Talk of Tua can stop again at least for a little while.
The Dolphins proved Thursday night they have a more than capable veteran quarterback leading this team, certainly until Tua’s moment arrives.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, as he reminded us against the Jaguars, can still be awfully good. Even at 37 going on 38.
Fitzpatrick threw for a pair of touchdowns, ran for another, engineered four long-distance drives, completed a personal record 12 straight passes to start the game and generally put together the type of overall performance that is essential if these Dolphins plan on being in the playoff picture deep into December.
It wasn’t only a get-well night for Fitzpatrick in the 31-13 victory. It was a step forward for an entire team that looked far too anemic in the opening two losses. The running game was efficient enough behind Myles Gaskin, the offensive line gave Fitzpatrick the time and running lanes he needed, the defense unveiled its first semblance of a consistent pass rush and the secondary, maligned after a terrible performance against the Bills, got a late interception from Xavien Howard and generally looked much sharper against an injury-depleted Jaguars receiving corp.
So what does all this mean in the big picture? It means the Dolphins can feel better about themselves than they did a few days ago. It means there is hope that this team can win more games than last season’s five. It means that the veteran free agents signed to help improve this defense can do exactly that, even though it sure didn’t look like it in those opening two losses. It means that the time off between now and a week from Sunday’s matchup against Seattle can be spent more with a smile than a shrug.
No doubt 1-2 sounds a lot better than 0-3. Feels a lot better as well.
But clearly the biggest takeaway from Thursday night’s victory was the performance of Fitzpatrick and how he still has the tools to have an unforgettable night like this one. I mean what else do you need to know other than the numbers: 18 of 20 for 160 yards, his 90 percent completion percentage a new career high. Did I mention he scored on a quarterback draw and had a couple of nice first down runs as well?
This is how the Dolphins will win games this season. This is the formula they need. Fitzpatrick sharp and accurate, the running game good enough to provide balance, the defense forcing turnovers, the pass rush producing four sacks and generally this team playing with a level of poise and efficiency that is mandatory to win in today’s NFL.
So yes, you should be feeling better about this team right now. We now after this win over the Jaguars have a clear vision of the upside. But before you enjoy this one too much, it must be tempered with a dose of reality: This was just one game against a bottom level team. To be respected in this league and to be considered an ascending team you’ve got to show consistency. You’ve got to prove it against better teams. You’ve got to do it Sunday after Sunday. Not only on Thursdays.
So, through three weeks we have seen how poorly this team can play (Buffalo) and how well (Jacksonville). Now we need to see more. Now we see if they can build on this, if Fitzpatrick can follow this performance with a similar one and if these positive steps taken against the Jaguars can be duplicated, or at least close to it, against the likes of Seattle and San Francisco, the next two opponents.
These are the challenges that lie ahead. Beating the Jaguars was a nice way to start. But it was only a start. This team still needs to get a whole lot better before any conclusions can be formed. For now, it was sweet seeing Fitzpatrick play so well. That’s the biggest storyline to take away from a night this Dolphins’ team desperately needed.