We’ll talk about Tua in a minute. But the story on Sunday in the 19-7 victory over the Bengals was undoubtedly the Dolphins defense. Just as it has been for most of this surprising 8-4 start.
The defense dominated, playing as well as it has all season, holding the Bengals to minus yards in the second half until the final minutes. All told, there were two interceptions – yes, one of them by Xavien Howard, his eighth of the season – and six sacks.
Throw in four field goals by Jason “Automatic” Sanders and a nice touchdown drive to open the second half and that’s how the Dolphins have been winning games through two-thirds of the season.
The defense dominating. The special teams with a decisive edge. And just enough offense to get by. That’s what this team is about. That’s their identity as the schedule gets a whole lot tougher from here on out.
It begins next Sunday against Kansas City and we’re about to find out how good this Dolphins defense really is. You do it against teams like the Jets and Bengals and it’s nice. You do it against the best offense in the league in the Chiefs and you’re talking about validating everything that has gone on this season.
While this defense is improved, I’m not quite sure it is Chiefs ready. But I can tell you this. They’ll play well enough to keep things interesting. Whether they can hold on without ample help from the offense is a legitimate and major concern.
And this where we get to Tua. He struggled in the first half on Sunday. Couldn’t put much together. But then he began the second half with a beautiful touchdown drive that screamed of the possibilities of having this rookie behind center. His touch was right on. His movement was excellent. There was balance on offense. And the drive was culminated with one of those nice touches, a touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki.
You’ve got to understand something about this offense. It is what it is. There are very few playmakers. Miles Gaskin is a nice running back, but in no manner does he approach elite. For this offense to get by, Tua has to be the conductor, spreading the ball around, using his superior athletic skills, doing all the types of things he did in that drive to open the second half.
Fortunately for the Dolphins, that’s all they really needed against the Bengals. With Sanders kicking and this defense dominating, the outcome seemed far more secure than the final score might indicate.
Unfortunately, the game was interrupted and marred by a couple of incidents that resulted in the ejection of, most notably, wide receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Xavien Howard. No doubt the Bengals appeared to be the instigator. But it is imperative that this team maintains its composure. They aren’t good enough to lose players like Parker and Howard. They were fortunate it didn’t make a difference this time.
At one point, Coach Brian Flores charged the field, having to be restrained, when things were getting heated. He was praised for it by his players after the game and rightfully so. But you really shouldn’t be surprised. This is what Flores about. His team is his family. He has instilled that belief in his players. One of the many reasons he gives this team real long-term stability. But we’ll worry about the future later. This team is 8-4 for the first time since 2003. This team has a real shot at making the playoffs. This team is growing up before our eyes. Now, it’s about the Chiefs and by far the stiffest test of the season.