Ryan Fitzpatrick hit his final nine passes in the Week 2 game vs. Buffalo and picked up right where he left off on Thursday Night Football. Completing his first 12 passes of the game, Fitzpatrick threw for 127 first half yards and a pair of touchdowns. His first-half passer rating was 144.0, the fifth-highest in the first half of his career.
Coming into the night, three of Fitzpatrick's last four TNF games produced a passer rating of 105 or better - make it four out of five games over a 105 rating for the 16-year veteran.
"I enjoy playing. It's why I still play," Fitzpatrick said. "Especially when you're having success, driving the ball down the field, scoring touchdowns. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world sometimes, getting to play football with my friends."
The offense as a whole started to get hot last week, but the Dolphins emphatically broke through in prime time. Miami's first three drives of the game traveled 84, 80 and 75 yards. It was the second time since at least 2000 that the Dolphins scored touchdowns on the first three drives of the game (Nov. 20, 2011 vs. Buffalo the other).
Fitzpatrick is in his third stint with Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey (previously with the Bills and Jets). Gailey's diverse play-calling, executed tonight with consistency, was working in full force in the 18-point victory. The Dolphins opened the game in the pistol (running back aligned directly behind the quarterback), showed 12- and 13-personnel (1 RB 2/3 TE) packages and hit the Jaguars defense with misdirection on a 29-yard gallop by Jakeem Grant.
"When we get down (around the goal line), we can do a lot of different stuff," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "Fortunately I was able to draw a flag down in the end zone but hopefully we can make some more plays out of (13) personnel so we can keep adding to it."
The ingenuity showed itself on the second drive as Jordan Howard plunged into the end zone for his third touchdown of the season. Miami finished off the second scoring drive with a full house package, which features three players in the backfield behind the quarterback.
"I think our staff did a good job on a short week of getting guys ready to go. Chan (Gailey), Josh (Boyer), Danny (Crossman), a lot of credit goes to them," Flores said. "Complementary football is how you win in this league," Flores said. "Win the field position battle, win the TOP (time of possession) battle by getting first downs offensively, turn the ball over defensively - that's how you win in this league."
Fitzpatrick was making it happen in all facets of the game. He was throwing from traditional drop backs and he was making plays rolling out of the pocket - both with his arms and his legs. On the rare occasion that there was pressure on the Miami quarterback, he'd drift back, buy some extra time, drop the arm angle and find a receiver. He finished the night 18-of-20 for 160 yards and three total touchdowns (one rushing).
"It speaks to the creativity of our coaching staff to add some wrinkles on a short week," Fitzpatrick said. "But it also speaks to the guys that were able to absorb the plan and make plays. It was nice to see everybody involved on a short week and with Chan."
The passing game got going after the Dolphins established the tone early with a physical running game. Running behind an offensive line featuring four new starters in 2020, Myles Gaskin carried the ball eight times for 35 yards on the opening march. Fitzpatrick put the bookend score on the board with a quarterback keeper running behind center Ted Karras, who scored a pancake block into the end zone to give Miami a commanding 28-7 third-quarter lead.
Miami's 91 rushing yards in the first half were the most in a first half since the 2018 win at home against New England (142 rushing yards in that game).
"They make it easy for me because they get on their dudes and stay on them," Gaskin said. "The show the leverage, it's always about leverage at running back, finding the gaps. When they can do that and just stay on their man it makes it easier to make decisions for me."
"We had a good plan," right tackle Jesse Davis said. "We knew what they were going to be lining up in. Myles Gaskin did a great job with running hard, finding lines, dropping his shoulder, and Fitz got a couple in there too."
Miami earned the lead just seven minutes into the game and never relented. Miami's Week 2 lead lasted only one series vs. Buffalo, but playing with a wire-to-wire lead, the Dolphins defense teed off.
Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew threw for just 83 yards in the first half averaging 5.9 yards per pass. The Jaguars were threatening at the end of the half with a drive that was into Dolphins territory and on the fringe of the red zone. Back-to-back plays by the Dolphins defense thwarted any potential Jacksonville momentum.
Rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene read a toss sweep on third-and-5, strung it out and got outside of the ball carrier. From there, linebacker Jerome Baker beat a block and cleaned up the play for the loss.
Then, Jacksonville opted to go for it in lieu of a long field goal try. Miami sent the house with an interior blitz executed beautifully by defensive tackle Zach Sieler and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill - the latter getting home for the sack. Sieler occupied a pair of blockers and Grugier-Hill used his speed to cut down the Jaguars quarterback for the turnover-on-downs.
Minshew finished the night 30-of-42 with 275 yards (6.5 yards per pass), no touchdowns, an interception and a fumble lost on a Kyle Van Noy trifecta -- sack, strip and scoop. Van Noy provided pressure on the Jacksonville quarterback continuously, working both off the edge and inside.
"Every team wants to get pressure on the quarterback," Flores said. "We were able to do that tonight. There were some instances where it could've been better but it definitely improved from previous weeks. They came ready to play. They played fast, played with a lot of energy, they played fired up. They put in a lot of work this week and they saw the fruits of their labor."
Miami also got touchdowns from wide receiver Preston Williams and Gesicki. All four of Fitzpatrick's touchdown passes this season have gone to those two or DeVante Parker. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Fitzpatrick owns two of the six tightest-window touchdown throws this season, threading the needle when he needs to.
Williams snared the first of the night. On a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Williams ran a slant from a condensed split, Fitzpatrick put the ball on the bullseye and Williams secured the score with a defender draped on his back.
Gesicki followed the Jordan Howard touchdown with a leaping reception right at the goal line. The Miami tight end ran a corner route and Fitzpatrick threw with anticipation to put the ball in the window on target and on time. It was Gesicki's seventh touchdown reception dating back to Week 12 last season - the most among all NFL tight ends in that span.
The Dolphins pass rush also impacted the game. Finishing with four sacks and two takeaways doesn't serve justice to the relentless pressure Minshew was under all night, as the Dolphins knocked him down 10 times. Miami was deploying a variety of pass rushers, games, blitzes and making life uncomfortable for the Jaguars' quarterback.
Now, with a much-needed win in their pocket, the Dolphins get to enjoy a mini bye week and prepare for another red-hot passer as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks come to Hard Rock Stadium on October 4 for a 1 p.m. kickoff.