The first half of the Miami Dolphins season — give a take a week or two because of an early bye next week — is now complete.
Here’s the good news:
Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdowns and the Dolphins are .500 for the first time under coach Brian Flores after a 24-0 win over the New York Jets on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in front of 10,772 fans allowed inside with respect to COVID-19 restrictions.
Oh, the Dolphins are second place in the AFC East standings, too.
At 3-3, Miami only trails the Buffalo Bills (4-1), who play on Monday, while the New England Patriots fell to 2-3 on Sunday and under .500 for the first time since 2002. And there’s the last-place Jets.
And, rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Miami’s top pick in the 2020 NFL draft in April, made his NFL debut.
Tagovailoa entered his first NFL game with 2:27 left, shortly after the Dolphins defense secured its first shutout of the season.
Tagovailoa’s first play was a handoff to running back Matt Brieda. His first completion was a play-action pass to running back Patrick Laird for a 2-yard gain out of the end zone.
And Tagovailoa converted on third down with a 7-yard pass to Jakeem Grant before the game concluded one play later with a handoff.
So, the Dolphins – who have a bye in Week 7, and return to action in Week 8 at home against the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 1 – have a shot to make some noise in the AFC playoff race during the second half of the season.
And that’s incredible to think of for a Dolphins team that was shredded to their bare bones when Flores began his rebuilding process with general manager Chris Grier in Miami a year ago.
That’s not a bad start to the season for the Dolphins.
Fitzpatrick threw a 4-yard pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first quarter, and touchdown passes to Preston Williams for 3 yards and tight end Durham Smythe for 4 yards in the second quarter.
Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders added a field goal in the third quarter, and the Dolphins defense kept the Jets out of the end zone in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to ensure the shut out.
Fitzpatrick also had two interceptions in the contest, in which he finished completing 18-of-27 passes for 191 yards and a 93.3 passer rating.
The Dolphins also turned in somewhat of a sloppy outing offensively against the only winless team in the NFL on Sunday, while their defense shined against a team that could not convert a first down until 10:39 left in the game.
Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah led the charge with two sacks as Miami accounted for 10 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss and an interception by cornerback Xavien Howard for his fourth of the season.
Sure, the Dolphins won, and won big against the lowly Jets, with their former coach Adam Gase in danger of losing his job with New York.
But there’s still plenty of work for the Dolphins to improve on to reach lofty goals of AFC East and playoff contention.
That may not include a full transition from Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa just yet.
But Dolphins fans can relish their first glimpse of their prized rookie, while enjoying the start of Miami’s 2020 season.
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