Defense helps Dolphins overcome mistakes in victory over the Raiders

The Miami Dolphins weren’t sharp on offense by any stretch coming out of their bye week.

Their defense, however, made sure it wouldn’t result in a costly defeat.

Despite committing three turnovers, the Dolphins kept themselves in a good position near the top of the AFC standings with a 20-13 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

The Dolphins are 7-3 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2000-01 and have now won 17 of their past 19 at home, which is their best stretch since winning 23 of 25 at the Orange Bowl from Oct. 30, 1983 to Jan. 4, 1986.

Miami is tied with Kansas City for the best current winning stretch at home (16-2) in the NFL since Nov. 7, 2021, and is one of three teams still unbeaten at home this season — joining the Cowboys and Eagles.

Sunday’s victory was the closest at home this season, however, as the Raiders (5-6) had the ball with a chance to tie in the closing moments.

That was until cornerback Jalen Ramsey made a spectacular leaping interception in the back of the end zone to seal the win. It was Ramsey’s second of the game and third as a Dolphin since returning from a meniscus injury in Week 8. It was one of three takeaways for Miami, which tied a season high.

“I guess it’s kind of like pick your poison. Would you rather have a lot of turnovers or like locked-down defense,” Ramsey said. “Obviously you would want both, and that’s what we’ll strive to do for our defense and then our offense, to correct some of their mistakes. They’ll be explosive and do what they are. They are who they are. We’ve got all the confidence and faith in them.”

It took three stops overall in the fourth quarter by Miami’s defense to seal the game.

The Raiders marched into Dolphins territory again early in the fourth quarter and appeared to have a key first down when rookie quarter w appeared to complete a 23-yard pass to the sideline to rookie wide receiver Tre Tucker. But the Dolphins challenged the ruling and it was reversed.

Miami stopped Vegas on downs two plays later with Ramsey’s takeaway.

On the Raiders’ final series, the Dolphins’ defense came through again with two big plays from outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips. On first down from Miami’s 28, Phillips sacked O’Connell. Three plays later on fourth down, pressure by defensive lineman Christian Wilkins forced O’Connell to throw a desperation pass as he fell to the ground, which Phillips caught for his first career interception.

The Dolphins’ first takeaway came with 8:22 left in the third quarter when Ramsey jumped a route in front of Tucker. The interception followed a missed kick from Jason Sanders, who sent a 50-yard attempt wide left. Sanders, who entered the game with the fewest field goal attempts of any kicker in the league, later made a 41-yard field to give Miami a 17-13 lead

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed 28 of 39 passes for 324 yards and threw two touchdown passes, but threw an interception and also lost a fumble while scrambling on Miami’s opening possession. It was one of two lost fumbles for the Dolphins that led to Raiders field goals. Undrafted rookie tight end Julian Hill also fumbled before halftime, allowing Las Vegas to cut the Dolphins’ lead to 14-13, entering the second half.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) passes the ball in the second quarter of an NFL game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) passes the ball in the second quarter of an NFL game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Though the Dolphins totaled 422 yards and almost doubled the Raiders in first downs, it was a sloppy performance for an offense that returned from the bye week with the league’s No. 1 scoring unit. Miami’s 20 points tied for their third-lowest output all season and the offense struggled on third down, converting just 3 of 11 tries. The Dolphins also turned the ball over on downs after Hill was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 attempt from the Raiders’ 3-yard line.

“I see it as more self-inflicted things that we do, turning the ball over, not being able to convert on downs that we should be converting on,” Tagovailoa said of an offense that hasn’t eclipsed 21 points in its last three games. “But then again, these are good teams. All these teams are in the NFL. The NFL is a tough place to play football, and we’ll take this win and we’ll learn from this.

Miami was also dealt more injuries on offense. Rookie running back De’Von Achane started and played in his first game since Oct. 8, but re-injured his knee after his second touch in the first quarter. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said the team got “positive feedback” on Achane’s injury but was cautious given his rust. His availability is now in question for the team’s upcoming road game against the New York Jets on Black Friday.

The Dolphins’ matchup against the Jets, the first of two with Miami’s division rival in the next four weeks, marks the NFL’s first-ever Black Friday game.

“Ultimately it’s a team game, and when you do come up short offensively, you need somebody to pick up the slack,” McDaniel said. “To have two fumbles on the 30-ish yard line in your own territory and have that equal six points, I believe, and then to have a couple very timely interceptions, that’s what you have to do to win in the National Football League. You’re not always going to supremely execute on one side of the ball or the other.