3 Takeaways from Dolphins' Week 13 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2021

3 Takeaways from Dolphins' Week 13 Win

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins continue to roll and might march their way into the postseason. Miami picked up its fifth consecutive victory on Sunday, a 20-9 win over the New York Giants.

    At 6-7, the Dolphins are still a long shot to make the playoffs. However, they have come a long way from their 1-7 start to the season. Two of Miami's last three opponents (the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans) have winning records, but the Dolphins carry a ton of momentum into the Week 14 bye.

    And that's the biggest takeaway from Miami's latest win. The Dolphins appeared dead in the water five weeks ago, but they're still playing meaningful games in December.

    Here's what else we learned during Miami's Week 13 win against New York.

Tua Tagovailoa Is Changing the Narrative

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Much like Miami's season, the conversation surrounding Tua Tagovailoa has changed in recent weeks. The Dolphins were heavily linked to Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson before the trade deadline, and it appeared Miami was souring on the 2020 fifth overall pick.

    Since missing the Week 10 start because of a finger injury but entering and rallying Miami past the Baltimore Ravens, though, Tagovailoa has performed like a high first-round pick and a franchise quarterback.

    Against New York, Tagovailoa completed 30-of-41 attempts for 244 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Alabama product wasn't flawless, but he did enough to carry the offense on a day when it averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.

    As Matt Infante of Pro Football Network pointed out, Tagovailoa has become just the third quarterback in franchise history to post a passer rating of 100.0 or better in four consecutive games—joining Dan Marino and Chad Pennington.

    This doesn't mean that Tagovailoa has secured his position as Miami's long-term quarterback. However, he's playing well enough to make the Dolphins think twice about pursuing a signal-caller like Watson again in the offseason.

Jaylen Waddle Is Shaping Up to Be a Smart Draft-Day Get

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Tagovailoa has been helped by rookie wideout Jaylen Waddle. The fellow Alabama product was again tremendous on Sunday, catching nine of 11 targets for 90 yards.

    Waddle, who possesses elite speed, has been more than just a deep threat in Year 1. He's become a reliable top option for his quarterback and a key centerpiece of the offense. On Sunday, he broke Jarvis Landry's franchise record for receptions (84) by a rookie. He now has 85 receptions, 849 yards and four touchdowns on the season.

    Miami traded back up in the first round to secure Waddle last April. In the deal, it surrendered the No. 12 pick, the 123rd pick and the Dolphins' 2022 first-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles' 2021 first-round pick (No. 6) and a 2021 fifth-rounder.

    It was fair to wonder at the time if Waddle was worth two first-round selections, and that question is going to remain unanswered for some time. The reality, though, is that Waddle wasn't going to be available at No. 12.

    Miami traded up to get its man, and for now, the decision is paying off. Along with Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Kyle Pitts, Waddle is part of what might be a historic first-round pass-catching class.

Miami's Playoff-Caliber Defense Is Back

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Offensive players like Tagovailoa and Waddle have played their roles during Miami's in-season turnaround. However, the biggest contributor might be the Dolphins defense. Coming into Sunday, the defense had surrendered no more than 17 points in four straight games while forcing a combined 10 turnovers.

    "I think it's everybody buying in and setting that high standard, and everybody coming in and buying in and doing their job to the best of their ability," linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel said, per Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald. "Trusting that the guy behind you and the guy beside you that they are going to do their job."

    The defense was again great against the Giants. It limited New York to nine points, 250 offensive yards and a mere 3.9 yards per play.

    Over the past month, the Dolphins defense has more closely resembled the unit that nearly carried Miami into the playoffs a year ago. The 2020 Dolphins didn't make the postseason, of course, but they did rank an impressive sixth in points allowed.

    If the Dolphins get into the playoffs this year, the defense will likely be leading the charge.