Oh What A Night!

Xavien Howard

Oh what a night! Mid November back in ’21! What a very special game we won! Sing along with Frankie Valli and me as we remember what a night! I should have known it was going to be a good night with how my day began. It was around 7 AM and the biting Miami sun had not climbed high enough in the sky to start raising the temperature from the cool and comfortable 69 degrees Fahrenheit that it was yet. I pulled into the half empty parking lot of the Waffle House that’s only a 5 minute drive from Hard Rock stadium, exited my Durango Citadel, and was walking towards the door wondering what menu options I would select from to formulate my “to go” order in the most efficient manner possible. I was dressed in all black with the U.S.A. flag sewn across my chest in solidarity and support of all the veterans in my life and abroad who served in the past or are currently serving in the armed forces of our great melting pot nation.

As I was walking up to the door, out comes this middle age African-American woman dressed from head to toe in aqua, orange, white, and denim blue. She was fresh from head to toe in Dolphins gear. There was no mystery about who her team was down to the socks and shoes. Her outfit included an open Dolphins baseball jersey intentionally left unbuttoned to reveal a pure white t-shirt with a big bedazzled and blinged out version of the Miami Dolphins logo on the front. I was so busy analyzing her outfit that I almost missed my opportunity to speak to her, but right as she was almost directly in front of me, I clumsily blurted out “I like your shirt!” My last brain cell came up with that one, but it was all that I could come up with in the moment. She smiled and in that sage voice of a woman who had clearly seen way more Dolphins games than I, she replied: “thanks young man, but we need a win tonight.”

We passed each other shoulder-to-shoulder without breaking stride. I was now at the translucent front door reaching for the handle and she was almost back to her car. I turned back to her and in a half laughing half sing-songy voice I retorted, “Ooooh boy do we!” She paused in front of her car, turned, and responded as someone who had seen all of Marino in his prime, “we better- I drove all the way down from New York just for this game!” My mouth dropped open thinking about the amount of fanaticism she had to possess to drive 1,300 miles in the cold of November just to see her 2-7 team play. I then shook my head and yelled to her, “wow- well we haven’t beaten the Ravens in a long long time…!” She looked back at me while climbing into her all-white late model Cadillac XT6 and said with a confident smile: “that’s okay, the streak ends tonight!” We both laughed and I went inside to place my order as she drove off with her New York license plate clearly displayed. I will probably never run into that middle aged African-American Dolfan from New York again, but that moment will always stick with me because of her bold prediction and how the game ended up playing out.

The streak ended Thursday night just as she had predicted. Officially the Dolphins had lost three straight to the Ravens, but over the years it felt like more than that. It felt like ages ago since Greg Camarillo saved us from going 0-16 with his dramatic overtime catch and touchdown run. Apparently, the Dolphins beat them in 2015, but no one really seems to remember that. All we remember are the 8 losses and the playoff beatdown at home the Dolphins were given by the Ravens during that time frame. Oh, what a night it was! Hard Rock was rocking. It was the loudest I had heard that stadium since the legendary Miami Notre Dame game that happened exactly four years ago to the day in 2017. The Canes shocked the world then and the Dolphins shocked the world on Thursday night.

The amoeba cover zero blitz packages that made the Dolphins defense so formidable last season returned and it is giving quarterbacks fits again. Josh Allen struggled with it for three quarters. Tyrod Taylor had maybe the worst game of his career against it. Lamar Jackson didn’t know how to deal with it. The Dolphins defense has a bunch of land sharks. They may not be the best in coverage over 3 seconds but, if they get pressure on the QB by mixing up their blitzes, they are very skilled at covering the short hot routes, flats, wheels, and the screens. Their safeties flew around Will linebackers lurked in those hot zones and feasted.

Speaking of safeties, my goodness did Jevon Holland have himself a night! He was everywhere. He covered so much ground. He forced key pass breakups, he harassed Lamar all night with his blitzes. When he dropped into coverage to cover the running backs coming out of the backfield, he absolutely erased their presence in that play. The kid is a stud. No question about it. I just wish Coach Flores would have played this style of defense sooner instead of going too conservative with soft coverage zones and two high safeties for most of the season. The decision to do that because we had a rookie safety cost us dearly and for a while the defense looked like it had completely fallen apart from the standards, they had set the previous season. It’s safe to say that the defense is back and balling at a high level. Xavien Howard made a crucial play by ripping the ball out to force a fumble, recovering it himself, and taking it to the house for 6. The crowd went wild as it should have.

Oh what a night it was! Tua came in after a scary looking knee injury to Brissett and saved the day. My man threw his helmet on with the quickness even though Brissett got injured on a 3rd down play and we were punting the ball back to the Ravens. It was like Superman had just come out of the booth to save the Green Lantern after the Lantern had succumbed to a tough fight with a super villain. After the jitters of the first two series where Tua was clearly pressing got out of his system, he settled down and led the Dolphins offense deep into the redzone down to the 1 yard line twice. The offensive line struggled mightily, namely Liam Eichenberg, but Tua did a great job of making quick reads and getting the ball out quick. He hit Waddle for a big chunk play on a gotta have it down and he hit Wilson running uncovered on the backside of the play for a backbreaking game sealing touchdown that Tua ran in himself a few plays later. Tua’s fingers may still be swollen from the fracture, but the 8/13 and 158 yard performance with a rushing TD performance says that Flores made the right decision going to Tua. The offense looked way more fluid after the QB1 change. Liam Eichenberg played horribly all night but I have to commend him for recovering two fumbles that had he not recovered likely would have cost the Dolphins the game.

Oh what a night it was! Even Robert Hunt, the starting Right Guard for the Dolphins, got in on the action in what may be the best illegal touching of a forward pass penalty of all-time! Hunt while setting up a screen for Gaskin was in the passing lane, caught the ball as if the pass was intended for him and made a beeline for the endzone. Big boy was moving and while being flipped heels overhead, he reached the ball over the goal line for what may have been the best score of the season that didn’t count! His spatial awareness had to be next level for him to be upside down and still know where the goal line was and to reach out for it to try to score. It was an amazing and fun game to watch for Dolfans and had a little bit of everything: drama, big plays, stingy defense, a big man score that didn’t count, and Tua’s Willis Reed moment. The Dolphins get to heal up a little bit as they don’t have to play the Jets for another 10 days, the Dolphins have a real shot at winning three in a row if they can get their offensive line to play better. That’s a very BIG if, but let’s enjoy this one for now.

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