MIAMI GARDENS — The Miami Dolphins needed some redemption on Sunday, and they found it in a big way with a 31-17 victory over New England.
Before looking ahead to next week’s showdown against defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City in Germany, let’s review how the Dolphins maintained their hold on first place in the AFC East and improved their record to 6-2.
The victory sets up a Game of the Week/No. 1 seed in the AFC battle between the Dolphins and the Chiefs. The winner doesn’t get the No. 1 seed in the AFC at this point in the season, of course, but the winner gets a head-to-head tiebreaker, if needed, which could be huge.
But let’s wrap up the New England victory before looking ahead.
Here are some other takeaways from Sunday:
Secondary takes on new look
Ramsey started at right cornerback and Eli Apple at left cornerback, the spot usually occupied by Xavien Howard, who missed his second consecutive game with a groin injury.
That means the long-awaited cornerback pairing of three-time All Pro Ramsey with four-time Pro Bowl selection Howard will have to wait for another time, perhaps next week’s game against Kansas City in Germany.
Ramsey unofficially caused a fumble early in the second quarter when he hit wide receiver Demario Davis but a Patriots holding call negated the play.
The secondary did an excellent job of competing short-handed, and it should be better next week when Howard should return. — Chris Perkins
Eichenberg, Cotton start on OL, and then …
The Dolphins had four backups and one starter on the offensive line after right guard Rob Hunt went down with a hamstring injury midway through the second quarter. Right tackle Austin Jackson was their only starter on the field.
Liam Eichenberg made his fourth start at center while Lester Cotton made his second start at left guard as the Miami offensive line continues to work through its injury situation. Add in left tackle Kendall Lamm and you have a slew of backups playing.
After the Hunt injury, Miami had Lamm at left tackle, Robert Jones at left guard, Eichenberg at center, Cotton at right guard and Jackson at right tackle.
And then Lamm sustained a hamstring injury late in the first half, meaning Kion Smith had to come in at left tackle and center Connor Williams, who didn’t start because he’s battling a groin ailment, was the only offensive lineman who hadn’t played.
Lamm returned, Hunt didn’t.
Tyreek Hill excels, as we expected
New England coach Bill Belichick held wide receiver Tyreek Hill to 40 yards on five receptions when these teams played earlier this year. Hill, who ended with eight reception for 112 yards and one touchdown, handled that on his first reception of the game, a 42-yard touchdown.
Hill, who has a goal of 2,000 yards receiving, which would establish an NFL record, now has 1,014 yards receiving through eight games.
Don’t forget when these teams met last year Hill had 55 yards on four receptions, so he entered with back-to-back less-than-expected yardage performances against New England.
The refs might actually like the Dolphins
Miami got breaks on back-to-back plays, a sharp contrast from what fans would have thought a week ago when the Dolphins were called for 10 penalties and the Philadelphia Eagles had none.
In the third quarter referees picked up a flag for ineligible man downfield, and then shortly afterward tight end Durham Smythe jumped but only after a Patriots player jumped and it was ruled an encroachment on the defense.
In truth, both were good calls by referees.
But the Dolphins did a good job managing their penalties.
Miami, which entered the game tied for sixth in the league with 45 penalties, ended with three penalties for 25 yards.
Tua’s interception total almost equal to last year in five fewer games
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw an interception Sunday and now has seven in eight games this season after having eight in 13 games last season.
Tagovailoa was also charged with a fumble after a botched exchange between him and running back Raheem Mostert resulted in a turnover. Tagovailoa has also been charged with a slew of fumbles due to bad exchanges between him and Williams regardless of who was at fault. Consequently, Tagovailoa has seven fumbles this season.
Waddle has best game of season (and maybe two drops)
Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who has been battling a back injury recently, had a season best 121 yards receiving on seven receptions and one touchdown, meaning both him and Hill exceeded 100 yards receiving in the same game for the first time this season.
That’s an encouraging sign heading into next week’s showdown against Kansas City in Germany.
Waddle, however, appeared to drop two passes Sunday, matching his season total entering the game, according to Pro Football Focus.
One perceived drop was with a defender on his back in the third quarter and another other was on a wide open sideline route. Granted, the latter pass was thrown behind Waddle a bit, but it’s a catch he should have made.
Regardless, Waddle is on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving.
Waddle, who has had more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of his two NFL seasons, entered the game with 30 receptions for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
Late in the game Waddle had a pass thrown behind him and low. It hit his hands, and perhaps he’d say he should have caught it, but it would have been a tough catch.
Turnover margin gets worse
The Dolphins entered the game minus-4 in turnover margin and committed two while only producing one so they’re now at minus-5 for the season.
Tagovailoa threw an interception Sunday and Mostert lost a fumble while Ramsey had an interception.
If you’re looking ahead, Kansas City started play this week at even in turnover margin.
Miami run game so-so
The Dolphins rushed for 81 yards on 23 carries before their final possession that included a series on kneel downs. The run game was OK against New England, but it included a lost fumble by Mostert (13 carries, 46 yards, one touchdown) and didn’t have any big plays. The longest run was 11 yards.
Miami ended with 78 yards rushing on 26 carries.
The good news is rookie running back De’Von Achane will likely return after the bye week.
Dolphins sack total increasing
Chubb now has 5.0 sacks on the season and four in the past three games.
Miami entered with 24 sacks, tied for third in the league.
Fourth downs pay off
The Dolphins were 3 of 3 on fourth downs, converting their first fourth down attempt when Tagovailoa scrambled for eight yards on fourth-and-4 from the New England 44 yard line.
The Dolphins entered the game 2-of-9 (22%) on fourth downs.
Dolphins have their first 6-2 record since 2001
The Dolphins records when they have been 6-2 entering game nine — 2001: 11-5; 2000: 11-5; 1994: 10-6; 1993: 9-7; 1992: 11-5; 1982: 7-2; 1977: 10-4; 1974: 11-3.
The Dolphins also started 7-1 in 1999 (9-7); 1990: 12-4; 1975: 10-4 and 1973: 12-2, and 8-0 in 1984 (14-2) and 1972 (14-0). In 1971, Miami began 6-1-1 en route to 10-3-1. — Steve Svekis
Now Dolphins’ schedule stiffens
The Dolphins have won their six games against teams with a win percentage of .250 (10-30) entering Week 8. Now, Miami, plays teams who, going into Week 8 had a .559 (33-26) win percentage.
If it is before December, the Dolphins are winning coin tosses
In an amazing run, the Mike McDaniel Dolphins have won 16 of 19 pregame coin tosses in games played before December. The only opponent win in those games have been the Steelers last year and the Chargers and Broncos this season. Last year after Nov. 30, Miami lost six of its seven tosses.
Jackson with another huge pass interference call
JC Jackson has committed two massive second-quarter pass interference fouls against the Dolphins this year. In the season opener while with the Chargers, his pointless shove of a Miami receiver on a Tua Tagovailoa end-of-half heave gift-wrapped a Dolphins field goal in a game they held on to win 36-34. Sunday, on a third-and-goal at the Pats’ 6, he was called for interference on Tyreek Hill on an incomplete pass. Instead of a field goal making it 10-7, Tagovailoa connected with Cedrick Wilson Jr. two plays later from a yard out for the Dolphins’ second touchdown.
Dolphins have had at least three sacks in seven of their eight games
By comparison, the Dolphins had only seven such games in each of the past two seasons.
On deck: Kansas City Chiefs, Frankfurt Stadium, Frankfurt, Germany, 9:30 a.m.
If the Dolphins have any designs on having home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs, it has to start with a win against the Chiefs, owners of the best record in the NFL heading into their 4 p.m. game Sunday. Hill finally gets his shot against Patrick Mahomes and his former teammates.