Dolphins grades and stock up, stock down from wild win over Raiders

Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel

The Miami Dolphins pulled off a huge victory by scoring 13 points in a crazy 10-minute stretch during Saturday night’s 26-25 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

The victory puts Miami (10-5) in a win-and-you-are-in scenario for the playoffs during next Sunday’s road game against the Buffalo Bills, and sets the regular-season finale up as a much-watch event for South Florida football fans.

Here is the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s report card, evaluating how the Dolphins performed during Saturday’s victory:

Passing Game: B

Ryan Fitzpatrick needed 9:40 in the fourth quarter to throw for 182 yards and a touchdown, leading the Dolphins to three scores that allowed Miami to close out the come-from-behind victory. The 16-year veteran was sharp, and made Miami’s lackluster offense dangerous because of his ability to read defenses quickly and throw players open. Tua Tagovailoa finished the game with a 99.4 passer rating, but he couldn’t dissect what the Raiders were doing against him when Las Vegas was dropping eight defenders into coverage. The three sacks Tagovailoa took were a result of him holding into the ball too long.

Running Game: A

Myles Gaskin’s performance in his return from the COVID-19 reserve list showed why he’s the Dolphins’ featured back. The second-year player gained 87 rushing yards on 14 carries, which boosted his yards per carry average to 4.2. He also caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, which proves that when healthy and given adequate blocking he’s a dangerous playmaker that could carry Miami’s rushing attack. At this point Gaskin can not be overlooked as a legitimate starter for the future. The Dolphins need to find a back who runs with power to complement Gaskin’s skill set.

Defending the Pass: C

The Dolphins made the Raiders’ Derek Carr look better than he actually was Saturday, allowing the middle-of-the-road quarterback to throw for 336 yards and one touchdown (104.5 passer rating). Tight end Darren Waller, who caught five passes for 112 yards, was unstoppable, but the Dolphins refusal to give safety Eric Rowe help was a mistake. Saturday was the worst performance of the season for cornerback Byron Jones, who got beat by Raiders receiver Nelson Agholor on a 85-yard touchdown and then got called for pass interference late in the fourth quarter that put the Raiders in scoring territory. If Miami’s going to beat Buffalo next Sunday the Dolphins secondary needs to play better.

Defending the Run: C

Josh Jacobs gained 69 yards on 13 carries, and the Raiders rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. Miami’s edges were compromised for the second consecutive week, but the team might have performed better if Shaq Lawson (shoulder injury) was able to play. Losing linebacker Elandon Roberts to what appears to be a serious knee injury will hurt Miami’s defense, and force Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy to alter their roles a bit. Moving Van Noy inside would give Miami it’s best chance to beat the Bills next week.

Special Teams: A

The Dolphins redeemed themselves from a rough two weeks on special teams by converting a fake punt on Clayton Fedejelem’s 22-yard run, and Jason Sanders made all four of his field goal attempts, which included the game-winning 44-yarder. The Dolphins need to develop rookies Malcolm Perry and Noah Igbinoghene as the team’s kickoff and punt returners because the ankle injury Jakeem Grant suffered Saturday could prevent him from playing in the season finale.

Coaching: B

Brian Flores isn’t scared of the moment, or criticism, and proved he’s willing to do whatever it takes to put his team in position to win games by replacing Tagovailoa with Fitzpatrick. Making that change — again — sends his locker room the message that no one is bigger or more important than getting the win. Saturday’s game was probably one of the coaching staff’s worst performances of the season from a game-plan standpoint, but the players did enough to deliver the victory, and that’s all that matters.

Stock Up

Fitzpatrick was clutch in Saturday’s win, executing three hurry-up drives which produced scores that put the Dolphins in position to win the season’s 10th game. Considering Fitzpatrick won the season’s first three games, then beat the Jets when Tagovailoa was sidelined by his thumb injury, the veteran is responsible for five of the season’s 10 victories, and 10 of Flores’s 15 wins over two seasons. Let us hope the Dolphins seriously consider bringing Fitzpatrick back next year to serve as Tagovailoa’s mentor and backup, and that Fitzmagic is open to it.

Stock down

There were too many instances during Saturday’s game where Jesse Davis was either on the ground, not blocking anyone, or laboring in the backfield on a play where he was supposed to be pulling. The Dolphins need better play from the seasoned starter being called on to fill the right guard spot. Davis didn’t perform up to his talent level against the Raiders, and he’ll need to be more consistent against the Bills.