NFL News & Analysis

Defense and running game propel Dolphins to Week 2 victory over Patriots

2RWNK8J Miami Dolphins linebacker David Long Jr. (51) celebrate with Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) after a stop during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)

• Bradley Chubb, Andrew Van Ginkel step up: Both earned 90.0-plus overall grades for their efforts against the Patriots.

• Raheem Mostert continues to fly under the radar: Sixty-three of his 121 yards on the ground came after contact against New England, and he forced three missed tackles on rushing attempts.

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Miami Dolphins opened the 2023 season with a 36-point offensive explosion orchestrated by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who were the highest-graded players at their respective positions in Week 1.

Yards (and points) were harder to come by in Week 2 against Bill Belichick’s defense, as any football fan would have expected. In fact, Miami’s 24-17 victory over the New England Patriots can best be described as a grind-it-out kind of game. Tyreek Hill was held to 40 receiving yards and a touchdown on nine targets, and the Patriots were even in position to tie the game in the final minute.

Still, the Dolphins held on to claim a 24-17 win and join the Baltimore Ravens as the AFC's only 2-0 teams. Let’s take a closer look at how they did it.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Edge defenders stepping up

The Dolphins' defense put on a forgettable performance against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. They allowed 233 rushing yards, struggled to get off the field on third down (9-of-15 converted) and did not force a turnover.

The news got worse when Jaelan Phillips popped up on the injury report Friday and was ultimately ruled out just prior to the game. However, Vic Fangio had the unit ready to roll, and their top five overall players for the game were all on the defensive side of the ball:

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Bradley Chubb’s 90.8 overall grade was his highest since 2020 and a welcomed sign for a player who has underwhelmed since being acquired for a first-round pick last season. Chubb generated six pressures while recording three defensive stops and forcing a fumble that ended a drive with the Patriots poised to score.

Andrew Van Ginkel was the player who most needed to step up for the defense, and he had the game of his career, earning an elite 90.4 overall grade. His five pressures were second only to Chubb’s six, and he tied for the team lead with three defensive stops. Most impressive is that Van Ginkel was playing primarily on the edge (61 of 65 snaps) against the Patriots but was a nickel linebacker who rushed the passer only four times in 51 snaps in the opener against the Chargers.

Raheem Mostert and the running game

To nobody’s surprise, Bill Belichick was not going to let the Dolphins air it out all night long. The Patriots kept the safeties deep and essentially dared Miami to run the ball — so they did.

Raheem Mostert carried the rock 18 times, something he’s done only three other times in his career. Sixty-three of his 121 yards on the ground came after contact, and he forced three missed tackles on rushing attempts. The second of his two touchdowns was an untouched, 43-yard burst through the Patriots' defense in what ended up being the difference in the game:

Mostert’s performance in New England is just the latest for a player who has flown under the radar his entire career. Back in July, we highlighted Mostert as one of the most underrated players on the Dolphins' roster heading into training camp. Coming into the season, Mostert led all running backs since 2019 with 5.4 yards per attempt, ranked fourth in yards after contact per attempt (3.5) and tied for seventh in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.21) — all numbers he has solidified to begin this season.

Final thoughts

It wasn’t the cleanest Dolphins performance, but winning on the road in the NFL is no easy feat, and they’ve done so twice already. The team will return to Hard Rock Stadium in Week 3 to host the 0-2 Denver Broncos. The last time Miami faced Denver was in 2020 — a 20-13 defeat to the Vic Fangio-led Broncos. Bradley Chubb, who was also a member of the Broncos at the time, generated a career-high 11 pressures in that game.


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