The beard was superior to the mustache on Thursday night. The Dolphins were able to earn their first win of the 2020 season as Miami rolled into Jacksonville and beat the Jaguars, 31-13, to begin Week 3 of the regular season. Miami was able to take this game from the jump and on the back of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He was especially hot out of the gate, completing his first 12 passes on the night (a career-high) and led the Dolphins on three-straight touchdown drives to begin the game.
On the other side, the Jaguars couldn't get much going offensively and struggled to get off the field on defense, allowing Fitzmagic to run wild at TIAA Bank Field. With receiver D.J. Chark ruled out for this game, Gardner Minshew couldn't push the ball downfield, which constantly forced him to check down. On the night, Minshew finished with 275 yards through the air, no touchdowns, and an interception. James Robinson was a bright spot for the Jags in the backfield, again, this game rushing for 46 yards and two touchdowns while catching all six of his targets for 83 more yards.
As for how the game ultimately unfolded, check out our major takeaways from this primetime contest below.
Why the Dolphins won
The Dolphins jumped out to a massive lead from the get-go, scoring touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions. A theme of those scoring drives -- and many drives throughout the evening -- was Miami's ability to extend plays on third down. For the game, the Dolphins converted seven of their 13 third-down tries. They also converted their lone fourth-down attempt. Of course, a lot of that success was thanks to Fitzpatrick, who was sensational to begin the game and throughout the contest. As we noted above, he completed a career-high 12 passes to start and finished the first half with a 144.0 passer rating. On top of being efficient with his throws, Fitzpatrick spread the love around, completing passes to eight different receivers (including himself!). On the night, Fitzpatrick completed 18 of his 20 passes for 160 yards and two scores.
On the ground, the Dolphins were able to find success as a team, rushing for 138 yards and two more touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was particularly savvy in the run game on an end-around call for Jakeem Grant. Jaguars edge rusher Cassius Marsh was biting inside to help stop the run and Miami was able to take advantage by calling this end-around with Grant that earned them 29 yards, the longest rush of the day.
On the defensive side of the ball, the pass rush answered the call that Brian Flores made earlier in the week and did provide solid pressure on Gardner Minshew. As a team, they were able to take him down four times, including a strip-sack by Kyle Van Noy in the second half that helped extend Miami's lead. What was arguably the most impressive, however, was the coverage in the secondary. Minshew noticeably held the ball longer than he wanted as he was trying to force the ball deep. Oftentimes that first read was locked up and the second-year quarterback was forced to check down.
Why the Jaguars lost
What made Miami's hot start that much worse for Jacksonville is that their offense was out of sync. They were down 14 points before they could even blink and then didn't do much after they brought it to a one-score game. After scoring their first touchdown of the game on their second offensive drive of the night, the Jaguars punted twice, failed to convert on fourth down, and fumbled deep in their own territory on their ensuing drives. With Chark sidelined, Jacksonville struggled to find chunk plays in the passing game as Minshew routinely checked down, putting the club in third-and-long or third-and-medium situations, which they mostly failed to convert. For the game, Jacksonville converted just three of their 10 third-down attempts and turned the ball over on downs on all three of their fourth-down attempts.
Defensively, the Jags just had no answer for this Dolphins offense and couldn't get off the field. Miami had a near 10-minute time of possession advantage for the game. Jacksonville also had more penalties and committed the more turnovers than the Dolphins, which simply is not a recipe that will get you a win.
Jacksonville's best opportunity to get back in this game came around halftime. They drove down to the Miami 36 yard line but failed to convert on fourth down after Minshew was sacked for a 10-yard loss with just 1:15 to play in the second quarter. Coming out of the halftime locker room, they traveled just 17 yards and were forced to punt. In a perfect scenario, the Jags could have scored twice without Miami even touching the ball and knotting the game up at 21. Overall, that was an opportunity squandered.
The Dolphins offense was a tidal wave from the opening kickoff, finding the end zone on their first three offensive possessions. Over that stretch, Jacksonville was only able to put up seven. While that initial flood of scoring had the Dolphins playing with a lead from wire-to-wire, the offense did go silent for a period, which allowed the Jaguars to hang around.
The break in this game really came in the closing minutes of the third quarter. On a third-and-12 from the Jacksonville 12 yard line, Dolphins linebacker Kyle Van Noy was able to strip-sack Minshew and Miami recovered at the Jacksonville five-yard line. Five plays later, Fitzpatrick was able to rush for a one-yard touchdown to put the Dolphins up by 21 points and completely rule out any sort of miracle comeback.
Play of the game
It was an overall quiet night for Keelan Cole Sr. but the receiver did come up with the best catch of the night in the second quarter. With 13:41 to go before the half, Gardner Minshew dropped back on a third-and-five try and tossed it towards the sideline for Cole. The former undrafted receiver was able to rise up over his defender, make the catch, and maintain his focus to get both feet in bounds as his momentum was forcing him to the sideline.
That play was particularly impactful for Jacksonville as it extended the drive and James Robinson was able to score on an 11-yard rush on the very next play while also making it a one-score game at the time. Cole finished with four receptions for 43 yards.
From here, the Dolphins (1-2) will look to earn their second consecutive win when they head back to Hard Rock Stadium and host Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, who'll be fresh off a matchup against Dallas. As for the Jaguars (1-2), they will go back to the drawing board prior to hitting the road to face the Bengals in Cincinnati.