3 Takeaways from Dolphins' Week 16 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2021

3 Takeaways from Dolphins' Week 16 Win

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins won their seventh straight contest on Monday night to put themselves in position for a playoff push. They handled the New Orleans Saints in a physical and absence-impacted game that featured rookie quarterback Ian Book in for the Saints.

    The Dolphins harassed Book all game long, sacking him eight times and snagging two interceptions—one which Nik Needham returned for the game's first touchdown.

    It was a dominant defensive performance by Miami, and while the offense wasn't overly impressive, Tua Tagovailoa and Co. did enough for the decisive 20-3 win. For now, the Dolphins move into the No. 7 seed in the AFC.

    It's remarkable that Miami is in a playoff position after starting the season 1-7, and it's becoming clear that the Dolphins shouldn't hit the panic button with Tagovailoa or coach Brian Flores in the offseason. Here's what else we learned during Miami's Week 16 win.

Jaylen Waddle Was Worth the Draft-Day Maneuvering

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Before the 2021 draft, the Dolphins traded out of the No. 3 spot to allow the San Francisco 49ers to chase a quarterback. They then trade back up to No. 6, netting the Philadelphia Eagles' selection and ensuring that they could land one of the top pass-catching prospects.

    With the sixth selection, Miami took Alabama product and former Tagovailoa teammate Jaylen Waddle. Monday's game was another sign that moving up to get Waddle was a smart move.

    The Dolphins mustered only 259 yards of offense against New Orleans and were just five of 15 on first downs. However, Waddle consistently found holes in the Saints secondary, finishing with 10 catches, 92 yards and a touchdown. It was not a one-off performance by the rookie.

    As Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski recently suggested, Waddle may have pushed his way into consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year. His 10 catches tied a Monday Night Football rookie record, and he is now six receptions away from breaking Anquan Boldin's single-season rookie record.

    In all, Waddle has 96 catches, 941 receiving yards and five touchdowns. While the Dolphins offense hasn't been particularly consistent this season, Waddle has constantly been great.

Miami's Defense Will Be a Problem for Opponents If It Reaches the Playoffs

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Here's something we've learned during Miami's seven-game winning streak. Miami's defense has the talent and the drive to be special. Attacking quarterbacks and the football has become a goal for Dolphins defenders down the stretch.

    "You're going to do everything humanly possible to get after that ball," rookie pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips said, per Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post. "It's a choice. I feel like you're kind of a coward if you don't."

    The Dolphins have allowed 250 or fewer total yards in four straight games. They've notched a takeaway in every game during the winning streak. They've allowed no more than 102 rushing yards since Week 5. On Monday, they embarrassed New Orleans.

    In addition to totaling eight sacks and two turnovers, the Dolphins defense allowed just 164 yards of total offense. Book had a passer rating of 40.6 while completing only 12 of 20 attempts. New Orleans did not convert a single third-down opportunity and was only 1-of-3 on fourth down.

    If the Dolphins can reach the postseason, opponents are not going to want to see this defense.

It's a Shame That Miami Stumbled Early in the Season

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Here's the problem for Miami. While it is one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now, it still might miss the postseason. Two tough games against the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots remain. Losing either of them could knock Miami out of the postseason.

    As well as the Dolphins have played over the last two months, their early struggles may cost them dearly.

    There was an overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3, a two-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7 and the loss in London to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6. Those are regrettable outcomes because winning any one of those would have given Miami a bit of a cushion heading into January.

    And, those are teams that this Miami squad—in its current incarnation—would likely have handled, if not rolled through.

    There's no clear reason why it took two months for the Dolphins to get rolling, but it's a shame that it happened. The team we've seen in recent weeks deserves to be in the playoffs. The Dolphins now must beat Tennessee and New England to prove that.

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