Just past the halfway mark in this 2020 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins picked up win number six after beating the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Their 6-3 record is keeping them in second place in the AFC East division for now behind the Buffalo Bills who are currently just a half-game ahead of them, standing at 7-3, following their week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Dolphins Looked in Control Almost All of Sunday
The Dolphins held onto an eight-point lead to close out Sunday’s win against the Chargers, 29-21. This came after a 17-7 Miami halftime lead. Despite it coming down to one score, plus a two-point conversion in the end, the game was almost never in question for the Dolphins. They grabbed the lead 122 seconds in and never lost it, again, thanks to their defense and special teams. The win gives Miami’s rookie quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, an outstanding rookie record of an undefeated 3-0. The loss for LA and rookie Justin Herbert on the other hand, makes it six losses by one score on the year for them as they sit at 2-7.
Tagovailoa, Not Herbert, Looks to be the Right Call So Far
While early, Miami head coach Brian Flores and General Manager Chris Grier have to be happy with selecting Tagovailoa in the No. 5 spot in the 2020 NFL draft and watching Herbert slide to the No. 6 selection, as of now.
“I would say I’m comfortable, but a lot of that starts from practice, just being able to talk with our center, Ted (Karras), on Thursdays, going over our protections, just being able to talk to the offensive line about what I’m thinking and then hearing from them what they’re thinking, talking to the receivers, what we’re thinking, and just kind of a combined thought process for all of us together to all kind of be on the same page,” Tagovailoa said. “I think that’s where, you know, probably not just me, but everyone feels most comfortable, it starts from practice and then it translates to the game.”
Strong Practice Performances Elevated Salvon Ahmed
Speaking of strong practices, Miami used its week of practice leading up to Sunday’s game to make a key decision.
With running back Myles Gaskin set to miss his second straight game as he’s on injured reserve and backup Matt Breida factoring as a true game-time decision, Flores had to figure out who his starting back would be.
Would he turn to Patrick Laird who stepped into the role last season when the Dolphins were in a RB carousel? Use DeAndre Washington who was recently acquired at the trade deadline who is a run-game and pass-catching threat? How about Lynn Bowden Jr. who Miami has been grooming since trading for him from Las Vegas in the offseason? A no-name Salvon Ahmed who was the leading rusher a week prior, but with a small sample size?
Well, Flores went with Ahmed based on his work ethic in practice and it paid off.
If you were paying attention then you actually saw Ahmed silently climb the depth chart to Brieda’s backup toward the end of the week, putting him in-line to start should Breida be ruled out.
Nevertheless, he carried the ball a whopping 21 times for 85 yards and punched in a one-yard touchdown.
“Just practicing hard and asking questions. Not being too proud to ask questions. There’s a lot of older guys in that room and a lot of guys on this team that want to help, especially guys, young guys like me, first year. This team is a family, so I just ask a lot of questions and go out there and attack practice the best I can,” Ahmed said. It’s another game for us, and just be ready for anything and that’s how we attack every week – just being ready. Every running back in that room, knowing that we got to step up, so getting closer to the week it was just do what I’ve been coached to do this whole week and let’s go get a W.”
Former Dolphin Kalen Ballage Started for LA
On the other side of the ball, Miami saw a familiar face.
The starting RB for the Chargers was former Dolphin Kalen Ballage who was cut this offseason. Ballage had 23 total touches in the game for 102 yards. He carried the ball 18 times for 68 yards and added another five receptions for 34 yards.
LA was missing its top two backs as well with Austin Ekeler on long-term IR and Justin Jackson on short-term IR. The Dolphins struggled in the second half for a short span with Ballage, but eventually got in under control and put the game away.
Flores Still Pointed Out Improvements Miami Can Make
Still, Flores was critical of Miami’s performance and saw areas for improvement.
“I think we can improve in a lot of areas – run game, drop-back, third down, third-and-one, red zone, two-minute, o-line can play better, backs can play better, quarterbacks can make better decisions, receivers can do a better job getting open,” Flores said. “It hasn’t been perfect, that’s for sure. There’s always room for improvement and I think the guys will work towards making those improvements.”
He also continued though and said “I think guys have worked together. I think we have a team full of guys who football is important to them, competing is important to them, communicating is important to them. And I think they bought into the – let’s call it working together as a team and working hard and preparing and giving ourselves an opportunity to compete. We’ve seen some good results from that and they continue to buy into those things.”
The Miami Dolphins will get ready for a two-game road trip against the 3-6 Denver Broncos and the 0-9 New York Jets.
Kayla Morton contributed to this article.
– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also a co-host on the Full Press Fantasy Podcast. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.