After a bye week that saw the Dolphins try to recuperate from a difficult loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany, Miami returned to United States soil with authority, posting a 20-13 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday in front of 66,026 fans at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Raiders, riding into Miami with a two-game winning streak after firing coach Josh McDaniels, battled under interim coach Aaron Pierce, but couldn’t outlast the Dolphins, who maintained their dominance over weaker opponents, improving to 7-0 against clubs at .500 or lower.
The Raiders’ new regime — personified and led by fourth-round rookie quarterback, Aiden O’Connell — failed to mount its third-straight win, succumbing to a Dolphins defense that is deep, dominant … and finally healthy.
Miami’s offense has driven most of the success this season, but Sunday’s win was a different story. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey picked O’Connell off twice, including the game-sealing interception with 25 seconds left. The first-year Dolphin has been as advertised limited playing time. He now has three interceptions and appears back to being the elite defensive back that his reputation carries.
“He’s the best corner in the league, man. The way he laid out for that last pass just goes to show how much he cares about this team,” Miami wide receiver Tyreek Hill said. “A lot of guys, they’ll knock it down, they’ll say, ‘Ah, I could land weird.’ The way he just laid out for his team just really shows how he cares about his brothers.”
Hill also had a great performance, posting 10 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. His historic season continued against the Raiders, and he now stands with 1,222 yards and nine touchdowns. And his six 100-yard games are tied for most in the NFL.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa engineered it all against Las Vegas, finishing with 28 completions on 39 attempts for 325 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“I was very, very happy with Tua because I’m always wary of Tua because he is so hard on himself,” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. “I knew he was going to be frustrated with the last game, and we had so much time in between. But all of my anxiety was kind of alleviated in the practice week. I think he might have had his best Thursday practice that he’s had since we’ve been here overall as a quarterback.”
Tagovailoa wasn’t as pleased with his outing, but he was happy with the final result.
“I have a standard for myself, just like everyone else does,” he said. “I take pride in doing my job, and if I’m not doing my job to the best of my abilities. I shouldn’t be out there doing it.”
Turnovers, including Tagovailoa’s interception, plagued Miami all game. The Dolphins also lost two fumbles in the win.
The Raiders couldn’t capitalize, though, as three consecutive late drives were shut down without points. O’Connell seemed aggravated by the result, especially after Las Vegas had won two in a row under Pierce.
“I just have to do a better job of not getting us in that situation,” he said of trailing in the fourth quarter. “And once I am in that situation, I just have to make better decisions.”
O’Connell finished with 271 yards passing, one touchdown and three interceptions. His scoring strike was to star receiver Davante Adams, who went toe-for-toe with Hill in a battle of elite wideouts. Adams finished with seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs didn’t fare as well. In fact, he was “left behind” in the words of Pierce, who was coaching on the road for the first time.
“We have to get JJ going,” Pierce said. “First two wins: 25 touches. Fourteen touches today. That’s not good enough.”
The Dolphins (7-3) will be a part of history later this week, when they play the NFL’s first Black Friday game against the New York Jets (4-6) in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Raiders (5-6), meanwhile, will try to keep their playoff hopes alive against the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs (7-2) on Sunday in Las Vegas.