It's just so Dolphins.
After 7 losses in a row and a 1-7 start to the season, Miami made it back to 7-7 on Sunday with a 31-24 win at home over the New York Jets, their sixth straight win.
As a lifelong Dolphins fan, they've put me through the ringer on many occasions. Those seven straight losses at the start the season were like a gut punch. The defense was horrid when we thought it would be elite. Coaching decisions were frustrating, and worst of all, starting Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was underperforming and spending time on the injured list.
But as they've done so many times, they find a way of turning it around and giving the fans hope (sometimes false hope) that a playoff run could be looming.
The deeper we've gotten into 2021, the more the Dolphins defensive numbers are looking like we thought they would. With a season-high 6 sacks yesterday, the team now has 37 on the year, tied for fourth in the NFL. Their 21 takeaways are tied for ninth most in the league. The defense showed up big against the Jets in the second half, not allowing a point on that side of the ball after halftime.
The running game had been an issue for Miami all season, and they solved it by bringing former University of Miami running back and 7 year NFL veteran Duke Johnson up from the practice squad to make a start. He thanked the Dolphins for the opportunity by having a career game, 102 yards with 2 touchdowns. The team thanked him back by signing him off the practice squad to the active roster for the rest of the season.
But most importantly for Miami, the rise of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. As improbable as this current 6 game win streak is, Tua rising to the top of the charts in passing efficiency is just as surprising. He is now first in completion percentage in the NFL at 69.9% of passes complete.
In Sunday's game against the Jets, Tua didn't get off to a good start. He fumbled a snap on his first 3rd down of the game forcing Miami to punt. He also threw an interception on his first pass of the game on the team's second possession. But none of that bothered him as he went to lead touchdown drive after touchdown drive. He most likely took his early-game anger on this run. TRUCK-STICK!
That run, where instead of avoiding the contact he looked for it, showed that this dude is not scared. He's ready to risk it all to win. You know that's getting a ton of run in team film sessions, and has earned Tua even more respect in that locker room. The team and his teammates trust him.
For the entirety of his short career, Tagovailoa has been compared to Justin Herbert of the LA Chargers who was taken just after Tua in the NFL draft. Two very different quarterbacks, both under the microscope. Herbert may pass the eye test with his big arm and frame. Tua who suffered a multitude of injuries in college at Alabama, and a few smaller injuries already in the NFL, has had his durability questioned quite a bit. That may not change, but his play style has. Not just how far his passes are flying but also his grit and tenacity and command on the field.
Am I overly optimistic? Probably. This is what the hope Miami gives us fans every season around this time does to us. Obviously I'm already dreading the fact that this very piece is jinxing Miami into losing. We'll see how it goes for all us of next Monday night when the Dolphins travel to the voodoo Dome in New Orleans to face the Saints.