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Dolphins 2021 Week 12 Report Card

Breaking down how each position group performed for the Miami Dolphins during the 33-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers at Hard Rock Stadium

The Miami Dolphins made it four victories in a row when they defeated the Carolina Panthers, 33-10, at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Here's the weekly breakdown on how each position group performed:


Tua Tagovailoa had a second consecutive impressive start against Carolina, one that probably was even better than what he did against the Jets. The completion percentage is what jumps out, as Tua completed 27 of 31 passes, though most were short throws, as evidenced by the modest 230-yard total. His best passes were to Jaylen Waddle, including his 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter when Tua threw the ball before the defender could close the gap, and on the 57-yard pick-up when Tua hit Waddle in stride as he was racing between Carolina defender. The only reason this is not a pure A are the two snaps he didn't handle, the first one because it was catchable though low and the second one because he should have fallen on the loose ball instead of trying to pick it up. But it's hard to complain about a performance that really was highly efficient. Grade: A-

Running backs

We probably should accept the fact by now that the rushing numbers pretty much are never going to look good. Against Carolina, the Dolphins backs averaged 3.3 yards on their 33 attempts, with newcomer Phillip Lindsay topping out at 3.5 yards. The only run to gain more than 10 yards was a 16-yard pick-up by Salvon Ahmed on a third-and-short when he got a pitch and easily turned the corner. Lindsay deserves credit for his blitz pick-up on Tua's 57-yard completion to Waddle. While the blocking largely is to blame for the poor showing in the run game, it's not like the backs made a lot happen on their own. Grade: C-

Wide receivers

Waddle had the best game of his impressive rookie season, reaching the 100-yard mark in the first half before finishing with nine catches for 137 yards and the one touchdown. No other wide receiver made much of an impact, but there were no dropped passes. The negatives were two false-start penalties on Waddle and Albert Wilson on the same drive. Waddle's performance drives this grade. Grade: B+

Tight ends

Durham Smythe and Mike Gesicki combined to catch all eight passes thrown their way, though they combined for barely more than 6 yards a catch with a long of 11 yards by Smythe. Hunter Long got action on offense after being active for only the fourth time in his rookie season, but he wasn't targeted in the passing game. As mentioned, there wasn't a lot of great run blocking to mention, but there were no drops. Grade: C

Offensive line

The offensive line faced a tough task against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, and there clearly were some hiccups. Tagovailoa was sacked twice, both times in the first half, though there were many throws he had to make under duress. Of course, the emphasis on the short passing game benefits the line, which doesn't have to hold blocks as long, but there were some slower-developing plays where the line did the job. There were three penalties on the line (holding on Austin Jackson and Liam Eichenberg, and a false start by Jackson), but the most egregious mistakes were the two bad shotgun snaps by Austin Reiter (though, as mentioned, Tua could have caught the first one). The run blocking was less than perfect, to put it kindly. Grade: C-

Defensive line

The Dolphins defense held Carolina to 198 total yards, and that includes the 64-yard pass from Cam Newton to D.J. Moore, meaning the Panthers gained 134 yards on their other 53 offensive plays. That means good grades all around for the defense. Up front, Emmanuel Ogbah had yet another big game with a sack and (what else is new?) a pass batted at the line of scrimmage. Christian Wilkins also had a sack, although it came in garbage time with the Dolphins up 23 in the final minutes. Raekwon Davis was a big factor against the run and Zach Sieler had a great two-play sequence when he stuffed a running play and then batted a pass at the line. Grade: A


Jaelan Phillips continued his recent surge with his best game yet as he finished with three sacks and four QB hits, including a sack that almost produced a safety. While he didn't get the sacks, Andrew Van Ginkel was almost as big a factor in the pass rush, finishing with four QB hits also along with a pass batted at the line. Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts each had a tackle for loss to complete a big day for the linebacker group. Grade: A


There was a lot to like about this performance, with Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland and Nik Needham all coming up with interceptions. The pick by Howard set up what would become the game-winning touchdown (the Tua pass to Waddle). Javaris Davis even had a pass breakup in the final minutes when he played in his first regular season game. Helped by the pass rush, the Dolphins defense held Cam Newton to a miserable 5.8 passer rating. We do have to bring the grade down for the blown coverage on the 64-yard completion to D.J. Moore, though we're still not certain whether it was Howard or Byron Jones who was responsible for Moore. Grade: A-

Special teams

The Dolphins' rout started with the big play in the kicking game when Duke Riley ran onto the field, then made his way directly to Lachlan Edwards to block his punt, with Justin Coleman grabbing the loose ball in mid-air and making his way into the end zone for a touchdown. That obviously was a huge play. Michael Palardy also deserves mentioned for having each of his four punts fair-caught inside the 20. The grade has to go down for Jason Sanders' missed extra point in the second half and for the Dolphins allowing a 14-yard run on a fourth-and-1 fake punt. But the blocked punt is the big determining factor for the grade here. Grade: B+