EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As if there wasn’t enough cloud cover Sunday over MetLife Stadium, New York Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers provided plenty of shade after his team lost 24-17 to the Miami Dolphins.
Franklin-Myers’ comments focused on Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 27 of 33 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns with one interception — notably that Tagovailoa threw up “prayers” throughout the game.
“Sometimes prayers are answered,” Franklin-Myers said.
Those prayers have been answered a lot more often during Miami’s current three-game winning streak.
The Dolphins were one of three teams not to record any plays of 50 or more yards during the first eight weeks of the season, during which they compiled a 1-7 record. But they have done so an NFL-leading three times since Week 9, including a 65-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Mack Hollins that ended a drought of five straight scoreless drives.
It was Miami’s longest play of the season and the longest play of both Tagovailoa’s and Hollins’ careers — and it wasn’t even drawn up for Hollins.
“The first progression on that play was [tight end] Mike Gesicki, and when I came off of Mike, there were about three people, including the safety, that were on him,” Tagovailoa said. “It turned out Mack was wide open, so I threw it down to him and he made the play. We came back to the sideline and realized how open he was.”
Elijah Riley (33) and Isaiah Dunn (27) both converge on Albert Wilson, leaving Mack Hollins wide open.
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) November 21, 2021
Miami scored on its opening drive but Tagovailoa threw his sixth interception of the season on the third play of the following drive. He and the offense struggled to get things going from there, mustering just 85 yards on 24 plays over their next five series.
But Hollins’ message to his quarterback after the long touchdown pass was simple — three words: “I told you.”
They knew the play would be there eventually, despite the lapse between scoring drives. That’s been a microcosm of Miami’s offense the past two weeks, when it has hit on plays of 52, 64 and 65 yards; take away those three plays, and its offense has averaged just 4.5 yards per play.
But catching your opponent sleeping is part of football, particularly in a league where games often come down to a handful of plays. It’s something the Dolphins kept in mind during Sunday’s win.
“It was definitely a big sigh for us offensively,” Tagovailoa said. “We really wanted to find our rhythm in the game, obviously the interception kind of stopped us but I would say that’s what I’m most proud of [regarding] our offense. We continued to put our heads down, continued to fight.
“We had some mishaps but it didn’t matter.”
Here comes the a dose of reality though — the Baltimore Ravens and Jets, the teams Miami beat the past two weeks, entered their respective games against the Dolphins with the league’s second-worst passing defense. The “prayers” Tagovailoa threw up Sunday might fall on deaf ears next week against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m., ET, Fox), whose defense entered Week 11 allowing an NFL-best 174.2 passing yards per game and owns the fourth-best pass rush win rate.
But it’s not about racking up yards against a stingy defense — it’s about making that defense pay for any mistakes.
“At some point, it’s going to hit. When they make a mistake, we have to capitalize on it,” Hollins said. “Because if they make a mistake and we don’t [capitalize on it], that might’ve been the one drive where we could’ve had a good rep.”