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Cowboys at Dolphins: Miami completes a shutout of a division foe

Checking in with the Dolphins after their shutout win last week

Syndication: Palm Beach Post Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK

Three Takeaways: Dolphins Sweep Rival Jets with Shut Out - Travis Wingfield, MiamiDolphins.com

The Dolphins defense was rocking at Hard Rock Stadium against the Jets.

Before the Seahawks-Eagles Monday night tilt, the Dolphins rank second in the league in sacks with 48, which is just one shy of the team record of 49. Miami is tops in the league in QB hits with 117. Most of the teams near the top of these lists feature a single sack artist who carries the load with contributions from the rest of the squad.

For Miami, it’s a total team effort. Bradley Chubb (9.5), Christian Wilkins (8.0) and Zach Sieler (7.5) all rank inside the top 30 for sacks this season. Wilkins and Sieler are third and fourth respectively among defensive tackles (Justin Madubuike and Denico Autry).

Even deeper, the Fins are the only team with four players inside the top 40 (Jaelan Phillips, 6.5) and five in the top 50 (Emmanuel Ogbah, 6.0).

That swarming rush was on display Sunday as Miami dumped Jets quarterbacks five times in the first half and six total. At halftime, Miami had outgained the Jets 197 yards to four.

The turnovers began to pile up as well. Of Chubb’s three sacks, two produced forced fumbles giving him six for the season, which leads the NFL.

Brandon Jones doubled his career interception total with two second-half picks after only having one previous interception.

Miami did all of this without three starters in the secondary. The absence of Xavien Howard put the shadow role on Jalen Ramsey covering Jets star receiver Garrett Wilson. Per Next Gen Stats, Wilson was covered by Ramsey on 23 of his 42 routes ran, garnering just one target, a ball that was broken up by Ramsey on third down.

After Dolphins rout pool-noodle Jets 30-0, we’re about to find out how good Miami really is | Opinion - Greg Cote, Miami Herald

Despite the lopsided win, the true test for Miami lies ahead.

“What we put out Monday was embarrassing,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “We didn’t want to feel that again. Could have gone either way. Could have felt sorry for ourselves. But let that go and moved on.”

Monday’s loss gave Sunday a must-win feel for Miami, as a second straight loss might have put the division title in some peril and a waft of panic in the air. Instead the Fins bagged their first shutout win and first at home since a 24-0 blanking of the same sad Jets on October 18, 2020.

“As proud as I’ve been of any performance,’” coach Mike McDaniel called Sunday’s game.

Now, only what’s next matters.

If the Dolphins are to win the AFC East and verify themselves as Super Bowl contenders, the coming three games will see them proving it for all to see, or being exposed as pretenders.

Sunday, though, told us little about how good these Dolphins really are.

What’s next will tell us just about everything.

Cowboys. Ravens. Bills.

“We can have something really, really special this year,” Tagovailoa said.

As Mostert put it: ”Play in February. In Vegas.”

I believe they are right.

The Super Bowl feels closer for Miami than it has been in almost 40 years. But we still aren’t sure how close that actually is.

The unequivocal finding out comes next.

It starts on Christmas Eve.

Dolphins Hopeful Starting Safeties Will Return for Cowboys Game - Omar Kelly, Sports Illustrated

Miami hopes some defensive pieces return, even after a shutout performance.

Miami, which was forced to play Sunday’s 30-0 win over the New York Jets without Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard, who is nursing a hip injury he suffered the previous week, and starting safeties DeShon Elliott (concussion) and Jevon Holland (two MCL sprains), will test all three veterans this week to determine if they can be medically cleared to return on Sunday.

Howard surprisingly sat out his third game of the season after what was labeled a game-time decision. Miami’s coaches have been consistent with their desire to prevent Howard from playing injured, much like he did for most of last season because of groin strains.

The goal is for the four-time Pro Bowl selection to be at his best when Miami plays high-stakes games, and this happens to be one of them because what happens on Sunday has playoff seeding ramifications.

Elliott close to clearing concussion protocol

Elliott suffered a concussion in Miami’s 28-27 loss against the Tennessee Titans and was held out of practice all week. According to McDaniel, the 47-game starter is close to exiting the NFL’s concussion protocol.

His final stages require that he participate in practices this week and not suffer any lingering effects of his concussion.

“He’s been progressing well and we’re anticipating those final stages (of concussion protocol). But again, with concussions, unfortunately, we’re well versed in that, and I just want to make sure that he’s good to go and don’t really worry about a timeline,” head coach Mike McDaniel said. “But [we’re] very optimistic, as you can tell.”

Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys are both playing for division titles on Sunday - Brian Miller, PhinPhanatic.com

December games are always important, and this weekend isn’t any different.

By the time the Dolphins and Cowboys kick off on Sunday, the Dolphins will know what the Bills did on Saturday in L.A. against the Chargers, my crystal ball says the Bills win by at least 30. Miami will need to win to keep the Bills two games back in the AFC East.

Miami is playing for their playoff future. A win secures their spot and they would be the 2nd team to clinch a playoff birth in the AFC. A loss will muddy the waters further and open the door for the Bills to make a run at the AFC East.

The Cowboys will not simply walk into Hard Rock Stadium with nothing to gain. In week 15 before they got slaughtered by the Bills in Orchard Park, the Cowboys were handed a ticket to the postseason. This week, after the loss by the Eagles on Monday Night Football, the Cowboys find themselves at the top of the division in a tie with the Eagles.

Seattle opened the door for the Cowboys and they will want to hold on to it. Miami is trying to keep its hold on its own division. It all adds up to a physical fight that could have season-long ramifications for both teams.

Normally, beating out-of-conference teams isn’t the big game in the final weeks of the season when races are tight. Those are normally pegged as the games a team can afford to lose because they have no impact on the tie-breaking scenarios until you get deeper into those procedures.

This week, that isn’t the case. The loser of this game will not be knocked out of the playoffs but they will see their grip on their divisions slide. This week, both teams are playing for something.

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