They've scored a touchdown on 47.2% of their offensive drives. In historical context, that 47.2% is ultra relevant. Not only is it up 10 percentage points from Miami's figure a year ago, which led the league through three weeks in 2022, it's a higher rate than the first three games from the 2018 Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes erupted onto the NFL scene throwing 50 touchdowns en route to winning league MVP.
I'm not done.
Miami's three-game scoring start outperforms any offense led by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady. Yes, it even eclipses the 46.4% touchdown rate through three games from the 2007 Patriots, which fielded the gold standard of offensive efficiency in the modern era.
This is not the Wildcat, zone-read, or RPO suddenly appearing on Sundays with defenses unable to recognize it or how it is to be properly combatted. We caught glimpses of the capabilities of Mike McDaniel's Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill-driven attack a season ago. After all, Tagovailoa did lead the league in passer rating (105.5) and tied Mahomes in touchdown rate (if we're rounding up, both were at 6.3%) in 2022. It's almost as if Tagovailoa's rash of injuries and inability to finish the season became a shining example of the overshadowing powers of recency bias.
(Also, in arguably the greatest coincidence in NFL history, Tagovailoa has begun the 2023 campaign with practically the exact same numbers as his first three contests of 2022. Through three games both years he completed 72-of-101 passes (71.3%) with eight touchdowns to two interceptions. The only difference is the yardage total. This season, his 1,024 yards eclipse the 925-yard start in 2022.)
Last year, the Dolphins registered 72 plays of 20-plus yards. They already have 19 such plays -- including seven against the Broncos -- through three contests in 2023.
As not exactly the foremost advocate of pace statistics three games into an NFL season, I'll frame this one as such -- even if the Dolphins regress to their 2022 average (4.2 per game down from where it currently is at 6.33 per game), they'll finish the regular season with 78 of those explosive plays, only five short of what the Chiefs accomplished last year.
I could go on and on and on dumping numbers on the Dolphins' start here. But naturally, we're all wondering -- can the Dolphins sustain this torrid start all season long? After all, that 2007 Patriots team completed the regular season scoring a touchdown on 40.1% of its drives. Absurd.
From a pure talent (and speed) perspective, it feels like it's possible, doesn't it? Hill has the most 40-plus yard catches (42) since entering the league in 2016. We've only seen 11 grabs for 164 yards on the season from Jaylen Waddle, and he didn't even play against the Broncos in the 70-burger. There's Raheem Mostert, a blur of a back when healthy. His backfield mate De'Von Achane, who went for over 200 yards on Sunday, has 4.31 juice. This is the type of talent collection Tagovailoa steered at Alabama.
When evaluating Miami's chances to sustain from a competition angle, it gets more dicey.
Just like we all understand clinging to pace stats early in a season is silly, we know that, while fun, the transitive property -- Team A beat Team B and Team B beat Team C, so Team A is better than Team C -- isn't a foolproof way to compare NFL teams. Having written that, we cannot gloss over the fact the Dolphins cruised to 10 touchdowns at home against a Broncos defense that just a week prior surrendered 35 points in Denver to a Commanders offense that was essentially nonexistent and overrun with mistakes in a 37-3 loss to the Bills in Week 3.
And what do you know?! Miami's Week 4 game is in Buffalo. (Tony Romo voice) Here we go, Jim!
Miami has just three contests remaining on the schedule against teams that entered Week 3 in the bottom half of Aaron Schatz's defensive DVOA, the all-encompassing efficiency metric -- (vs. Giants, vs. Chiefs, vs. Raiders). The Titans, the Dolphins' Week 14 opponent, were 16th, and the Chiefs, who play Miami Week 9 in Germany, were 19th.
We can safely assume Kansas City will enter the top half of the league defensively while Tennessee should sink into the bottom half after what transpired respectively for those clubs in Week 3.
And whether or not Miami can sustain the offensive explosiveness we've seen through three games when facing a jam-packed slate of stingy defenses will probably specifically hinge on the opposition's pass rush.
Tagovailoa's passer rating when kept clean entering Week 4 is an awe-inspiring 137.7. Parsing that out -- 62 of 81 for 857 yards with eight touchdowns and one pick. When pressured, Tagovailoa's rating drops 80 points (!) to 57.7. In those pressured scenarios, he's 10 of 20 for 167 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
On that note, respect must be paid to how well the Dolphins offensive line has protected Tagovailoa. He's been under duress on a minuscule 21.1% of his dropbacks and has been sacked just once.
Eight of the Dolphins' remaining 14 regular-season games (57%) come against pass-rush units currently in the top half of the league in pressure rate (Bills and Jets twice, the Patriots once, the Commanders, Cowboys and Ravens). So it's not as if Tagovailoa and Miami's offensive line are set to face a ridiculously high percentage of quality pass-rushing groups. But it's not as though it'll be a cakewalk in the trenches from here on out, either.
One last thing -- the offensive success hasn't solely been reliant on Tagovailoa's left arm. The Dolphins are currently second in the NFL in Expected Points Added on rushing attempts (+0.057). They finished 13th in that efficiency metric in 2022. And Achane's presence possibly presents an entirely new, dynamic element to the ground game beyond Mostert and the rest of the backfield depth.
Can the Dolphins continue what they've started in their blistering 3-0 start to the season? Well, part of what's so awesome about the NFL, we typically don't have to wait long to get answers to those type of questions, and we'll be treated to Dolphins at Bills Sunday in Week 4.