Well, look at them now. Five straight victories. A 6-3 record. A season now filled with enticing possibilities. Maybe we should put that rebuild on hold for a while; the Dolphins certainly have. This is no longer about the future, although isn’t it looking awfully bright right now? This is about the present, what this team has done and what it is capable of doing.
The latest example arrived Sunday in the form of a 29-21 victory over the Los Angles Chargers. The script followed form from previous victories. A big special teams play, this time a blocked punt. A strong overall defensive performance, holding the Chargers to 273 yards. And some special deliveries from Tua Tagovailoa who raised his record to 3-0 as a starter with a poised and proficient two touchdowns and no interceptions performance.
The formula is working. It has enabled the Dolphins to overcome some of their deficiencies, most notably the lack of a dominant running rushing attack and big play threats on the outside.
Have you checked out their schedule? If the Dolphins beat Denver next Sunday and with the Bills having a bye, it would leave both teams at 7-3 atop the AFC East. And what, no New England? Welcome to the dawning of a new day in the AFC East. And the Dolphins are right in the thick of it.
But before we get too far ahead with the big picture, there was an impressive overall performance Sunday that deserves our attention and appreciation.
Tua vs. Herbert. The statistics say Tua played better. Justin Herbert threw an interception and Tua didn’t. But the one statistic that propels this first of many head-to-heads decisively toward Tua was the final score. That can’t be disputed.
In case you’re keeping tabs – and I know I am — Tua now has five touchdown passes and no interceptions on the season. He also has a big tackle, coming on a fumble return by the Chargers in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. What can’t he do?
Some other thoughts about Sunday:
• OK, Jason Sanders finally missed a kick. But cut him a little slack. Sanders was brilliant once again and the pressure of perfection is now removed from his shoulders.
• Another interception for Xavien Howard, who is making a habit of this and the one he got Sunday was probably the biggest defensive play of the game with the Dolphins clinging to the lead.
• A running back by committee approach has now brought us Salvon Ahmed, who surprised me with his toughness and efficiency against the Chargers, finishing with 85 yards and a touchdown. It’s good that they have some depth now, but I remain convinced that the long-term answer will come from next April’s draft.
• Another big play from second-year player Andrew Van Ginkel, this time a blocked punt. Last week it was a fumble return for a touchdown. Sure looks like he has a knack for being in the right place and that’s something you just can’t teach.
• The offensive line did not give up a sack against a pretty good defensive front and that’s so important as Tua develops. Keep in mind three rookies are playing prominent roles. • One stat that will surely go unnoticed: The Dolphins committed just three penalties for 15 yards. They were among the least penalized teams in the league a season ago and that’s where they are again. Smart. Disciplined. Well-coached. If you’re looking for a reason for five straight victories, that’s got to be near the top