Miami Dolphins Survive Sunday Night Showdown, Defense Helps Tua Against the Steelers

Dolphins Defense Tua Steelers

Miami Gardens, FL – Fins fans “waited all day for Sunday Night”, as Carrie Underwood sings to get us all hyped up. The narratives were all there! The Miami Dolphins welcomed back starting QB, Tua Tagovailoa, fresh off the concussion protocol. Former Dolphins head coach, and resident Tua hater, Brian Flores stood on the other side, now senior defense assistant and linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His lawsuit is still pending. Also, the Fins were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Perfect Season. However, it was never going to be a great game, so we had to watch the Dolphins defense carry a rusty Tua to a 16-10 win over the Steelers on national television.

Tua Gonna Tua

In case you listen to the Lemon City Live podcast, you might remember that my key to Tua leading Miami to victory was for him to take it easy and be more of a game manager. He had to limit his mistakes and not take too many risky chances. I felt like he was going to be rusty coming back. I was right. Any momentum built early on had been halted due to his concussion.

However, Tua decided to go another route. He thought it best to meet his opposition head-on. Literally. Not even a full week after telling the media that he was going to throw the ball away more (instead of tacking sacks) and slide more (instead of taking a hit), he decided to lower his shoulder into a defender on a broken down play where he scrambled for yardage.

Likewise, knowing full well that his former head coach was coaching the defense on the opposite sideline, knowing all of his tendencies, Tua thought it would be a great idea to “air it out”. Miami’s lucky those Steelers’ DBs’ hands are about as terrible as their towels because they dropped four sure-fire interceptions. That is the biggest reason Miami pulled off the victory. You don’t win games when you don’t take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes.

All that being said, Miami’s best chance is with Tua at the helm. He has all the tools necessary to lead Miami to a chip, but he still has some growing to do before he can make that happen.

Dolphins Defense Bails Out Tua

This Dolphins’ defense has taken a lot of flack this season for giving up yards and big plays to opposing teams. However, against the Steelers, Miami took advantage of the young QB, Kenny Pickett, intercepting him three times during the course of the game. Although those turnovers only led to three points, a field goal after Pickett’s 1st INT of the game, they were all crucial. The last two INTs ended Pittsburgh drives where they were moving the ball efficiently into Miami territory. Jevon Holland and Noah Igbinoghene took the wind out of Pittsburgh’s sails with those clutch plays. Noah’s ended the game. Justin Bethel made the 1st INT that led to a Fins field goal. He also led the team in solo tackles (7). Andrew Van Ginkel was all over the place, leading the team with 10 total tackles, some in clutch moments to prevent a 1st down.

However, the Defensive Player of the Game goes to Jaelan Phillips. The former Miami Hurricane had eight total tackles, with two for loss. He also had 1.5 sacks. The best way to beat a rookie QB is to pressure him, and no one did that better on Sunday than Phillips.

Miami Survives

Despite all the mistakes by Tua, Miami’s defense earned the victory for the squad. On the other hand, gone are the days when the phrase “defense wins championships” was a mantra to live by. Today’s NFL teams win by running up the scoreboard. Miami has shown that they can do that. They defeated the Ravens in week 2, 42-38. The very next week, they defeated Buffalo by getting it done on both sides of the ball, winning 21-19.

Every team faces adversity. Miami’s adversity came in the form of QB injuries. Nonetheless, Sunday’s win over a tough Steelers team was a successful start toward weathering the storm. The challenge isn’t over though.

Moving Forward

Tua needs to prove that he’s got what it takes to learn from mistakes midseason and grow from week to week. Sunday was not a great example of that as it took the Dolphins Defense to help Tua defeat the Steelers. He needs to relax and not force the issue so much. He has a tendency of being a little overzealous. If he sticks to the game plan, making small improvements every week, while rebuilding his early season momentum, he’ll be fine. Opposing defenses know that he gets flustered when pressured, so one of his main focus points should be to minimize mistakes, even if that means playing a little conservative. He’s got two #top5 wide receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle. And, not to mention that the Fins are finally running the ball well with Raheem Mostert. Tua needs to rely on his playmakers to make plays. He doesn’t need to be a playmaker. He needs to be a field general. The defense will put Miami in a position to win as long as Tua and the offense don’t give the game away.

Next up, Miami begins a very favorable schedule as they face the 1-5 Detroit Lions on the road. Miami won’t face a winning team until they play the Chargers on Dec. 11th.

Fins Up Juice

  • Sunday’s W was the 500th victory in franchise history (including playoffs), and it took place as the franchise celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Perfect Season!
  • Miami has a 9-1 record in its last 10 games at Hard Rock Stadium. It’s the best 10-game home stretch for the Dolphins since they went 9-1 from Dec. 30, 2001 to Dec. 15, 2002.
  • Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle rank #1 & #4 respectively in receiving yards after week 7. They also rank #1 & #2 respectively in 20+ yard catches. They are currently the best WR duo in the league.
  • Tua Tagovailoa has a 10-2 record in his last 12 starts.

Photo | Miami Dolphins

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