MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Something special is brewed in South Florida.
A 29:21 Miami Dolphins win over the Los Angeles Chargers was the latest example of a young side playing consistently complementary football for the first time in a long time. This is a team the fans can believe in and the playoffs are becoming a more realistic goal each week.
A thrilling rookie quarterback with the ability to do top notch throws. A playful defense and special team group that always seems to make the game groundbreaking. A trainer in Brian Flores who, along with his assistants, seems to get the most out of his staff.
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The 6-3 Dolphins have won five games, which is their best record in nine games since 2001. Sunday was an efficient, relatively flawless day for Tagovailoa, who overtook Chargers rookie Justin Herbert and took the win in their game first Head-to-head fight.
Sunday's game also showed how the dolphins win as a team. Tagovailoa didn't have to lead his team to victory. He hasn't lit it over 300 yards with a superstar tag like Herbert and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow did this season, but he continues to enjoy fruits they haven't tried consistently: winning. In three games, Tagovailoa has more wins (three) than Herbert (two) or Burrow (two).
A punt blocked by Andrew Van Ginkel got the party off to a quick start, leading to a 1-yard touchdown from Salvon Ahmed. An interception by Xavien Howard stopped a possible chargers comeback. The dolphins kept the chargers at 273 yards and Herbert at 187 yards.
Tua Tagovailoa threw two touchdown passes and improved as the Dolphins starter to 3-0. AP Photo / Wilfredo Lee
QB breakdown: Tagovailoa went 15 of 25 for 169 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was the quarterback who didn't make the big mistake and he continues to show the potential of a superstar, especially when offensive coordinator Chan Gailey gets him moving.
The Dolphins set Tagovailoa to success, from seamlessly playcalling Gailey to focusing on having Tagovailoa as the team's point guard rather than a superstar. That's what Tagovailoa is best at, and it seems the best is yet to come for the rookie quarterback and this team.
Key point: It was third and twelfth early in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers in midfield were down six points in hopes of taking the lead when Herbert made the mistake of challenging Howard with a pass to receiver Mike Williams. Howard, perhaps the NFL's best ball hawk, jumped the route for his fifth catch of the season. The Dolphins took advantage of this short field for a touchdown drive in which they scored two points after a reception from Tagovailoa to Durham Smythe.
Howard, well again, looks like one of the best cornerbacks in football. He allows the Dolphins to play constant man-to-man coverage, which in turn makes them the aggressive, lightning-happy team that drove quarterbacks crazy. The dolphins now have at least one snack in 15 consecutive games.
At a breakout performance, buy: I buy myself that Ahmed continues to make an important contribution and possibly secure the starting role of the dolphins, even after Myles Gaskin has returned from the injured reserve because of his knee sprain. Ahmed looked bubbly and quick and maximized the openings he had in the running game.
On his first NFL start, Ahmed had 85 rushing yards, 21 carry and one touchdown. This is the second best performance by a dolphin this season. (Gaskin had 91 yards against the New York Jets.) The Dolphins got little from veterans Jordan Howard and Matt Breida, but they've had some unannounced development success, and Ahmed might be the newest.