Notes from Dolphin’s Week 12 win vs. Texans

The Miami Dolphins and their fans certainly have plenty to be thankful for. Following the holiday weekend, the victory over the Houston Texans was the gravy on top of a filling weekend of family, food and football.

The Dolphins beat the Texans, 30-15, in a game that was essentially won in the first half. Miami shut out Houston in the opening two frames – the second time this season they’ve done that to an opponent. Back in Week 1, Miami blanked the New England Patriots en route to an opening-day win.

Head coach Mike McDaniel joked about his team’s tale of two halves, albeit while quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took a deserved seat midway into the second half.

“You just wish we could have times’d the first half by two, as opposed to dividing it by zero,” said the 8-3 rookie head coach.

That record is Miami’s best start since the 2001 season, and they’ve now won five straight games since Tagovailoa returned from injury in Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Expanding more on the recency of Tagovailoa’s dominance, specifically at Hard Rock Stadium, the third-year quarterback is 9-0 in his last nine home starts.

In this nine-game span, he’s completed 192-of-275 passes (69.8%) for 2,080 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions with a passer rating of 104.5. In the last six of these starts, he’s been rated 90 or above. He still leads the NFL in passer rating this season (115.7).

Adding to his production, he has been remarkably precise and careful with the football, as he set a Miami record for consecutive passes thrown without an interception. 174 pass attempts, beating the old mark set by former Miami quarterback, and current Tennessee Titan, Ryan Tannehill’s 160 back in the 2014-2015 seasons.

Tagovailoa has also been utilizing a slew of weapons to score. In addition to relying on a pair of top-five yardage leaders in the NFL in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa has hit six different Miami targets over his last six touchdown passes. Hill and Waddle included, along with fellow wide receiver Trent Sherfield, and adding to this sub-group are running back Jeff Wilson Jr., fullback Alec Ingold, and tight end Durham Smythe. Tagovailoa hit Smythe on Sunday against Houston for a 4-yard score, which was his first touchdown since 2020.

Back to Waddle, the sophomore receiver, who played with Tagovailoa in Alabama set the Miami Dolphins record for most receiving yards in a player’s first two years with the team. While still six games to go to add to his new mark, Waddle surpassed Miami legend and fan favorite, Jarvis Landry, news that Tagovailoa was thrilled to hear post-game.

“Wow, never knew that. Congratulations to Jaylen. That’s news to me. I’m definitely going to go and beat him up about that. I don’t know if he knows, too, so that’ll be awesome to tell him, but well-deserved for someone like him,” Tagovailoa told media.

Adding to the praise of his teammate, in regards to Waddle, Tagovailoa said, “Very detail-oriented person and very happy for him. This is just the beginning. He’s only in Year 2 and we’ve got a lot more games to play.”

Wilson Jr played in his third game as a Dolphin, and on Sunday scored his third touchdown with the team since joining in a trade with San Fransico prior to the league’s deadline nearly a month ago. He started for the injured Raheem Mostert on Sunday.

Defensively, the Dolphins have been a different unit from the first six games of the season. Sunday against the Texans, they sacked Kyle Allen five times, all by different Miami defenders. The unit forced three turnovers and Xavien Howard scooped and scored on one of them. The Dolphins have scored seven defensive touchdowns in the last two seasons, tied with the Arizona Cardinals, and only the Dallas Cowboys have more with eight.

Another area where there could be some improvement following a rough start to the 2022 campaign is the kicking game. During the bye week, place kicker Jason Sanders was very critical of his own season, missing several point-after tries and field goals in the team’s games leading to the off week.

Sanders, who took his own criticism as a call to action, responded to the self-assessment and was perfect with all six kicks against the Texans Sunday. Three field goals and three extra points, all but one driven pretty much through the dead-center of the uprights.

Following the game, coach McDaniel mentioned the word accountability, which led to an endorsement for his kicker. “That is the coolest thing about sports [overcoming adversity],” McDaniel said.

He added, “Like I said last week, I fully expected that. He’s given me no reason to think otherwise.”

McDaniel continued the praise, and support of his once All-Pro kicker. “But it is to his credit, that is not always the case at that position. It’s such a finicky, off a quarter of an inch with your strike or your plant foot or anything; and you find it tough to get it through the uprights.”

He then went on to confirm the rest of the team had similar thoughts, saying, “I think he just reiterated and reestablished the respect he already had in the locker room.”

The Dolphins have arguably played one or two complete, or three-phase games to completion. Meaning that we may have yet to see this team fully click. With injuries to deal with such as Terron Armstead mainly, who is dealing with a pectoral injury and left the game early Sunday, the Dolphins head to a massive three-game road trip.

Leading off the trip will be a matchup against McDaniel’s former team, the 49ers, then the Dolphins will remain out west to face Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers. Then, perhaps the biggest December test of this franchise in nearly a decade, a game in Buffalo which could very well determine the AFC East division winner.

The stakes are getting higher as the temperatures cool throughout the country, however in South Florida, the weather is warmer than most, and expectations are at all-time highs. As most football fans, players and coaches will agree, McDaniel is ready for the stretch run.

“There is nothing better in professional football than meaningful December and January games, he told South Florida media post-game Sunday.

“Nothing better.”

Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire