FOXBORO, Mass. — The Miami Dolphins are off to another hot start in head coach Mike McDaniel’s second season, and there’s reason to believe they’ve got more staying power this time.
They were in control Sunday night throughout most of their 24-17 victory against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, and their star-studded offense operated in a much different way than last week. The Dolphins used wideout Tyreek Hill as somewhat of a decoy with a variety of pre-snap motions that opened up opportunities for their other skill players.
“And I’m tired as hell from it right now, brother,” Hill said after the game. “I’m going to sleep all day tomorrow.”
Hill caught five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown, a productive night to be sure, but it paled in comparison to his 11 catches for 215 yards and two scores during the Dolphins’ 36-34 season-opening victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Tyreek Hill really hit the ‘Stomp the Yard’ celly 🔥🔥🔥 @cheetah
(📺: NBC) pic.twitter.com/b5q9lCHTOa
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2023
No matter, Hill said. They’re the only undefeated team in the AFC East, and they’ve got two road wins with a chameleonic approach.
It’s partly why the Dolphins believe they’re building something special this season.
“What’s the team’s potential?” Hill said. “I mean, I wouldn’t be a competitor if I wouldn’t say we’re the best. It’s like DJ Khaled said, baby. ‘We the best.’”
To try and contain the Dolphins, the Patriots utilized a “unique” game plan, McDaniel noted. They deployed three high safeties throughout the night with a shell-style coverage in order to prevent Hill and receiver Jaylen Waddle (four catches, 86 yards) from beating them deep. It’s a look some Dolphins said they hadn’t seen before.
The design was a way to force quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to methodically drive down the field with quick, short passes. And Tagovailoa obliged, completing 21-of-30 throws for 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The pick on a badly missed deep ball for Hill was Tagovailoa’s only egregious misstep from the game plan.
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As McDaniel recognized the Patriots’ new look, he opted for increased pre-snap motions for Hill to stress the cornerbacks close to the line of scrimmage, which opened holes in the zones and created chances for Tagovailoa to strike on his early reads. The quarterback completed passes to eight different players as a result, and the busy offensive looks also helped spring running back Raheem Mostert for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
“It opens up the offense a lot,” Hill said. “But I’ll tell you what, I am one tired something after all of that motion. It definitely helps us out, because defenses aren’t allowed to make different calls or point out stuff that they were probably seeing on film. It definitely gives us leverage. It’s almost like the Philly quarterback sneak. It’s just the Miami version. It’s sexy. It’s flashy. It’s fast. That’s what Miami is about.
Hill kept the flashiness going afterward when he waved goodbye to the Patriots fans in the crowd.
“It felt tremendous,” Hill said. “Those fans are some of the worst fans in the NFL, and I’m going to stand on that. They’re real nasty. Some of the things they were saying, I wouldn’t say in church. It felt great to wave goodbye to the fans, and I’ll do it again. Bye.”
Hill, who played his first six seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, has had his battles with the Patriots throughout his career. And even though the hosts dropped to 0-2 for the first time since 2001, Hill didn’t dismiss the importance of beating head coach Bill Belichick in New England.
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“It always feels good to beat probably like one of the greatest coaches of all time,” Hill said. “To come in here in a tough environment to win a game like this on a Sunday night, it feels good, especially the way this team played, the way this team battled through adversity. It feels good. It shows if you put in the work mentally, physically, and you come into this game prepared, you’ll be ready for situations like that. I’m very proud of this team.”
The Dolphins, of course, won their first three games last season before Tagovailoa’s concussion issues. They later snuck into the playoffs despite a late five-game losing streak and narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills with Skylar Thompson starting at quarterback.
This season, with better fortune in the health department, the Dolphins believe their early-season success will be more conducive to a winning formula in January.
They’re built to move the ball in different ways, whether in a shootout against another high-octane offense or a methodical approach against a tough defense.
“Film preparation, man, even though I don’t do too much of it,” Hill said. “Our coaches do a great job of setting us up, getting us prepared for the week. I feel like that gives us an advantage over anybody. Us being able to watch film and know what people are going to do is easy for us.”
(Photo of Tyreek Hill: Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)
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