Dolphins rout Commanders to extend AFC East lead
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Tyreek Hill wasn't surprised to see just one defender covering him. After catching a 78-yard touchdown pass, he was plenty thankful.
“I just appreciate it,” he said. “Thanks for not respecting me, I guess.”
Hill had two touchdowns among his five catches for 157 yards, and he and the Miami Dolphins routed the Washington Commanders 45-15 Sunday to pad their lead atop the AFC East and get to 9-3 for the first time since 2001.
A year after losing five in a row once the calendar flipped to December, Tua Tagovailoa and Co. are determined to avoid another late-season swoon. This was a good start.
“Everyone is locked in,” said Tagovailoa, who was 18 of 24 for 280 yards and the TD passes of 78 and 60 yards to Hill. “Everyone knows that we can do something special this year, and no one on our team is trying to waste that opportunity.”
De’Von Achane ran for two touchdowns in his return after missing five of the past six games with a knee injury. Raheem Mostert also had a rushing TD for Miami’s league-leading offense that put up 406 yards.
Tagovailoa was also turnover-free after giving the ball away four times over the past two games.
“To be that aggressive while having that burden of frustration was exactly what you hope for from your starting quarterback,” coach Mike McDaniel said.
In extending their winning streak to three, the Dolphins even got scoring from their defense, thanks to linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel's 33-yard pick-6 of Sam Howell late in the first quarter. They also sacked Howell three times in the first game without Jaelan Phillips, who's out for the season after tearing his right Achilles tendon in Miami's last game at the New York Jets.
“I don't think they wanted anything to do with letting Jaelan down,” McDaniel said. "I think they did enough to make Jaelan smile"."
Washington (4-9) had no answer for Hill in the first game with coach Ron Rivera calling the defensive plays following his decision to fire coordinator Jack Del Rio. Hill, the NFL's leading receiver who also has the most TD catches with 12, remains on track to break Calvin Johnson's record for the most yards receiving in a season and become the first to reach 2,000.
“I believe I am having my best season,” Hill said. “Even if I didn't have the numbers, I feel like I'm doing a good job being in the right spot for the quarterback, I'm doing a great job blocking and just understanding this whole offense.”
Howell, who ran for two touchdowns while going 12 of 23 for 127 yards, is on pace for a more dubious record: the most sacks taken in a season. He's up to 58 — David Carr set the record with 76 in 2002 — leads the league in interceptions with 14 and has had one returned for a TD in three consecutive games.
The Commanders lost a fourth game in a row and have been outscored 90-25 over the past two. They've lost nine of 11 since opening the season with back-to-back victories.
"We can’t do the things we did and expect to win," Rivera said. “We didn’t really give ourselves a chance.”
Miami was so convincingly ahead that McDaniel pulled Tagovailoa, Hill and many of the offensive skill players early in the fourth quarter. Backup Mike White led a touchdown drive in garbage time.
“It's a beautiful thing,” Hill said of being 9-3. “And the way that this league is, if you somehow get complacent, if you somehow start feeling yourself, it'll catch up with you fast.”
After Hill's first TD catch, he and several Dolphins players celebrated by sitting in the end zone and pretending they were on a roller coaster. The pantomiming even included offensive lineman Robert Hunt strapping his teammates in and making sure their seatbelts were fastened correctly.
“That was 10 out of 10," Tagovailoa said. “I loved it.”
Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy could be seen yelling at Howell on the sideline after the QB's pick-6 that looked like a screen pass right to Van Ginkel. Howell talked glowingly about Bieniemy's growth as a play-caller this season, and the two have worked closely together since offseason workouts.
McDaniel won his first game back at FedEx Field as a head coach. McDaniel spent three seasons as a Washington assistant from 2011-13 under Mike Shanahan.
Dolphins: LB Jerome Baker injured his left knee early in the second quarter when teammate Brandon Jones took his legs out from under him while trying to tackle Washington's Curtis Samuel. McDaniel said the vibe was Baker's injury wasn't season-ending but wanted to wait for further evaluation. ... Hunt aggravated a hamstring injury.
Commanders: RB Brian Robinson Jr. did not play in the second half because of a hamstring injury. ... DT John Ridgeway left with a shin injury.
Dolphins: Host the Tennessee Titans on Monday, Dec. 11.
Commanders: After their bye week, visit the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Dec. 17.
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