MIAMI -- The video boards at Hard Rock Stadium remained illuminated for roughly 90 minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ win Sunday over the Denver Broncos -- as if to prove the final score was not a mirage.
The Dolphins set a franchise record for points in a single game in the 70-20 drubbing, becoming the first team in NFL history to score 70 points and compile 700 yards of offense in the same game.
But the Dolphins don’t have much time to admire their stats. Miami will face its biggest litmus test of the season when it travels to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (1 p.m., E.T., CBS) to face a defense that just recorded seven sacks, four interceptions, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown in a 37-3 rout of the Washington Commanders.
With the AFC East showdown on deck, here are three major takeaways from the Dolphins’ incredible day, with a look ahead to next week:
Tua’s ‘night and day’ difference
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed his first 17 passes of the game, finishing 23-of-26 for 309 yards and four touchdowns. He ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (1,024), passing touchdowns (8) and QBR (77.7) and averages the fourth-most air yards per pass attempt (7.6).
And to think, as a rookie three years ago, Tagovailoa was benched in the fourth quarter against Denver for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb, who played on that Broncos team in 2020, has noticed the growth in Tagovailoa’s game.
“Man since then? That s— is night and day, to be honest with you,” Chubb said. “Just how he carries himself, the confidence he has walking on the field, just every little detail about him.
“I feel like in 2020, we knew if Tua was in the game we [the Broncos] probably had a good chance of winning -- which is crazy, but it's true. … I mean in 2020 that was the case. Today? F— no.”
Tagovailoa’s completion percentage over expectation on Sunday was +14.3%, his second-best single-game CPOE as a starter.
Looking ahead to the Bills: In five career games against Buffalo, Tagovailoa has completed just 87-of-149 passes for 999 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s been injured to some extent during four of those games.
Buffalo’s defense made a statement Sunday and is third in total yards allowed per game (253), passing yards per game (142.3) and points per game 11.7.
A clean pocket
There were fans in the stands whose jerseys were dirtier than Tagovailoa’s on Sunday, thanks in large part to the speed with which he got rid of the ball – just 2.29 seconds – and the protection of his offensive line.
Tagovailoa was pressured just three times in 26 dropbacks and was hit once.
Miami’s offensive line has allowed one sack in three games and got its best player back from injury with the return of Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead.
Looking ahead to the Bills: The Dolphins’ offensive line faces a tough assignment against a Bills defense that’s won 56.5% of its pass rushes -- the third-best mark in the NFL. After their seven-sack outburst against Washington, the Bills are tied for the league lead with 12 sacks to start the season.
One of the best counters to an elite pass rush is a strong run game. Luckily for the Dolphins, they turned in one of the most memorable ground performances in NFL history.
No move was right move at RB
He was dangerous and versatile against the Broncos, rushing for 82 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries, adding 60 more yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
Not to be outdone, rookie De’Von Achane compiled 233 total yards and four touchdowns, including 203 rushing yards and two scores on 18 carries.
The tandem owns three of the six-fastest ball carrier speeds this season -- Achane set the second-fastest speed Sunday, hitting 21.93 miles per hour on his 67-yard touchdown run.
Miami rushed for 350 yards Sunday.
“We put a lot of that on the O-line. A lot of that run game weight is on our shoulders,” Armstead said. “We try to create lanes and get those guys into the third level. That’s the goal, and it’s on them to make the safeties miss and the corners miss.
“But that again is not just a running back stat. Receivers have to block on the edge… It’s everybody. It’s a full offensive statistic, so everything that we’re doing from sacks, rushing, passing. All 11.”
Looking ahead to the Bills: The Bills’ defense has been mediocre against the run, ranking 16th in rushing yards allowed per game (110.7), and Mostert has experienced some success against them in the past. He ran for 136 yards on 17 carries in Miami’s 32-29 regular-season loss in Buffalo last season, but he missed the teams’ wild-card matchup.