Miami Dolphins

Dolphins defense makes Rams rookie Goff look like just that in first NFL start

Miami Dolphins Bryon Maxwell blocks a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams Kenny Britt in the second quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, November 20, 2016.
Miami Dolphins Bryon Maxwell blocks a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams Kenny Britt in the second quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, November 20, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Jared Goff probably got his first true taste of the NFL on Sunday on the last play before the first-half’s two minute warning.

Self-preservation convinced Goff, the Rams’ quarterback and first pick in the 2016 draft, to scramble away from an approaching Dolphins pass rush.

He ended up running right into Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh.

Goff finished the first start of his career 17 of 31 for 134 yards, and while he didn’t turn the ball over, he never really threatened the Dolphins’ defense.

“My whole goal is, I don’t care if you’re first-year or Hall of Fame, is go out there and get after the quarterback and make him play into our hands,” Wake said. “I don’t know his stats, but I feel like it was a big win for the good guys.”

In all, this was as impressive a showing as you’ll see on the defensive side of the ball.

The eye-popping stats:

▪  The Rams had 226 yards of total offense, and averaged just 3.8 yards per play.

▪  Two Los Angeles third-down conversions on 13 tries.

▪  A staggering six Dolphins tackles-for-loss.

▪  And a pedestrian day for dangerous Rams back Todd Gurley (75 yards on 20 carries).

What makes it even more impressive: The Dolphins dominated without three key contributors. Defensive end Mario Williams (ankle), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) and cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) were all inactive.

“Never gave up,” said hybrid defensive back Michael Thomas. “We all kept fighting. It was great to see [DeVante Parker] and [Jarvis Landry] come alive at the end, making those game-winning plays. Shoot, I just feel good. What is that? Five in a row. I don’t even know. It’s five in a row, let it go.”

J-Train rolls on

No matter how good the opposition — and make no doubt, the Rams was as good a defensive front as the Dolphins will see all year — Jay Ajayi continues to be productive.

No, he didn’t have 200 yards Sunday, or even 100.

But he averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 16 attempts, and now has 685 rushing yards and four touchdowns during the Dolphins’ five-game winning streak. Making it all that more impressive: The Dolphins were without three starters on the offensive line after Laremy Tunsil left the game with a shoulder injury. Left tackle Branden Albert (wrist) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) did not play at all.

“It was tough,” Ajayi said. “A physical challenge, but we pulled through. We knew it was going to be hard going against them. They have a tough front, so we just tried to match that physicality and at the end of the day, we pulled out with the win, and that’s all that matters.”

Foul problems

Sooner or later, the Dolphins’ undisciplined play is going to cost them a game. They entered Sunday as the league’s seventh-most penalized team, and met their average against the Rams.

Officials flagged the Dolphins eight more times for 83 yards.

“I’ll look at it this week,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said afterward. “I’m not going to sit there and think about the negative stuff right now.”

But in the next breath, Gase did just that: “I might be the worst second-and-1 play-caller in football right now, so we just need to come some different plays.”

Linebacker Spencer Paysinger said this about the flags: “I think there’s going to be a lot of speculation off of how they officiated the game. I’m not saying anything bad about them. I definitely think there were definitely some plays that could have gone either way, but there was blatant plays, especially on myself, that I think they should call.”

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