Hyde10: Defense stands up, Tua keeps going, first in AFC East — 10 thoughts on Dolphins’ 39-17 win over Browns

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			Hyde10: Defense stands up, Tua keeps going, first in AFC East — 10 thoughts on Dolphins’ 39-17 win over Browns
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Take a break.

No, really, take a break with the Miami Dolphins celebrating a 39-17 win against Cleveland by having a bye week.

That’s the first-place Miami Dolphins, too, as their win with Buffalo’s loss put them atop the AFC East.

This was as complementary a game as they’ve had in a while with the defense shutting down Cleveland’s strong running game and the offense continuing to point up big points.

Here are 10 thoughts on the game:

1. Stat of the game: Nick Chubb 11 carries, 63 yards. At half, he had 16 yards on six carries. Cleveland’s big chance Sunday was for Chubb to hit his 105.1-yard average in games. Until he ran for a 33-yard touchdown in a 30-10 game, his noteworthy play was a fumble caused by defensive tackle Zach Sieler. The Dolphins have given up big yards to speedy quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields but haven’t given up a 100-yard game to a running back this year.

2. Player of the Game: Tua Tagovailoa. The first “M-V-P” chant began at Hard Rock Stadium in the second half. He completed 25 of 32 for 285 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception since he returned from his concussion four games ago. And this offense? It’s the first time since 2009 that the Dolphins scored 30 points in three straight games.

3. The 17 points the Dolphins defense gave up? It says why the fight for a home playoff game matters. The Dolphins defense has given up an average 32.8 points on the road through five games. They haven’t given up more than the 24 points to Minnesota at home. Cleveland’s offense entered Sunday averaging 24.9 points a game (same as the Dolphins). After an opening drive for a touchdown, the Dolphins defense took over. It wasn’t easy, as added injuries to their secondary meant they ended the game with reserves like Elijah Campbell, Justin Bethel and Eric Rowe in the secondary with former practice-squader Verone McKinley. Sure, it helped playing a career backup in Jacoby Brissett (22-35, 212 yards, sacked three times). But here were Cleveland’s possessions after the first drive: Fumble, turnover on downs, punt, end of half, field goal, touchdown, turnover on downs.

4. If you wonder why the Dolphins, like most teams, win the coin toss and defer the decision, Sunday showed why. The Dolphins blew open the game in the in the middle four minutes of the game. First, the defense held Cleveland to a 37-second possession at the end of the first half and the Dolphins got the ball with 1:31 left. Tua ended a 53-yard drive with a beautiful 14-yard pass to Trent Sherfield for a touchdown with 32 seconds left in the half. That made it 17-7. They then took the second-half kickoff and Raheem Mostert ran the final 24 yards of a 70-yard drive for a touchdown. Dolphins led, 24-7. Those back-to-back possessions are what teams want to seize games and that’s what the Dolphins did on Sunday.

5. Here’s what you haven’t heard about much this season: The Dolphins offensive line. You didn’t again Sunday as the big Cleveland defensive threat, Myles Garrett, was kept quiet. The Browns entered as a top rushing team, but it was the Dolphins who had 18 carries for 87 yards at half (4.8-yard average). The Dolphins played three struggling defenses in Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. They controlled them, too, with the line playing its part. This line was a story of the offseason, as two free agents were bought to shore it up in the annual make-over. The difference is this season’s additions are working in the offense of coach Mike McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and line coach Matt Applebaum.

6. Did the Dolphins strike subtle gold at the trade deadline? The trade that made headlines was for Bradley Chubb, and he had some impact Sunday with three tackles and a half-sack. But the fifth-round pick traded to San Francisco for Jeff Wilson Jr. is paying big dividends. He came from the same offense in San Francisco and looks it. He had 17 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. That followed his nine-carry, 51-yard game in his Dolphins debut last week against Chicago. It’s a good swap of talent, a struggling Chase Edmonds for a productive Wilson.

7. Everything went to script Sunday as Buffalo lost to Minnesota in overtime, 33-30. That puts the Dolphins a half-game up in the the AFC East. There’s a long way to the end, of course, but who saw this coming? Buffalo has an easier ride to the end of the season. Here’s their schedule: Cleveland, at Detroit, at New England, New York Jets, Miami, at Chicago, at Cincinnati and New England. AFC East opponents aside, the Bills play one winning team (Cincinnati) the rest of the way.

8. Quick hits:

* Christian Wilkins continued his strong season with seven tackles (three solo), a sack and tackle for loss;

* Special team problems included a 48-yard kickoff for the Browns to open the game, and Jason Sanders missing two extra points. That follows a missed 29-yard field goal last week;

* It’s the first Dolphins 7-3 start since 2001.

9. Every good season has unexpected finds. Undrafted cornerback Kader Kohou has been one (as I’ve written in a column). Receiver Trent Sherfield is another as the third receiver in this offense. Cedric Wilson was the free-agent buy from Dallas, but he has six catches for 63 yards this season. Erik Ezukanma had a big preseason as a fourth-round rookie. Sherfield, though, does a bit of everything — receiving, blocking, special teams — that coaches love. His 14-yard touchdown was a well-run route to the back of the end zone that got him open. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will be the forever focus of this offense. But Sherfield’s four catches on four targets for 63 yards on Sunday show he has become a contributor in this offense. He also wants people to know about it as he was called for taunting after a fourth-quarter catch for 27 yards.

10. Next week: Bye. The Dolphins get one of the later bye weeks (there are two later weeks of byes). They entered Sunday remarkably healthy, something McDaniel noted recently.

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