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2021 NFL season, Week 16: What we learned from Dolphins' win over Saints on Monday night

Miami Dolphins
2021 · 8-7-0
New Orleans Saints
2021 · 7-8-0


  1. The Dolphins found a way to get it done. Miami had nine players on the reserve/COVID-19 list entering Monday night, but was fortunate enough to have most of its key playmakers available. Jaylen Waddle continued his stellar rookie campaign, shredding the undermanned New Orleans defense for 10 catches, 92 yards and a touchdown. The real hero of the night was wearing a headset, though, and goes by the name of George Godsey. The offensive coordinator drew up a fantastic drive in the third quarter, mixing creative play-calls to help the Dolphins cover 86 yards in nine plays. His flea-flicker call followed a key connection with Mack Hollins, which withstood a Saints challenge, and the goal-line call -- a misdirection touch pass to Waddle -- helped the Dolphins offense finally reach the end zone. Against an undermanned defense, the Dolphins didn't need a ton of production from their offense. They got enough, thanks to the third-quarter scoring drive and a few more possessions that produced field goals.
  2. This was always going to be a slog. New Orleans reached Monday with 22 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian, leaving only rookie Ian Book to man the role. The Saints had to activate 14 players as reserve/COVID-19 replacements, filling more than 25 percent of its active roster with call-ups. And that's without even mentioning New Orleans' patchwork offensive line, which was tasked with preventing a ferocious pass rush from getting after Book. It was predictably ugly, with the Saints gaining just 164 total yards of offense on the night, averaging just 3.2 yards per play. Lil'Jordan Humphrey ended up leading the Saints in receiving thanks to a 56-yard reception down the sideline late in the blowout loss. Alvin Kamara had nowhere to run, gaining 52 yards on 13 attempts, and the Saints as a whole couldn't get out of first gear the entire night. Book finished a very forgettable debut with a 12-of-20 passing line for 135 yards, two interceptions and a passer rating of 40.6. Winning Monday night was already going to be tough, and the Saints just didn't have enough talent to make it possible.
  3. Monday night proved the value of Demario Davis. New Orleans entered the game without its most important defensive player, as well as linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Malcolm Jenkins. New Orleans did a solid job of overcoming the losses in the first two quarters, keeping Miami's offense out of the end zone in the first half, but the absences were evident when Miami mounted a nine-play, 86-yard scoring drive to take a commanding 17-3 lead. New Orleans' replacements couldn't react quickly enough to a couple of creative play-calls -- a flea flicker that produced a 24-yard completion to Waddle, and a misdirection play along the goal line that resulted in a one-yard Waddle touchdown reception -- and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't drag the Saints' offense with them. New Orleans only allowed 259 yards of total offense, but with an offense fit for the XFL, not the NFL, the Saints just didn't have enough to keep up.
  4. Miami's defense is filled with hunters. The Dolphins smelled blood in the water as soon as it became public that New Orleans was rolling with rookie quarterback Ian Book, and Miami deployed a game plan similar to the one that helped the Dolphins frustrate Lamar Jackson in the Dolphins' win over the Ravens. On essentially every third down, Miami showed a blitz look and mixed up the number of rushers it sent at Book, frazzling the quarterback and taking away almost every option available to the rookie to try to pick up the first down. Miami harassed Book all night, pressuring him on 50% of his 28 dropbacks and sacking him an incredible eight times. New Orleans had no answer in third down situations, going 0 for 12. The Dolphins sensed the opportunity and capitalized.
  5. It's about to get interesting in South Florida. After starting 1-7 and looking downright dreadful, the Dolphins have rattled off seven straight wins, pulling a 180-degree turnaround to position themselves to compete for a playoff spot. They're currently in the seventh seed in the AFC after Monday night's win and have two more games left to prove they're deserving of a postseason berth. Miami will need its defense to continue to play well, and will need more out of its offense -- it has to be more than the Waddle show -- to take down Tennessee and New England in the final two weeks. The turnaround has been incredible, but the real test awaits the Dolphins.

Next Gen stat of the night: The Dolphins' 50% QB pressure rate is tied for the eighth-highest mark posted by any defense in the NFL this season.

NFL Research: The Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to have a seven-game losing streak and a seven-game winning streak in the same season.

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