Merry Christmas Dolfans! Doesn’t a 6 game win streak feel good? Doesn’t being 7-7 after we started 1-7 feel so good? Doesn’t being in the playoff hunt after everything feel good? All in time for Christmas, what more could we want?
So I’m riding the good vibes and compiling a run down of my favorite plays of the season so far. I was going to do ten, but the pun of 12 Plays of Christmas was just too irresistible. So we have 12 Dolphins plays, based on nothing but my own opinion and level of hype and enjoyment in each one.
Sit back and re-live some of the highlights of our season, it has been a joy to look back on and has me hopefully and re-hyped in time for Monday Night Football in the Superdome.
And this run-down starts with…
- Jevon Holland, Interception, vs Houston Texans
With our third pick of this year’s draft, and our first pick in round 2, some fans wanted a running back. Some wanted a center. Some wanted a linebacker. What we got was Jevon Holland, a surprise to a lot of fans but MAN has he proven himself.
With under 5 minutes of the 1st quarter played, score tied at 0-0 the Texans had a 3rd and 1 just outside the Miami redzone. But the pass rush got through the protection and forced QB Tyrod Taylor to play quickly, he decided to throw for the endzone but instead of finding his receiver, he found Miami’s new #8, streaking across the endzone to make the INT in the corner of the aqua endzone.
His first career interception, celebrated by Miami fans all over the globe. Our next secondary star had arrived.
- Xavien Howard, Scoop and Score, vs Baltimore Ravens
Xavien Howard and turnovers is a long and storied relationship. He has many notches on his turnover post and this one was a beauty, not the only one in this list either. More famed for spectacular interceptions matched up with WR1s from all over the league, this one played out a little different.
Playing the Baltimore Ravens with only 2 wins to our name on prime time national television filled a lot of Miami fans with pessimism, but we all clung to the mantra of “On any given Sunday.” And Boy did it pay off.
Our defense had DOMINATED. Lemar Jackson had looked like one of the better QBs in the league until this game, yet here we were in the 4th Quarter, 11 minutes left in the game and our defense had held the Ravens to just 3 points. With the score 9-3 in favor of the Dolphins, the Ravens had a 3rd and 10 on their own 42 yard line. Jackson dropped back and fired towards Sammy Watkins, who was judged after review to have caught the ball and made a footballing move forward.
Enter Xavien Howard who didn’t just tackle, but ripped the ball free from Watkins’ hands, spun round and scooped up the ball himself, and set off. Getting some crucial blocks from his teammates, Howard slalomed down the touchline between blockers and Ravens before eventually crossing the goal line to put Miami into an even more commanding position.
- Jaylon Waddle, First Career TD, vs New England Patriots
We go back to week one for this one. In fact no, let’s go back to April and ROUND 1. At number #6, with many fantastic prospects on the board including plenty of Wide Receivers, the Miami Dolphins selected Jaylon Waddle, and much was expected from him. It didn’t take him long to deliver.
Back to week one, and not just any week one either. Divisional rivals the New England Patriots, in Foxborough and one hell of a close game. 3rd Quarter and 11 minutes left of it, at this point the score was 10-10 and Miami had worked themselves into a 1st and goal on the Patriots 3 yard line.
Setting up with Malcolm Brown in the backfield the Patriots had players seemingly expecting the run, and when Tua dropped back and faked the handoff it bought enough seconds to finish the actual play. Because not every Patriot bought the fake, and as the ball made its way into the hands of rookie Jaylon Waddle he had to shake the grasps of Kyle Dugger before diving through Joejuan Williams on the goal-line.
As Michael Deiter screamed in celebration, “first one baby, first one”, the first one of a potentially record breaking year for our first-round rookie.
- Jevon Holland, HUGE Hit, vs Baltimore Ravens
Second appearance on the list for Jevon Holland and a second visit to that Baltimore Ravens game. This stime we go right to the start of the game and a play that really set the tone for this new look Miami defense.
We hadn’t even had a minute of gameplay by this stage, obviously the score still 0-0 with the Ravens in a 2nd and 6 mid way in side their own half. QB Lemar Jackson hands the ball off to the man in motion, Wide Receiver Devin Duverney.
The play was looking good for the Ravens, Duverney had got a step on his coverage corner back Xavien Howard who was chasing across his own defense to try and meet Duverney for the tackle. And things continue to go well for Duverney as Xavien Howard collides with Justin Coleman giving the ball carrier room to get the first down and more…
And then comes Holland. With Duverney concentrating on the chasing pack as he sprints down the touchline, Jevon Holland meets him shoulder to shoulder and EXPLODES into the tackle. Devin Duverney in return EXPLODES into the Ravens sideline, colliding with coaching staff members as he fires out of play.
A fantastic tackle from Jevon Holland, a tackle which set the tone for the game, for the defensive turnaround and we haven’t looked back since.
- Christian Wilkins, Offensive TD, vs New York Jets
Who doesn’t love a big man TD? Well Christian Wilkins certainly done. You’ll remember that Wilkins actually already had a TD last year in the game against the Bengals, so this maybe shouldn’t have been such a surprise.
In fact Wilkins suits up for the offense more often than you might think, usually acting as a full back to clear way for a running back to burst through, as much as any Miami RB actually ‘bursts’ that is. This play set up in the same way, with a Running Back in the back field and Tua rolling to the side of Wilkins for the hand-off. But Wilkins didn’t move forward looking for Jets players to smash into.
Instead he turned and rushed in the direction of the goal line pylon, Tua scrabbling back away from a pash rusher with enough moments of time to elevate the ball over the collision of bodies and into the hands of the big man.
If you watch, you can see Wilkins desperately trying to position his arms trying to secure the ball, perhaps hoping to avoid the chaos of the Bengals TD where the ball ended up on the ground amongst that play before behind confirmed a TD. No doubts this time though as Wilkins secured the ball in relative freedom on a touchdown pass from Tua.
The chaos followed next with thre celebrations for the price of one, a leap into the crowd, a near perfect worm all finished with a spinerooni, it was clear that Wilkins enjoyed that even more than we did.
- Jealan Phillips, First Solo Sack, vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The third rookie to make his way onto this list, and a rookie who started slower in comparison to his first round team mate. In fact it took Jaelen Phillips until week 5 to record his first solo sack, which has the impatient fans in the fanbase calling him a bust. Madness really, the impatience of certain sectors, and he has more than proven the doubters wrong since then, currently only 1.5 sacks away from double figures. A feat that if he achieves he would be only the 25th player in NFL history to achieve in a rookie year.
But back to week 5, and his first NFL solo sack, and what an accolade it was. Against non other than Superbowl dominant and long term Dolphins rival, the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady.
On a first and 10, a hair short of the half way mark, we were in the 3rd quarter with 4.49 left to play before the 4th. In a game that eventually ran away from the Dolphins, at this stage was only 24-17, merely one touchdown behind. If we could force a turnover of some kind, we could be back in the game.
So up stepped rookie Phillips, who burst into the blocker, standing him up on first contact before blasting through him with the second phase of the rush, he had Brady in his sights. Brady could see him coming too and knew he couldn’t evade him. Brady accepted defeat, and shrunk ready to go to ground as Phillips fired into him and competed the sack.
What a way to get your first solo sack, and what a target to get it on too. A shame it didn’t enable us to victory but it was the beginning of a fantastic year one story so far for our rookie out of the U.
- Robert Hunt, Touchdown That Never Was, vs Baltimore Ravens
I asked before for anyone who doesn’t love a big man touchdown. Well here’s one that never was, and yet here it is at #6 on my list as it will go down in Dolphins folklore for a long time to come. This time it was an offensive lineman who made a move for the goal-line, Big Bob Hunt.
We’re back to the Ravens game, back into the 4th quarter, and with the game at 6-3 in favor of Miami. with 13 minutes left on the game clock, and neither team had taken offensive control of this game. 3rd and goal on the 6 yard line, Tua takes the snap and sees the OLine crumble from the left-hand side, not for the first time this season.
So he attempts to dump the ball off to Myles Gaskin to save the play and see if his RB can create any sort of threat, only the ball never reached Gaskin; instead, it was lineman Robert Hunt who took the ball. What happened next bordered on the majestic.
He caught the ball… then set off running. Not only that, a tackle flew in at him inside the first few steps, but Hunt stepped inside the tackle and watched him fly by as if he was a seasoned running back. He kept going, thundering towards the endzone, and was met by two Ravens defenders who attempted to halt the play.
But Hunt wasn’t done. He was flipped in the air by the contact yet still had the presence of mind to extend his arms, whilst flying backward, face up to the sky and break the plane of the goal line with the ball. Seemingly touchdown Dolphins!
Apart from one thing, Robert Hunt, of course, had not reported eligible on the play. He couldn’t take the pass, he couldn’t score the touchdown, but he could create a memory that will stay with Dolphins fans for a long, long time.
- Tua Tagovailoa, Trucks Cornerback, vs New York Jets
Tua Tagovailoa, you know him right? Our brittle, injury-prone quarterback, who famously “isn’t the problem but isn’t the solution either”…YAWN! Our QB is showing exactly what we have in him. An honest footballing QB with high intelligence, incredible work ethic, and the ability to be one of the most accurate passers in the league.
But this last week against the Jets, he has shown he has an angry side too and the Dolphins universe is ALIVE for it. We have seen it bubbling up a few times, getting in the face of defenders who hit him after the release of the ball, holding his linemen to account for poor penalties. His sharp side is starting to develop. As Michael Carter found out last Sunday.
3rd Quarter, 4.31 on the game clock, score tied at 17-17 and Tua stands in the middle of the logo with a first and 10 just about inside the Jets half. With his receivers covered and the OLine clearing Jets from in front of him, Tua sets off for a run.
He crosses the line of scrimmage and Carter stands in his path, ready to greet him, expecting him to cower and slide for a second and 5. But we see some Samoan shake from our QB1 as he feigns dukes to both sides, before showing hulking out, lowering his shoulder, and plowing STRAIGHT THROUGH the Jets defender.
Taking Carter from his feet and falling forward Tua creates a second and short and riles up his teammates, the crowd, and stuns the Jets defense all in one play. Maybe it was ill-advised, maybe it won’t happen again, but it showed the world you DO NOT mess with Tua Tagovailoa. OUR QB1!
- Mack Hollins, 65 Yard TD, vs New York Jets
“Our QB1?” I hear you question me. “But he can only throw short, he doesn’t have the arm strength to be a QB in this league”… YAWN. Let me answer that with my next play in this rundown, a 65 Yard TD for Mack Hollins.
Let’s not make this all about Tua, OK, I may have a bee in my bonnet about how some people ride this kid. But let me take nothing away from Mack Hollins, the guy has been one HELL of a Dolphin this year. A lot of people questioned when he was made a captain earlier this year, but man has he answered those.
He has come up clutch with important touchdowns, he has been dominant in special teams plays, and he has spoken and presented himself as a leader for these players week after week. All while the media think he is Mike Gesicki every time he takes the field!
This time, we are in the first game against the Jets, with 9 minutes left in the third quarter, a 2nd and 1 with the scores tied at 7-7. Tua starts to survey the field on the drop back and feels the pressure as both sides of the offensive line start to collapse. He steps up away from the pressure, giving himself room to take two more quick steps before launching the ball toward the sideline and his receiver, #86 Mack Hollins.
Hollins takes the ball in, turns back towards the goal-line within the same motion, and is off to the races. The Jets’ safety gets to him and attempts to push him out of bounds but Hollins has the strength and speed to tiptoe down the sideline and inside the pylon for the score.
Tua > 65 Yards > Hollins > Touchdown!
- Isiah Ford, Touchdown, vs the New York Giants
“But so what, it’s only against the Jets”, we’ve heard all the doubter’s cries all season long. They’re starting to become a background noise of broken records at this point. We know their come-backs even before the events take place, such is the predictability. So I will move to another team Tua showed quality against, the New York Giants.
Again though, my defense of #1 should not detract away from the receiver in this situation, after all it is his name listed for this play.
Isiah Ford, the Yo-Yo of this Dolphins locker room, he has been back and forth between the Dolphins roster, the waiver wire, the Dolphins Practice Squad, and even the Patriots for a short time. Bouncing on and off to the point it became a running joke. But there has been nothing jokey about his play in recent weeks. Against the Jets he made a solid one-handed grab, as he fell to the ground to catch a long ball from Tua, but I digress, he is here for his TD against the Giants.
We’re into the 4th quarter, just over 11 minutes of the game remaining with the Dolphins up 10-6. At this point, we have a 3rd and goal on the 2-yard line and Myles Gaskin, RB1 at the time goes in motion. The eyes of Giants defenders follow him as he seems to take the ball from Tua who himself pauses momentarily, back to the endzone, as he no longer has the ball.
But in fact, he was selling a fake BEAUTIFULLY, as the bulk and weight of the Giants press followed Gaskin on the trick play as Isiah Ford, Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki break the other way with just a few defenders for company.
Tua again sells a fake, this time with brilliant eye placement. He checks his eyes towards Parker which makes the Giant defender stutter on the goal line, giving Ford that extra yard of space, and Tua finds him. Ford himself hold great spatial awareness, staying in bounds, making the grab and making sure both feet ground in the endzone as he falls out of bounds.
But the play was made. Touchdown.
- Duke Riley, Blocked Punt Recovered for a Touchdown, vs the Carolina Panthers
A completely different type of play here but I’ll be honest, few have got me out of my seat the way this one did against the Panthers. I was bouncing around my front room like Isiah Ford bouncing on and off rosters. (Just kidding Isiah, love you really).
A name we haven’t really heard much of this season. In a season where we have had people’s names in our mouths for ultimate positives and ultimate negatives, Duke Riley rarely entered the conversation. But on this play, he forced his way in with authority.
The Panthers visiting us in Miami, the first quarter after around 6 minutes of play and the score wedged firmly still at 0-0. The Panthers on a 4th and 6 were punting from deep inside their endzone. With our special teams set early, a last-minute change of personnel and lineup seemingly went unnoticed by the Panthers unit.
Duke Riley entered and set up on the right-hand side of the rush, causing a bit of confusion in the blocking group, one deeper blocker noticing the rush coming from wide and focussing on that with the nose blockers focussing down the middle. This left a free lane for Riley to shoot straight up and get two full hands on the punt knocking it up and fair game for anyone to claim inside the Panthers 2 yard line.
Hands and eyes went up but it was a leap from Justin Coleman who made the grab, before a sea of bigger, heavier bodies finished the play by forcing him over the line for the Dolphins TD.
This play could have gone to Coleman for taking the ball over the line, but really this was Duke Riley’s play and crikey did it get me hype!
- Xavien Howard, Forced Fumble, vs New England Patriots
So many plays could have been my favorite, so many offensive plays, defensive plays, rookie plays. It feels like it should have come from this win streak when all positivity seems to be coming back. Even playoff talk is coming back.
But when I think back over the whole season, and I think back to which plays had me hyped up and screaming, it takes me back to the very first game of the season, and one of the premier players on our roster.
We find ourselves against the fiercest recent, most dominant enemy. The New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, in Foxborough, their own back yard. We find ourselves up by one single point. 17-16 in the 4th quarter, with only 3.36 still to play. We find ourselves defending a 1st and 10 on the 11-yard line with the Pats seemingly in scoring position, at the very least needing a field goal to take the lead.
But with downs in their favor and close to goal, they go for brute force. McCorkle Jones hands the ball off to Damien Harris who had had a solid game up to that point and he burst into the sea of bodies trying to get closer to the goal line, only to be met there by #25 Xavien Howard.
As the two collided, Howard was expertly able to hook his left hand under the arm of Harris’ ball-carrying arm and knock the ball loose, however, this may not have been immediately clear from the TV angles. As the bodies of many players smash together in a pile, it is the players’ cries of “Ball, Ball!” underneath the calm voices of the commentary team that give the first clues that the ball has been knocked out.
The bodies pile up and the officials rush in to figure out where the play stands. Miami players leap up from the pile waving and pointing their arms up the field, they are confident it is their ball.
Then the officials weigh in, waving dead the play and pointing down towards the Patriots’ end zone. MIAMI BALL.
And when all the ruck is cleared and the celebrations begin, who is there holding the football… Xavien Howard!
The forced fumble got us our first win of the season, in New England, and while what came in the weeks to follow, we are now in a position where one tight win or one tight loss could make the difference to our post-season situation.
Xavien Howard could have made the difference all the way back in week 1!
There were many plays that haven’t made the list, as I sit here now I feel sorry for Elandon Roberts whose pick 6 against the Raiders could easily have gone in this list. I’m sure he will get over it though.
Three weeks to go and plenty more opportunities for players to take games by the scruff of the neck, make huge plays like these and make themselves Dolphins heroes. It’s been one hell of a season for many a reason, good and bad, but never boring. Here’s hoping for more joy in the coming weeks.
It was a true pleasure to look over these plays again for you all. Thanks for reading DolFans.
#FinsUp and Merry Christmas to Dolphins fans all over the world.