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Miami Dolphins: Five instant takeaways from the 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams

Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post

MIAMI GARDENS — The Dolphins found a perfect way to support Tua Tagovailoa in his first pro start Sunday.

And it didn’t revolve around the offensive line keeping Aaron Donald off his back or a running attack taking pressure off him.

Instead, Sunday was another prime example of the kind of “complementary football” Brian Flores strives for, with a dominant defense and opportunistic special teams leading the way for a 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams (5-3) at Hard Rock Stadium.

It was the Dolphins' third consecutive victory, as they improved to 4-3. 

Outside of chalking up his first NFL touchdown pass, Tagovailoa had a pedestrian outing, going 12-of-22 for just 93 yards, with one sack, one touchdown pass and an 80.3 passer rating.

Tagovailoa got off to a forgettable start, suffering a strip-sack-fumble by Donald on his first pass attempt that gifted the Rams a touchdown.

His longest completion was for just 15 yards.

Tagovailoa's TD pass went for 3 yards to DeVante Parker.

Joe Schad:Unspectacular Tua Tagovailoa fortunate to be picked up in first start

Tua Tracker:What did experts think of Tua's first start?

Takeaways from the victory:

Ogbah pays dividends

The Dolphins are getting their money’s worth out of Emmanuel Ogbah.

Ogbah was given a two-year, $15 million deal when he signed as a free agent from Kansas City.

He has six sacks — a career high — and the season isn’t even half over.

When fellow lineman Shaq Lawson called Ogbah “a beast” last week, he knew what he was talking about. The Rams know it, too, after Ogbah was critical in both of Miami’s first-half takeaways.

Ogbah was in Jared Goff’s face late in the first quarter when Goff threw an interception to defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on the Rams’ 33-yard line, setting up a touchdown.

Ogbah, who turns 27 on Friday, then had a strip-sack on Goff that Andrew Van Ginkel scooped up and returned 78 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones (24) defends a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds (11) at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

Don’t kick it to Grant

There are a few return men in the league that teams will go to great lengths to avoid.

Jakeem Grant made a bid to achieve that status by returning a punt 88 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

Grant holds the team record with five career returns for scores. No one in a Dolphin uniform has ever had a longer punt return. (The previous record was 87 by Tommy Vigorito in 1981).

It’ll be interesting to see where Grant’s top-end speed on the return ranks when the NFL updates its “Next Gen” stats next week.

Strangest stats

Statistically speaking, the second quarter has to go down as one of the goofiest in recent Dolphins history.

Which team would you rather be:

Team 1 had 11 first downs in the quarter, plus 132 yards, ran 33 plays and 13:41 of possession time.

Team 2 had one first down, nine yards, ran six plays and 1:19 of possession time.

Team 2 is the Dolphins, who still outscored the Rams 21-3 in the quarter, thanks to two returns for touchdowns and a 1-yard TD drive following another fumble recovery.

Flores has Goff’s number

Just as he had in the Super Bowl following the 2018 season, Flores made Rams quarterback Jared Goff look like a nervous rookie, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble that was returned 78 yards for a touchdown.

The Dolphins also tipped six passes at the line of scrimmage.

Flores called New England’s defense in that Super Bowl, when the Patriots held the Rams to three points.

The big picture

The Bills needed a late field goal to beat New England 24-21 and improve to 6-2. They’d be running away with the division if not for the Dolphins moving to 4-3 Sunday, their first winning record since Flores arrived last year.

A tough test awaits next week when Miami visits the Arizona Cardinals.

The Dolphins hope to remain within striking distance of the Bills, so the Jan. 3 finale in Buffalo is for the division title. Remember, the Bills won at Hard Rock 31-28 in September.

Meanwhile, there was no movement regarding the first round of the draft. The Jets remained in command of the race for the No. 1 overall pick by getting blown out by the Chiefs 35-9.

The Dolphins own the first pick of the Houston Texans (1-6), who have a bye this week.