NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 16 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 20, New Orleans Saints 3

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws a pass during the first half against New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints offense had enough problems moving the ball this season with their first, second- and third-string quarterbacks in action. The turn to rookie quarterback Ian Book with Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill on the COVID-19 list in addition to Jameis Winston being on injured reserve (IR) left the unit without much of a chance against an aggressive Miami Dolphins defense. 

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Book was sacked eight times, and Miami picked up a comfortable 20-3 win. The victory puts the Dolphins in contention for a playoff spot in the AFC after starting the season 1-7.  

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Miami Dolphins

Quarterback

This was more of the same stylistically for Tua Tagovailoa. He got the ball out quickly (2.5 second average time to throw) and near the line of scrimmage (7.4 ADOT) for most of the game. 

The Saints pressure did impact him, however. Tagovailoa was pressured on 14 of 33 dropbacks according to PFF’s first-run analysis, and he finished the game with five turnover-worthy plays, which will put a dent in his overall PFF grade.

Running Back

Miami featured a true running back by committee approach to their backfield with Myles Gaskin, Phillip Lindsay and Duke Johnson Jr. splitting the work fairly evenly. 

Player Offensive Snaps Carries Targets
Johnson Jr. 23 13 0
Gaskin 20 3 3
Lindsay 19 13 0

None of them were able to get much going against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Miami running backs combined for 85 rushing yards on 29 carries (2.9 yards per carry) with one reception for six receiving yards on three targets. 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Jaylen Waddle, as he has been for much of this season, was the clear focal point of the Dolphins’ passing attack. He was targeted on 12 of his 29 routes in the game. Waddle turned those looks into 10 receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Two of those Waddle receptions came on plays where he was lined up in the backfield. 

DeVante Parker was a non-factor for Miami, as his only target in the game was nullified by a penalty on 25 routes.

Offensive Line

Miami’s offensive line struggled to hold up against a talented Saints’ defensive front. Austin Jackson, in particular, continued to struggle in pass protection. He was charged with three pressures allowed in 30 pass-blocking snaps at guard, pending review. 

Starting tackles Jesse Davis and Liam Eichenberg both allowed three-plus quarterback pressures, as well. 

Defensive Line

Christian Wilkins continued what has been the best season of his three-year career. Wilkins got home with six quarterback pressures and was the Dolphins’ highest-graded run defender along the defensive line, per PFF’s first-run analysis.

Emmanuel Ogbah led the defense with eight pressures, and Andrew Van Ginkel had a positive impact in coverage with a forced incompletion and batted pass that led to a defensive touchdown for the Dolphins. 

Linebackers

Jerome Baker was the highest-graded of Miami’s two off-ball linebackers, pending review. Baker got home with two sacks and recorded four total tackles in the game. 

Elandon Roberts’ PFF grade will likely be dragged down by his play in coverage, where he was charged with a team-high four receptions allowed for 41 yards on initial review.

Secondary

Nik Needham brought the fireworks early with this pick-six in one of his 21 defensive snaps. 

Miami’s secondary held up well across the board. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones allowed one first down reception into their coverage each. No other Dolphins’ defensive back allowed a first-down reception.  

New Orleans Saints

Quarterback

Book held on to the football too long (3.8-second average time to throw) and didn’t have much success downfield in this game (three completions on passes 10-plus yards downfield). That’s not a winning combination. 

Book became very familiar with Miami’s pass rushers and the turf, as he was sacked eight times and pressured on 18 dropbacks. 

Third down was one of the biggest problem areas for the rookie quarterback out of Notre Dame. He was two-of-five passing on the down with four sacks taken and no first-down completions.

Running Back

The Saints offensive line was far from full strength in this game, but Alvin Kamara didn’t do much to create beyond what was blocked up, either. He averaged just 2.3 yards after contact per rushing attempt without a missed tackle forced. 

Mark Ingram added 17 rushing yards from four carries in his complementary role.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

It was a quiet night for Saints’ pass-catchers. Marquez Callaway (four receptions for 46 yards) and Lil’Jordan Humphrey (three receptions for 70 yards) were the only two wide receivers or tight ends to clear 10 receiving yards in the game for the Saints.

Offensive Line

The Saints were, again, without arguably the best starting tackle duo in the NFL. James Hurst, who has filled in at multiple positions this season, fared well on the left side in pass protection. He wasn’t charged with a pressure allowed in 30 pass-blocking snaps. Caleb Benenoch had more issues on the right side with three pressures allowed. 

The offensive line collectively struggled in the run game with a sub-50.0 PFF run-blocking grade as a unit, pending review.

Defensive Line

New Orleans’ two starting edge defenders, Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, both had strong showings against a very beatable Miami offensive line. They combined for 10 pressures and three sacks in the game to go along with four stops in the run game. 

Linebackers

Filling Demario Davis‘ shoes is no easy task, but Pete Werner filled them admirably as a starter. PFF credited Werner with 12 total tackles and two quarterback pressures from his linebacker position, pending review. 

Secondary

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson defended Waddle most in the slot, but several different Saints’ defensive backs were charged with covering the dynamic rookie over the course of the game. 

DB covering Waddle Targets Receptions Yards Allowed
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 4 4 30
Marshon Lattimore 3 2 29
Bradley Roby 3 2 19

That’s where most of Miami’s production in the air came from. Mack Hollins was able to beat Paulson Adebo down the sideline for a 40-yard gain in the second half. 

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