The Miami Dolphins beat the New Orleans Saints 20-3 on Monday night, with rookie sensation Jaylen Waddle returning off the COVID-19 list to catch 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first NFL club to win seven straight games after losing seven in a row.
Miami became one of four 8-7 teams in contention for one of the remaining playoff berths in the AFC, along with Baltimore, the Los Angeles Chargers, and Las Vegas, after Nik Needham intercepted Saints rookie quarterback Ian Book and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
Because to a COVID-19 epidemic, the Saints (7-8) were forced to cut 16 players from the active roster, including starter quarterback Taysom Hill and seasoned backup Trevor Siemian.
Book completed 12 of 20 throws for 135 yards, was sacked eight times, and was intercepted twice with the Saints’ offensive line missing three starters, including both tackles.
The Saints’ defence kept the game close until Waddle scored on a 1-yard shovel pass from Tua Tagovailoa with 5:10 left in the third quarter to make it 17-3.
Tagovailoa, who had an NFL-best completion rate of 69.9% entering the game, completed 19 of 26 throws (73.1 percent) for 198 yards and the short touchdown. Marshon Lattimore also intercepted him.
The effect of Waddle
After missing Miami’s previous game due to a positive COVID-19 test, Waddle returned to the lineup. He has 96 catches this season, one more than New Orleans’ Michael Thomas for second-most by a rookie, and five fewer than Anquan Boldin’s rookie record of 101 catches set in 2003.
Opening of Book
When Book initially took the field, the crowd erupted in applause, and Saints supporters erupted in applause again two plays later when he completed his first career throw. Then they let out a collective gasp as he threw his second throw, a pick-6 to Needham.
Both of Book’s next series lasted three plays and ended in sacks. New Orleans didn’t get a first down until the second quarter, and it took five plays to get it.
On their fifth series, the Saints finally got the ball moving, gaining three first downs in just four plays. New Orleans drove to the Miami 23 after a roughing-the-passer penalty on a 12-yard completion to Alvin Kamara, setting up Brett Maher’s field goal to make it 10-3.
Dolphins: Miami went into the game missing seven players because of COVID-19.
Saints: In addition to having 16 players removed from the active roster by positive COVID-19 tests, New Orleans scratched starting left tackle Terron Armstead, who was not yet ready to return from a knee injury that also kept him out the previous week. Reserve right tackle Caleb Benenoch was treated on the field for an injury in the fourth quarter. Receiver Tre’Quan Smith left the game with a chest injury.
Dolphins: Visit Tennessee on Sunday before closing out the regular season at home against AFC East rival New England.
Saints: Host NFC South foe Carolina on Sunday before travelling to Atlanta to end the regular season.
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