For the second straight game, Hill took advantage of a shootout, reeling in 7 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown — this performance coming after a 12-catch, 188-yard game against the Lions in Week 8. If Miami is forced to throw the ball, there’s a good chance it’s going to the league’s most-targeted receiver.
“I’m like a kid in the candy store, man,” Hill said Sunday. “I’m just having fun doing what God blessed me to do.”
But while Hill’s usage has him on pace for an NFL-record 2,085 receiving yards, the Dolphins’ past two defensive performances bring up a legitimate question — how sustainable is the shootout model?
Three of Miami’s six wins this season have come in such fashion, against the Ravens, Lions and Bears. In those three games, the Dolphins’ offense racked up 547, 476 and 379 yards — but gave up 473, 393 and 368 yards, respectively.
It’s a stark difference from the defensive-minded Dolphins teams of the past three seasons, who were ill-equipped to participate in a shootout. Those teams relied on stout defensive play to turn the ball over and set up pedestrian offenses with good field position.
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But their defense has looked exploitable this season, ranking 30th in defensive expected points added, 24th in yards per play and 27th in third-down conversion percentage. On the other side of the ball, Miami ranks seventh in yards per game, third in passing yards per game and fifth in offensive EPA.
Head coach Mike McDaniel said he doesn’t see the Dolphins as an offense-dominant team, instead seeing “strong examples of complementary football.” Ultimately, what matters most is the final result, and their defense made stops when it mattered over the past two weeks to seal the wins.
McDaniel praised the Bears for limiting any opportunities for turnovers and controlling possession, but noted the Dolphins’ resolve, particularly when their offense went three straight drives without scoring to close the game.
“It will never be sustainable for one side of the ball to dominate in the National Football League,” he said. “It’s hard to win one game. What I’m just happy about is when the offense wasn’t able to score points, the defense found their best play, and that’s what we’re going to build on moving forward.”
Miami saw what could happen when its offense can’t put up points during consecutive losses to the Bengals, Jets and Vikings. The common denominator in all three losses — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa either didn’t play or didn’t finish.
Besides Hill’s gaudy numbers, Tagovailoa is the key reason why the shootout model has worked. The third-year passer has taken a leap forward under McDaniel, leading the league in quarterback rating and yards per attempt while ranking third in completion percentage, fourth in touchdown passes and second in touchdowns per pass attempt.
The percentage of his passes of at least 20 air yards has increased from 7.5% in 2021 to 11.6% in 2022. The Dolphins have asked him to be the driving force behind their high-powered offense and he’s delivered by pushing the ball downfield more effectively and efficiently than he’s ever done at the NFL level.
With Tagovailoa under center, the Dolphins have erased mulitple-score deficits, engaged in shootouts and won every game he’s finished. And whether it’s a game like Sunday or a defensive slugfest like their Week 7 win over the Steelers, Tagovailoa said he’s learned this team can’t be counted out.
“I’ve learned a lot – the resiliency of our team, the resiliency of our guys to continue to fight, to continue to not give up on the game,” he said. “Regardless of how close the game is or how out of hand it may be, we continue to fight. So that’s what I’m proud of with our team up to this point.”