The Miami Dolphins roared on to 6-3 in their 29-21 win at the Hard Rock Stadium over the Los Angeles Chargers yesterday. Brian Flores’ side once again were helped by their defense and special teams. There were also plenty of positives on the offense. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had another great day, even if there were the occasional rookie errors.
On the first drive of the game, Miami forced the Chargers to 4th and 14. On the punt, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel managed to block it, which put the Dolphins on 1st and Goal territory. Miami capitalised with Tua handing off to running back Salvon Ahmed for a rushing touchdown.
Van Ginkel is having a really underrated season. So far in 2020, Van Ginkel has managed to record 25 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
One area of the defense that Miami have room to improve is stopping big plays, as we saw with the Arizona Cardinals win last Sunday. We also saw the Dolphins make some big 3rd down stoppages in that game. The same can be said for last night’s win.
The Dolphins players managed to put pressure on quarterback Justin Herbert on 3rd and 10, with 1:25 left of the second quarter. This then forced the Chargers to punt the ball away.
Had they allowed Los Angeles to make the first down, then this would have given the Chargers confidence to perhaps go on a drive and either get a field goal or touchdown to go into the half in a more respectable position.
In the end, the Dolphins went up the other end and kicked a field goal to make it 17-7 at half time. This would not have happened had Miami made that play on the Chargers’ 3rd and 10. The Dolphins potentially went from being 4 or 7 points down to being 10 points up.
The Dolphins would also make two consecutive plays on defense that were equally as important, if not more crucial.
Right at the start of the fourth and final quarter and the score at 20-14 Miami, the Chargers were on 2nd and 12. The defense once again put pressure on Herbert, who ultimately took a sack from defensive lineman Emmanel Ogbah. On the very next play, there was once again pressure put on Herbert. He made a pass to Mike Williams which was intercepted by Xavien Howard.
The cornerback was ultimately unable to get Miami’s third defensive touchdown in a row but he put the Dolphins in good field position as the Dolphins went on to score a touchdown and kill off the game.
Tua Tagovailoa is still yet to throw an interception in the NFL and threw for two touchdowns yesterday. He also threw for 169 yards and a 60% completion rate (15 from 25), without being sacked once.
There were a few moments where Tua was close to recording his first NFL interception, but overall he made some excellent passes and threw the ball smoothly.
There is one play I want to run through that has been largely underplayed since this game ended, due to the poor snap later on in the drive that caused a turnover.
It was 3rd and 10 and there was a low snap. Tua picked up the ball and found Devante Parker who made an unbelievable catch, beating Casey Hayward in coverage for a 23 yard gain. This is exactly the kind of throw we want to see from Tua. These are the kind of plays we have seen with some of the greats, when they are chasing the win in tight games and they make the big throws to move the team up the field to give them a fresh set of downs.
Jakeem Grant Showing He Can Be A Receiver
Jakeem Grant showed in this game that he can be a great weapon for Tua. Grant has mainly been used as a punt or kick returner whilst also sporadically being used as a receiver during his time with the Miami Dolphins. However, with the injury to Preston Williams, Grant got his chance in the receiver position and it paid off.
He may have only caught for 43 yards but managed to get a receiving touchdown and looked a threat throughout the game.
This was his joint most targets this season (5) and with 22 receptions from 29 targets this season, he is only 5 targets off his all time season best and has already had more receptions this year than in any other year he has had in the NFL.
There was an excellent catch from Grant on 1st and 15 midway through the first quarter where Tua found Grant for a 13 yard gain.
Even more impressively, on the same drive. Tagovailoa found Grant on 2nd and 10. Grant caught the ball just behind the first yardage line and had more than one Charger bringing him down, before he found some strength and got the first down and more for a 15 yard gain.
This showed to me how Grant can be a fighter for this franchise, just as we see with New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.
This drive ended up with Tua finding Grant in the end zone to make the score 14-0 to the Miami Dolphins, albeit with some fortune through the Chargers, who were flagged for offside on a Sanders field goal which brought Miami a fresh set of downs.
Grant also showed why he has been used as kick or punt returner, with his punt return for 20 yards that allowed the Dolphins to get into field goal position late on in the second quarter and go into the half 17-7 ahead.
A Prospect In Salvon Ahmed
The overall star of this game offensively was running back Salvon Ahmed. The undrafted free agent was added to the active squad last month after being waived by both the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.
Thanks to the several injuries in the Dolphins running back room, Ahmed has been brought in and had an excellent game against the Chargers. He ran for 85 yards from 21 carries as well as showing his ability to catch in his one and only reception yesterday, which put Miami within touching distance of the end zone. There were two 18 yard gains in the game by Ahmed with both resulted in points later on in the respective drives.
Smart Plays On Offense
Finally, I wanted to talk about some of the smart plays that were called by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
There was the 3rd and 2 early on in the second quarter. Dolphins players looked as though they were going with the Jet Sweep motion and the Chargers defense were going with the blitz.
Ahmed was running to the left and this caused the Chargers defense to move towards Ahmed. This allowed a gap in the middle and for Tua to find tight end Durham Smythe with a shovel pass.
This is not only an excellent play as the faked jet sweep motion moved some of the Chargers players one way, but the Ahmed run the other way moved some of the Chargers players the other way. This then allowed them to be caught off guard when Tua made that pass to Smythe.
This was a similar situation in the fourth quarter, which saw a play that ultimately ended all Chargers hopes of a win. The Dolphins were on 3rd and Goal with 11:44 remaining. Tight end Durham Smythe moved from the right hand side into the left.
Tua then went to hand off to Ahmed who was moving towards the left. This then caused the Chargers to move to the left, not expecting Smythe to move back to the position he was originally in. Smythe was wide open and caught a pass from Tua.
This type of clever play-calling is exactly what the team needs. It is the staple of most of the top teams in the league to have these types of plays in their playbook.