Welcome to the first in our new series of MVP Reviews, where we discuss a fanbase voted MVP from each of our weekly games. Each week Aqua Thirteen will post a poll of four nominated players as potential MVP candidates, and the player with the most votes will be covered in this series.
Our MVP from our narrow Week 1 victory in New England is Xavien Howard.
Our premier defensive playmaker stormed to victory with 72.3% of the votes after his match winning play. But special mention should be made to Jaylen Waddle, Myles Gaskin and Jason Sanders who were our other four nominated players. Waddle made a definite impact, linking with Tua on a number of occasions and getting his first NFL touchdown in his first NFL game. Myles Gaskin broke for some key runs at key times, despite finding his running lanes closed a lot of the time, he still found ways to extend drives when we needed it. Jason Sanders is the unattractive vote, when does your kicker ever win MVP? But Sanders, once again proved absolutely flawless in his field goals, making difficult kicks at important times to set up Miami for this narrow victory.
But I’m here to talk about Xavien Howard, our week 1 MVP.
MVP REVIEW: OVERALL PERFORMANCE
MVP’s can be defined on a number of metrics. You get some who dominate from start to finish. Some may win the title by dominating key battles and match ups. Others will win it because in key moments, they make key plays, and that is where Howard’s week 1 award comes from.
Last year’s interception leader was somewhat a victim of his own success and had a quiet game because of this. Over the course of the game, Mac Jones only threw towards his direction 3 times, and all three were completed passes. Due to his stellar reputation, QB’s are going to throw his way less and less, and only if a completion is almost guaranteed. So compared to last year, this has Howard in a relatively quiet and uneventful game.
Along with the three targets, he also made a total of 5 tackles, with 4 solo and 1 assisted. Again, solid, but unexciting when compared to last year and what we have learned to expect of him.
So from this, it is clear that his overall involvement in the game wasn’t his reason for winning MVP this week, in fact it essentially comes down to one play…
MVP REVIEW: PLAY OF THE GAME
With 3.36 left in the fourth quarter, and with Miami leading by only one single point, Mac Jones and his Patriots had a fresh set of downs starting on the 11 yard line. It seemed a matter of time before they took the lead, with the majority of Dolphins fans hoping they would get to settle with a field goal, and let Tua Tagovailoa have a chance at a game winning drive.
On the very next snap, the Patriots put the ball in the hands of Damien Harris, who had had a fairly strong game overall, and who made it easily through the first line of Miami’s defence on this play…only to be met by Xavien Howard.
At the two collided, Howard was expertly able to hook his left hand under the arm of Harris’ ball carrying arm and knock the ball loose, however this may not have been immediately clear from the TV angles. As the bodies of many players smash together in a pile, it is the players cries of “Ball, Ball!” underneath the calm voices of the commentary team that give the first clues that the ball has been knocked out.
The bodies pile up and the officials rush in to figure out where the play stands. Miami players leap up from the pile waving and pointing their arms up the field, they are confident it is their ball.
Then the officials weigh in, waving dead the play and pointing down towards the Patriots end zone. MIAMI BALL.
And when all the ruck is cleared and the celebrations begin, who is there holding the football… MVP Xavien Howard!
Miami’s major playmaker does it again, after a relatively quiet game, he forces a fumble, recovers it himself and makes an almighty play, at the most critical of times. This is what playmakers do, they produce moments that win games, and Xavien Howard did that in week one, and earned himself our MVP award in the process.
A huge play, by one of Miami’s truly elite playmakers, here’s what the Media and fanbase had to say about it…
“Best Ballhawk in the League”
Joe Schad discussed Howard changing the game
An Elite player doing ELITE things!
Saying what a lot of fans are hoping for, keeping X here for a long time yet!
Taking matters into his own hands!!
AQUA THIRTEEN VOICES
Once again Xavien Howard proved the x-factor as the Dolphins best player all-but sealed the win in the fourth quarter with a strip and recovery. It was an all-round stellar performance from Howard after a less than ideal camp.
Proving once again that Flores was telling the truth when he said X had been the consumate professional throughout camp. This game also reinforced the fact that Howard needs a much better contract come next summer.
Allowing just 3 catches for 20 yards with the Patriots making every effort to throw away from him all game, Howard is unquestionably the star of the defence and one of the best in the NFL.
Going into the game I had anticipated Howard to play a part of the Dolphins defense to be a big contributor in the game. It came as no surprise when Howard recovered the fumble to help secure a Dolphins victory with great click management by Flores. Howard was definitely key to a Dolphins victory. I would expect another big year for Xavien Howard. And that was just week one!
For a game where Mac Jones targeted the middle of the field and away from Miami’s cornerback threats, to name Howard as the MVP may seem a little strange at first, especially as we didn’t hear or see much from him all game.
However, football is not an individual sport, it’s a team game and Howard, despite all the recent contract drama showed that he will be an elite professional as well as an elite cornerback, perfectly shown in that clean and clutch fumble in the 4th quarter with New England poised to take the lead. If that fumble doesn’t happen, we could well be writing and saying something a lot different today, that’s why Howard is my MVP
Xavien Howard will have better games. Xavien Howard will get interceptions and will get more attention over the course of the year. But what this truly represents for me is where this Miami Dolphins team has progressed the most.
Winning teams, Championship teams, famously find ways to win games they shouldn’t. Winning teams, Championship teams will find ways to win when overall, their play has been below par.
Miami were far from their best this week, they were far from meeting their potential across the board. Under previous regimes and in previous seasons, the Miami Dolphins would have conceded a touchdown on that drive and lost this game. But this team hung around despite a sub par overall performance, this team hung around waiting for an opportunity.
Xavien Howard stood up and took that opportunity and in doing so, found a way for Miami to win a game they shouldn’t have, and found a way to win a game they would have previously have lost.
There is growth in this Dolphins team, they will not showcase their talents in every game, but now we have cause for optimism that we can still win games the ugly way and still find ways to compete and challenge. This is a new feeling, a new stage of the process, and this play, on this day, by Xavien Howard is the epitome of that, and well worthy of Aqua Thirteen’s first MVP award of the season.