Jalen Ramsey's return has transformed the Dolphins' defense

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey has a new nickname in the Dolphins' locker room.

“As advertised,” linebacker Jaelan Phillips said. “That was Jalen Ramsey. He can call his shots, so we call him ‘as advertised.’”

The All-Pro cornerback jumped in front of Tre Tucker and intercepted a pass from Raiders quarterback Aidan O'Connell in the third quarter Sunday against Las Vegas. Then Ramsey sealed Miami's 20-13 victory with his second pick, a leaping catch in the back of the end zone with 32 seconds remaining.

For once, the Dolphins' defense outshined their offense. Miami turned the ball over three times for just the second time this season. But the defense has improved to the point that it could weather that adversity.

The Dolphins (7-3) limited Las Vegas to 36 yards rushing and 260 yards passing, intercepted O'Connell three times and stopped the Raiders on two fourth-down attempts. The Raiders rarely threw the ball in Ramsey's direction, but he still deflected two passes along with his pair of picks.

“I’m really hoping they throw at him, honestly,” coach Mike McDaniel said. “I mean, both interceptions were out of control in difficulty level. ... I think the whole team has gotten a little bit better to a degree since he’s been on our team or since he’s been back, and that’s the type of effect that players of that caliber can have on people.”

The Dolphins entered Week 8 — Ramsey's season debut — with the 21st-ranked defense in the league, allowing just under 350 total yards and 233 passing yards per game. Since then, they've improved to No. 12 and are a top-13 unit against the rush and pass.

That bodes well for Miami as it tries to maintain its hold on the AFC East. The Dolphins play at the division rival New York Jets on Friday.

Phillips said Sunday's defensive battle could be a preview for future games.

“We might have to win the rest of the season like that,” he said. “You never know how it goes, and on any given Sunday in this league teams can bring their best stuff and we might not have our best stuff. I think the key is to just keep our head down and have that confidence in each other — defense, offense, special teams — and no matter what the situation is we’re going to pull it out.”


Miami's defense was able to protect a one-score lead despite the Raiders having multiple shots at a comeback. Down 7, Las Vegas had three opportunities to tie the game in the final 10 minutes. The Dolphins forced a turnover on downs and intercepted O'Connell twice on those drives.


Ball security and third-down efficiency. The Dolphins surpassed 400 yards of offense for the fifth time this season but had their third-lowest scoring output. Turnovers and ineffectiveness on third down were big reasons for that. Tua Tagovailoa lost his third fumble of the season on a scramble on Miami's opening possession, and he threw an interception on the first play of the second half. Miami had multiple turnovers for the second time in three games and went 3 for 11 on third down.


The secondary. The Dolphins have only had the cornerback duo of Ramsey and Xavien Howard for two games, and they've held their opponents scoreless in the second half of both contests.


Jason Sanders entered the game with the fewest field goal attempts of any kicker in the league, and he missed a 50-yard kick with the Dolphins ahead 14-13 in the third. Sanders converted from 41 and 51 yards later in the quarter, but he's 5 of 15 on attempts of 50-plus yards since 2021.


RB Devon Achane re-injured the same knee that caused him to miss the previous four games. McDaniel said he's considered day to day.


1,142 — The amount of yards the Dolphins have outgained opponents by, which leads the NFL. They outgained the Raiders by 126 yards Sunday.


After a short week to prepare for the Jets, the Dolphins will play at Washington in Week 13. After that, four of their last five games are at home, where they are undefeated.


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