to-helmet hit from New England’s Marte Mapu. … LT Terron Armstead missed his second straight game as he continues dealing with ankle, back and knee issues.

KEY NUMBER

21 — The number of years since the Dolphins last started consecutive seasons 2-0.

NEXT STEPS

Miami hosts Denver (0-2) in its home opener on Sunday.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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