In the NFL, you can have a monster performance, such as Tua Tagovailoa had in Week 1, and you’d still get the yeah, but counter argument.
After Tagovailoa threw for nearly 500 passing yards against the Chargers, some said, yeah, but it was against a poor defense. Yeah, but it was on artificial turf. (It sounds ridiculous, but I’m sure there’s a Reddit post somewhere questioning whether the Dolphins would play as fast on real grass.)
A better yeah, but heading into the Dolphins’ Week 2 matchup against the Patriots was whether coach Mike McDaniel could outsmart Bill Belichick in New England. Another was if Tagovailoa light up the scoreboard against one of the best defenses in the league.
The Dolphins’ offensive performance wasn’t pretty this week, but they answered more questions for the football public that’s rarely satisfied when it comes to teams that haven’t won multiple Super Bowls in recent years. The Dolphins didn’t score as many points as they did in Week 1 and made a handful of costly mistakes that made them sweat during their 24–17 victory Sunday night. But this game was never in doubt for about 59 minutes. For most of the game, the Dolphins appeared unbeatable until the moment Mike Gesicki pitched the ball back to offensive guard Cole Strange on New England’s last-ditch fourth down attempt. Strange was ruled to have come up just short on a questionable reversed call that ended the Patriots’ late rally.
Tagovailoa didn’t need 466 passing yards to beat the Patriots. He was efficient with fewer drives, a performance that was maybe more impressive than his historic Week 1 outing because of the coach and defense he faced at Gillette Stadium. That’s probably a stretch, but this Dolphins’ offense is a lot more than just Tagovailoa and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Running back Raheem Mostert paused the Patriots' comeback attempt with a 43-yard touchdown run to give Miami a 14-point lead midway though the fourth quarter after the scoring drive that took seven seconds.
The Dolphins can outscore the best offenses in the league and proved Sunday they can outlast teams with dominant defenses. Sure, there are better defenses out there, such as the Cowboys and Eagles—two teams Miami will play later this season to possibly quiet more doubters. They could also possibly meet one of them again in the Super Bowl, a scenario that’s becoming more realistic for the South Florida squad that hasn’t played in the big game since 1983.
With how explosive the Dolphins are offensively, opposing teams can’t afford to give them extra possessions with turnovers. After Bradley Chubb forced Patriots rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas to fumble on Miami’s 27-yard line, Tagovailoa led the Dolphins on an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive to take a 10–0 advantage in the second quarter.
The Dolphins weren’t playing Justin Herbert this week, but the defense deserves credit for not allowing the Patriots’ offense to establish a rhythm through the first three quarters. They do have to play better to assist the offense, however.
The Patriots struggled offensively in the first half, but they at least had three drives that went eight plays or more to control the clock and keep Tagovailoa, Hill and Waddle on the sideline. Last week, the Chargers executed this game plan with a balanced attack, which was a bit strange because they had the firepower with Herbert to trade touchdowns. (Perhaps it was the Chargers’ way to allow the defense to get longer breaks.) Letting off the gas cost the Chargers in Week 1.
New England didn’t have the option of getting into a track meet with the Dolphins. Instead, it leaned on the stout defense and tried to play keep away with Jones, but that too failed in the end. The Dolphins only had four drives in the first half and the time of possession was nearly split evenly between the two teams, but Miami still had a 17–3 advantage at halftime.
You have to be essentially perfect against the league’s best offense. Yes, I have no hesitation bestowing that title, and this also might be Miami’s best offense since Dan Marino threw for 5,000-plus passing yards and guided the Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX in his second season.
Attempting The Tortoise and the Hare game plan against the 2023 Dolphins is like asking a 30-something journalist to make TikToks as quickly as the 20-something social media coordinator. Even with a five-minute head start, the journalist (I might be talking about myself) still only has a slim chance to win, and forget about it when it comes to which content has a stronger chance of going viral.
Most teams in the league have a slim chance against the Dolphins. If Tagovailoa stays healthy throughout the season, it’s going to take complete performances from opposing AFC teams to stop Miami from advancing to the Super Bowl.
With a quick and way-too-early survey across the conference, perhaps the Bills, Chiefs and Bengals (if they wake up from their 0–2 start) have the best odds to contain the Dolphins because they have productive defenses with star quarterbacks. But all of those teams have at least one loss on their record, and the Dolphins do not.
That’s getting way too ahead of ourselves, anyway. But saying the Dolphins can win in various ways thanks to its offense is not premature.