Dolphins drop 70 points on Broncos in record day

  • Marcel Louis-Jacques, ESPNSep 24, 2023, 04:32 PM ET

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      Marcel Louis-Jacques joined ESPN in 2019 as a beat reporter covering the Buffalo Bills, before switching to the Miami Dolphins in 2021. The former Carolina Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer won the APSE award for breaking news and the South Carolina Press Association award for enterprise writing in 2018.

MIAMI — Dolphins running back De’Von Achane had a few text messages to answer after Sunday’s 70-20 win over the Denver Broncos. Actually, it was closer to 100, the rookie clarified.

In the first prominent role of his career, the third-round pick compiled 233 total yards and four touchdowns, including 203 rushing yards on 18 carries. He was asked after the game whether he had more total yards or notifications on his phone.

“Oh, notifications for sure,” he said with a smile before darting out of the news conference room.

In one of the most lopsided games in NFL history, the Dolphins put up 726 yards as the league’s best offense went berserk in its home opener. The point total marked a new franchise record and the most points any NFL team has scored since Washington scored 72 against the New York Giants in 1966.

In total, the Dolphins recorded nearly as many rushing yards (350) as passing yards (376), averaging 10.2 yards per play in the process.

The Dolphins are the first team in NFL history to record five passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in the same game, and the second team in history to record more than 700 yards of offense since the Rams did so in 1951. They are also the first team in history to score 70 points with 700 yards of offense, and the second to record 300 rushing yards and 300 passing yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“That’s a lot of players executing a lot of things to a standard that’s unrelenting,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “When you have a lead — so many leads are vulnerable in this league. So we’d talked at length all offseason just about adversity and sometimes adversity is having a two-score lead, because you can let the atmosphere dictate your product. So what I saw from a lot of guys … that’s guys really taking it to heart that we have one [opportunity] with this team in 2023, and we’re going to make the most of it and be unrelenting with our standards.

“I’ve said it time and time again that it’s an incredibly coachable locker room and they definitely earned that victory.”

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed his first 17 passes and finished 23-of-26 for 309 yards and four touchdowns by the time he was pulled one play into the fourth quarter. When he left the field, he had just three incompletions and the Dolphins had just two failed drives.

On a day filled with highlight-worthy plays, the NFL’s leader in passing yards made one of his own in the second quarter when the left-handed Tagovailoa tossed a no-look shovel pass with his right hand to Achane for a 4-yard touchdown.

“This doesn’t compare to anything that I’ve seen or been a part of,” Tagovailoa said. “It just talks about the resilience of our team. Although we were up going into halftime, I’m very proud of the guys and the way they continued to play. No one took their foot off the gas, everyone continued to play and that’s the result that we got.”

Their record day started when Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill for a 54-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. They went on to score on 10 of their first 12 offensive drives, excluding the one play they ran to end the first half. Facing fourth-and-14 with 33 seconds remaining, Miami had an opportunity to break the single-game scoring record as the remaining home crowd chanted for “three more points!”

Instead, McDaniel called for backup quarterback Mike White to kneel the ball from the Broncos’ 28-yard line. The crowd loudly groaned, but McDaniel stuck with his decision.

“It felt like chasing points and chasing a record, that’s not what we came to the game to do,” he said. “That doesn’t have a bearing on the overall season outcome and I just didn’t — I saw it as 10 times out of 10 you kneel down in those situations because there was an attainable record that was cool, but the message that I thought it would send wasn’t really in line with how I view things.

“It would’ve been cool, but with what we’re trying to do, I think that would be talking out of both sides of my mouth. If we went and tried to send the field goal team on and squeeze an extra three, it’s not really what I’m about.”

McDaniel added that he had the full support of the Dolphins’ leaders; Tagovailoa said the NFL is about “respect” and the Dolphins weren’t trying to “go out and humiliate teams.”

Running back Raheem Mostert finished with 142 total yards and four combined touchdowns, pushing his league-leading season total to six rushing touchdowns through three games, already surpassing his 2022 total (three). Mostert is on pace for 1,360 yards and 34 touchdowns, which would shatter the career highs of 891 and eight he set in 2022 and 2019, respectively.

He and Achane are the first pair of teammates ever to each score four touchdowns from scrimmage in the same game.

Impressively, while Hill recorded nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown, Miami’s offense did all of this without wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who was unable to clear the concussion protocol.

“We always have the next-guy mentality going, but when we do have Jaylen Waddle, it does present a lot more challenges for defenses,” Tagovailoa said. “But needless to say, we’ve got our run game going. We had our deal with our pass game, our action game. I’m very proud of the guys and the way they came out.”

Defensively, the Dolphins allowed 363 yards and 6.2 yards per play but pressured quarterback Russell Wilson 20 times, forcing three turnovers and sacking him once. They also held Denver (0-3) to just three third-down conversions on 12 attempts.

Wilson completed 23 of 38 passes for 306 yards, one touchdown and one interception, marking just his third 300-yard passing game in a Broncos uniform. The nine-time Pro Bowler said this was a game the team wanted to learn from, but not necessarily think about anymore.

“From a leadership standpoint, I think the biggest thing we have to do is learn everything that we can from the film,” he said. “Learn what we did well. Learn what we didn’t do so well. Learn that every game has a history of its own. … That was one we want to put in — not think about anymore, but we have to learn from it still.

“We hadn’t experienced that one before. But like I said, every game has a history of its own. And what we have to do is we have to be focused on what’s ahead of us, and that’s trying to get ready to go play the Chicago Bears on the road.”

Miami, which has started 3-0 in back-to-back seasons under McDaniel, takes its undefeated record into Buffalo in Week 4 for an AFC East showdown with the Bills.