Miami Dolphins: Five in a row, and 5 instant takeaways from 29-21 victory over Chargers
MIAMI GARDENS — Another fast start, another win.
The Dolphins recorded their fifth consecutive victory Sunday night by riding rookie running back Salvon Ahmed to a 29-21 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at Hard Rock Stadium.
Ahmed flirted with a 100-yard day. He carried 21 times for 85 yards (a 4.0-yard average) and got Miami off to a good start by scoring on a 1-yard run three minutes into the game.
Tua Tagovailoa threw touchdown passes of 3 yards to Jakeem Grant and 2 to Durham Smythe.
Jason Sanders added field goals of 50, 35 and 49 yards.
The Chargers made the final score close when Keenan Allen caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert with 1:57 left. DeVante Parker recovered the ensuing onside kick.
In a matchup of two quarterbacks drafted among the top six this year, Tagovailoa went 15 of 25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Herbert, drafted one slot after Tagovailoa at No. 6, was 20 of 32 for 187 yards, two TDs and one interception.
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An added bonus occurred minutes after this game ended when Kyler Murray's Hail Mary found DeAndre Hopkins for a 43-yard touchdown with two seconds left, lifting the Arizona Cardinals over the Buffalo Bills, 32-20.
Suddenly, the Dolphins (6-3) are just a half-game behind the Bills (7-3) for first place in the AFC East.
"I’m glad the NFC West could do us a favor. I was waiting on one of them," Dolphins center Ted Karras said. "Obviously we’re in the hunt and got to keep executing and winning games and doing what we’re doing.”
The Dolphins next visit the Denver Broncos at 4:05 p.m. Sunday. The Dolphins will be seeking their sixth win in a row, matching their streak of 2016.
Here are five instant takeaways from the victory:
Ride those Huskies
With featured back Myles Gaskin on injured reserve and Matt Breida out, the Dolphins had to turn to somebody to carry the ball.
It wasn’t going to be veteran Jordan Howard, who was a healthy scratch again.
In stepped Ahmed, an undrafted rookie from the University of Washington, where he was roommates with Gaskin.
Showing a mixture of power, quickness and vision, Ahmed gladly accepted the challenge of doing the legwork for the Dolphins.
When Gaskin returns, they should make a good 1-2 punch.
A 1-2 punch nobody could have predicted when the season began.
Hats off to Crossman
Dolphins fans who don’t know who Danny Crossman is ought to study up.
Crossman is the Dolphins’ special teams coordinator. What a special group of teams he is coordinating.
The Dolphins were back at it again vs. the Chargers, this time with Andrew Van Ginkel blocking a punt minutes into the game to set up a touchdown. Jamal Perry recovered on the Chargers’ 1.
Later, Jakeem Grant pounced on a couple of opportunities to return punts for 18- and 20-yard returns, the latter of which angered him because it wasn’t longer. (Hey, they can’t all go for 88 yards.) In the second half, he added a 19-yard return.
Which brings us, oh yes, to Sanders, whose 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half was only his 21st in a row and seventh of 50 or more yards. Sanders later made it 22 straight before a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter drifted wide right, ending his streak.
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Gotta love those fast starts
Remember all those years in the Joe Philbin/Adam Gase days when you could turn on a Dolphins game late and know you hadn’t missed anything?
The Dolphins had a 1-yard TD run by Ahmed and a 3-yard TD pass from Tagovailoa to Grant in the first quarter, when they jumped ahead 14-0.
That meant the Dolphins have outscored opponents 80-31 in the first quarter this season.
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Tua the magician
There’s going to come a time, probably soon, when it looks like Tagovailoa is in a world of hurt and yet he turns it into a how-did-he-do-that play.
Tagovailoa nearly did that twice against the Chargers.
Early in the second quarter, he scooped up a low snap and immediately fired one to Parker, who made an outstanding leaping catch for 23 yards.
In the final minute of the half, Tagovailoa was nearly clocked by defensive tackle Jerry Tillery but slipped under Tillery’s grasp and nearly turned it into a 32-yard touchdown pass to Grant. The ball was just out of reach of his fingertips.
Two plays, two close calls.
It’s gonna come, though.
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Scoreboard watching, anyone?
That strange buzz that came over the crowd late in the game?
The scoreboard showed that the Cardinals had taken a 26-23 lead over the Buffalo Bills. Yes. The Dolphins have gotten good enough that fans are checking the scoreboard and imagining how the AFC East race is shaping up.
And New England isn't even in the conversation.
But this is getting interesting, isn't it?