SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Miami Dolphins started their day on the West Coast unsure how the next month of their season would pan out due to sweeping changes to the NFL schedule.
They’ll leave here with an impressive win over the Super Bowl runner-ups from a season ago and have the chance to get back to .500 in a home game against a floundering division foe next week.
And Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick secured another himself another week as Miami’s starter over rookie Tua Tagovailoa in the process.
Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards with three touchdown passes, while the Dolphins defense jumped on 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo early, leading Miami to a 43-17 blowout win over San Francisco on Sunday afternoon at Levi Stadium.
The Dolphins were supposed to visit the Denver Broncos next week, but the NFL announced a slew of changes during Sunday’s games due to COVID-19 outbreaks with the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots in the past two weeks.
Now, the Dolphins will host the New York Jets (0-5) next Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Week 6 and have a bye in Week 7. Miami will later host the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10 and visit the Denver Broncos in Week 11. Unchanged for now: Miami will still host the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8 and travel to face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9.
With the schedule out of their control, Flores and the Dolphins kept their focus widely on what they could conquer Sunday, and that was an underwhelming a 49ers team that has started 2-3 after falling to the Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl LIV in Miami earlier this year.
The Dolphins clicked on all cylinders offensively, unlike a week ago when they squandered red-zone opportunities with field goals instead of touchdowns. And their defense was able to get to the quarterback unlike any other performance they had this season.
Fitzpatrick completed 22-of-28 passes for 350 yards with three touchdowns, and had a 154.5 passer rating, which flirted around the perfect score of 158.3 for most of the game.
Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins stormed out to a 30-7 lead on six scoring drives in the first half, with three field goals by kicker Jason Sanders in the second quarter, while the game simply got away from San Francisco before the first half even ended.
Without starting rookie left tackle Austin Jackson, the Dolphins started another rookie, second-round pick Robert Hunt at right tackle, and moved veteran Jesse Davis so he could make his first career NFL start at left tackle.
Miami did not miss a beat as Fitzpatrick started the game with a 47-yard pass to receiver Preston Williams breaking down the left sideline. He ended the drive throwing a 3-yard pass in the flat to tight end Adan Shaheen for a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game.
Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin scored on a 1-yard run up the left side on a play on Miami’s second drive, which saw seven offensive linemen block on the goal line for Miami’s diminutive rushing leader.
The Dolphins even scored during a drive where they reached the 1-yard line and were moved backward 15 yards due to a personal foul penalty by center Ted Karras. Instead of succumbing to the miscue, Fitzpatrick laced a 22-yard touchdown to DeVante Parker to help Miami take a 21-7 lead with 7:29 left.
Then, the wheels feel off for Garopollo, the 49ers starter who Dolphins coach Brian Flores knows well from their time together with the New England Patriots.
Dolphins defenders Zach Sieler, Elandon Roberts and Andrew Van Ginkel were able to sack Garopollo, while safety Bobby McCain and cornerback Xavien Howard each intercepted him in the final two minutes of the first half.
Garoppolo, who made his return from a two-game absence due to a high ankle sprain, did not return as backup C.J. Beathard took over in the second half.
But the damage was already done.
Fitzpatrick threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Williams in the third quarter to take a 37-14 lead with 4:42 left in the third quarter, and Sanders added two more field goals to ensure the blowout victory.
The Dolphins turned in their best performance of the season.
And their new schedule offers the opportunity to quickly improve to 3-3 next week against former coach Adam Gase, whose Jets are winless through their first five games of the season.
It may have been one victory, and some schedule changes made out of their control, but the outlook on Miami’s 2020 season certainly saw a positive change for the Dolphins on Sunday.
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